It has been 10 years since the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the Food Bank of Iowa joined to promote a new program to help reduce the size of Iowa’s deer herd, and help Iowans in need receive a healthy meal.
The Help Us Stop Hunger (HUSH) program allows hunters to donate any legally harvested deer to a participating locker as a way to encourage hunters to harvest more deer.
Lockers process the donated deer into ground venison in specially labeled two pound packages that are picked up by the local food bank and distributed in the community. HUSH lockers have processed 56,000 donated deer providing more than 11 million meals since the program began.
This program exemplifies Iowans helping Iowans.
“We asked our hunters to harvest additional deer to reduce the herd size and the HUSH program gave them an option to donate the additional venison to help their fellow Iowans in need,” said Jim Coffey, who coordinates the HUSH program for the DNR. “We have a lot of lockers who enjoy the program and participate because it supports their local community.”
"We are so grateful for this partnership and program,” says Carey Miller, executive director of the Food Bank of Iowa. “It has helped put a high protein, low fat product into the hands of hungry Iowans.”
Since its inception, the program served an important role to help reduce the deer herd, but that role will be changing.
As the deer population approaches the management goal, the program will not be used as much for population control as it will be for certain situations, like hunters wanting to support their local food bank or for hunters participating in special population management hunts in urban areas or park settings.
The Iowa program is viewed nationally as one to emulate and states from Hawaii to Nebraska call on Coffey looking for the recipe to replicate Iowa’s success.
“We have the backing of our state legislature and that really is the secret to our success,” he said.
Every deer license sold includes a $1 fee that supports the HUSH program. The program is administered through the Fish and Wildlife Trust Fund of the Iowa DNR.
Lockers are paid $75 for each HUSH deer processed and participation in the program is voluntary. In 2012, 89 lockers participated in the HUSH program.
The Food Bank of Iowa received $5 per deer to pick up and distribute the venison.
More information on the DNR’s HUSH program is available online at http://www.iowadnr.gov/Hunting/DeerHunting/HelpUsStopHungerHUSH.aspx