Hunters Helping the Hungry has provided more than a half-million pounds of ground venison to those in need in Alabama, and the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association (ALBBAA) is encouraging hunters to make a special effort to donate harvested deer to the program during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend of January 15-18.
Hunters Helping the Hungry (HHH) started in Alabama in 1999 through funding derived from the Alabama Conservation and Natural Resources Foundation, which is chaired by Chris Blankenship, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR). The Foundation pays processors in Alabama $1 per pound for the ground venison, which is then donated to food banks and charities in Alabama.
Commissioner Blankenship and Pam Swanner, ALBBAA Director, said the impact of the global pandemic has greatly increased the need for donations of protein-rich venison for those impacted by the virus.
“We know this past year has been difficult for many, and we hope this targeted weekend will assist in providing healthy, organic ground venison to families in need all across the Black Belt region,” Swanner said. “During this time of year, and especially with the impact of COVID-19, we couldn’t think of a better way to encourage sportsmen and women to utilize this free program to support the areas in which they go afield.”
Commissioner Blankenship said Alabama’s deer herd provides a bountiful resource that can be shared in this time of need.
“I think Hunters Helping the Hungry is a great program,” Commissioner Blankenship said. “We have such a healthy population of deer in our state. A lot of landowners need to harvest more does off their property to keep the deer herd in balance. When the freezer is full, this a great opportunity to manage your deer and donate the harvested animals to Hunters Helping the Hungry, which then donates the venison to the food banks to help those in need. We want to make sure there is no waste in the harvest of these deer.
“With the COVID situation and food banks being relied on by a lot of people to provide their protein and sustenance, it’s a great opportunity for deer hunters in the state to make sure those food banks are stocked with good meat to help the people in those communities.”
Because the processing fee is paid by the ACNRF, there is no cost to the hunters.
“All they have to do is drop the deer off at one of the participating processors with a Game Check confirmation number, and the processor takes care of the deer and sends it to the food bank,” Commissioner Blankenship said. “It’s a win-win for everybody.”
Currently, eight processors are participating in the HHH program within the Black Belt with 15 food banks participating within the region. The participating processors are Buckster’s Deer Processing in Montgomery County, Green’s Deer Processing in Clarke County, M & S Wildlife Services in Choctaw County, Nichols Deer Processing in Dallas County, Richey’s Deer Processing in Hale County, John’s Deer Processing in Lee County, Milliron’s Deer Processing in Russell County, and Venison LLC in Wilcox County. For a full list of participating processors and food banks statewide, please visit https://www.outdooralabama.com/programs/hunters-helping-hungry.
Paying the processing fee for HHH donations is only one of many benefits ACNRF provides.
“The Foundation does a lot of good work to help promote hunting, fishing and wildlife management in the state,” Commissioner Blankenship said. “Scholarships are provided at the University of Alabama and Auburn University in different disciplines. We provide seed and other materials for youth dove hunts around the state. We help support the Adult Mentored Hunting Program. A lot of things that come through the Foundation really support the work of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, especially those things that encourage people to become hunters and fishermen and get out and enjoy the outdoors.”
The Foundation has also been impacted by COVID-19, limiting the methods it can use for fundraising.
“The Foundation receives contributions from interested people throughout the state, but the biggest fundraiser is the Governor’s One-Shot Turkey Hunt,” Commissioner Blankenship said. “Due to COVID, we were not able to have the hunt last year, and we won’t be able to have it in 2021. But we’re counting on 2022 to be the best Alabama Governor’s One-Shot Turkey Hunt ever.”
Commissioner Blankenship said individuals, companies or groups that want to donate to the Foundation can contact the ADCNR Commissioner’s office at 334-242-3486.
Commissioner Blankenship also serves on the ALBBAA board, which he said is a very natural partnership between the Black Belt group and the Foundation.
“The ALBBAA accentuates the great hunting we have in the Black Belt region and tries to help people in that area through the natural resources, which are so abundant in the Black Belt,” he said. “I really enjoy the work of the ALBBAA to promote those counties in the Alabama Black Belt. Most of those areas have smaller cities and small communities where hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation are a big part of the way of life there and a big part of the economy. The more people we bring to that region of the state, the more it will help with economic development and economic resources for those counties. I really appreciate the work ALBBAA does in the less populated but very important areas of our state.”
The Black Belt includes the following counties: Barbour, Bullock, Butler, Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Crenshaw, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Lee, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Monroe, Montgomery, Perry, Pickens, Pike, Russell, Sumter, Tuscaloosa and Wilcox.
The ALBBAA’s mission is to promote and enhance outdoor recreation and tourism opportunities in the Black Belt in a manner that provides economic and ecological benefits to the region and its citizens. Visit www.alabamablackbeltadventures.org for more information on the outdoors opportunities and cultural heritage in the Black Belt.
Those who donate a deer to the HHH program during the designated food drive and tag Alabama Black Belt Adventures on Facebook or Instagram will be entered into a random drawing for an antler mount from Foster’s Taxidermy Supply in Montgomery.