The Sportsman’s Corner: Sharing the hunter’s bounty 

  • Steve Johnson of Orange poses with a buck he took Saturday. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Published: 12/8/2022 12:08:34 PM
Modified: 12/8/2022 12:08:12 PM

MassWildlife’s latest news posting includes exciting news about the Hunters Share the Harvest program which provides an opportunity for hunters to donate and share wild game meat like venison with Massachusetts residents in need. Hunters have long been in the forefront of sharing the bounty of hunts and fishing trips to build community. For as long as this writer can remember, game suppers and fish fries have created a gathering to bring people together to enjoy great food. Local gun clubs and churches have hosted these meals and the tickets were always in demand.

A recent study by The Greater Boston Food Bank shows that nearly one-third of adults in Massachusetts are facing food insecurity, a number that grew during the pandemic. Free range, organic venison is a lean, healthy protein with a low carbon footprint that already feeds thousands of licensed hunters and their families across Massachusetts each year. Licensed hunters play an important role in wildlife management in Massachusetts, and now successful hunters can help combat hunger and food insecurity in their communities by donating venison.

At the present time, there is one approved meat processor. That processer, Haskins Custom Butchering in Hanover, is now accepting whole-deer donations, and packaged venison will be distributed to those in need through the Massachusetts Military Support Foundation’s Food 4 Vets program. With the support of donors, processing and packaging costs will be covered for deer accepted into the program. MassWildlife plans to expand donation and distribution locations in the coming years.

Hunters who wish to donate a deer should bring the field dressed deer to the approved processing facility located at 308 Silver Street in Hanover (Haskins Custom Butchering). Deer must be recovered, field dressed, and cooled in a timely manner. Any animals not recovered, and field dressed within two hours of being shot will not be accepted into the program unless the ambient outside temperature has remained at or below 35 degrees from the time the deer was shot until recovery. Whole-deer donations only.

All deer brought for donation must be legally reported and have a tag with confirmation number attached. Hunters can donate deer during any fall season. During archery and primitive firearms seasons, hunters can drop off deer from 2 to 8 p.m. During the shotgun season, hunters can drop off deer from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Deer will be thoroughly inspected by a MassWildlife biologist for evidence of proper field dressing and to ensure there are no signs of disease. If denied, hunters will have the option to take back their deer. Once accepted, processing and packaging costs will be covered by the program. Hunters who want to further contribute to the program may choose to cover the cost of processing if they wish.

Once accepted into the program, all venison will be processed into ground burger, with about 10% pork fat added, and packaged into standard 2-pound portions. Each package will have MassWildlife’s Hunters Share the Harvest label, which will state the contents and include standard safe handling/cooking instructions.

Any hunters with questions about dropping off their deer should contact Jason Zimmer, MassWildlife Southeast District Supervisor, at (774) 297-3538.

Help MassWildlife expand

MassWildlife plans to expand donation and distribution locations in the coming years. Meat processors, food pantries, hunger relief agencies, or other organizations who want to participate in MassWildlife’s Hunters Share the Harvest program in the future should contact Martin Feehan, MassWildlife’s Deer and Moose Project Leader, at martin.feehan@mass.gov.

Support MassWildlife’s Hunters Share the Harvest Program

Anyone can help financially support MassWildlife’s Hunters Share the Harvest program with a monetary donation to the Massachusetts Outdoor Heritage Foundation. Your donation will help cover the processing and packaging costs for donated meat. A donation of $25 will provide about 50 servings of meat for families in need.

This program will no doubt be utilized more by hunters in eastern Massachusetts than those here in the central and western parts of the state. The return of mass gatherings should bring a return of the game suppers to local clubs and churches like the MaharFish’N Game Club and the Orthodox Congregational Church of Petersham were successful because local sportsmen and women have generously provided donations.

Recent hunting trip

Steve Johnson took a nice 2 ½ year old eight buck Saturday during a push by our hunting group. He made a good shot and connected after putting in the time and working hard for a while without hanging up a buck. We have been moving deer and yours truly was stared down by a small doe and she bounded off after a minute. My second buck tag has gotten some time in the woods, but it is still waiting for “Mr. Right” to come by.

For me, the black powder (or more accurately muzzleloader) hunting season is the most fun. Maybe we will finally get some tracking snow for those last couple weeks of December, and it is always a challenge knowing you only have only the one shot. My Thompson/Center Omega with the thumbhole camo synthetic stock and Weather Shield finish has been a great gun and easy-to-care-for gun but you must always remember to clean muzzleloaders after firing as the propellant’s residue can hurt the barrel. At one hundred yards, it is as accurate as any high-powered rifle in my gun case and the T/C Shockwave sabot bullets have proven to be most effective. Sunday will be sighting-in day. There is always a strong temptation to carry my T/C .50 caliber White Mountain Carbine. It was a great (and super short and light to carry) deer gun and the T/C Maxi-Hunter bullets were also extremely good. At hunting distances of 50 yards or less, it might be fun to carry, particularly when doing the driving on the small pushes. Choices, choices! Good luck everyone and be safe!

Mike Roche is a retired teacher who has been involved in conservation and wildlife issues his entire life. He has written the Sportsman’s Corner since 1984 and has served as advisor to the MaharFish’N Game Club, Counselor and Director of the Massachusetts Conservation Camp, former Connecticut Valley District representative on the Massachusetts Fisheries and Wildlife Board, has been a Massachusetts Hunter Education Instructor and is a licensed New York hunting guide. He can be reached at mikeroche3@msn.com.


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