The mission of South Dakota Sportsmen Against Hunger is to encourage and facilitate donation of wild game meat to needy people in South Dakota.
South Dakota Sportsmen Against Hunger Program Reaches Milestone
By: Jeff Olson, Chair, South Dakota Sportsmen Against Hunger, May 2, 2022
More than one million pounds of wild game has been donated to families in need since the program began in 1993. One pound of venison burger can feed a meal to a family of four. This correlates to over four million meals fed to these people who are food insecure throughout the state of South Dakota.
It certainly takes a village and many great agencies who have worked together to make this happen but the number one group to thank for reaching this goal are the sportsmen of our state. They do not only help provide the game but also provide funds to help in the processing through the SAH Processing Certificate Program. Please keep up the great work because we still have a long way to go to meet the need of hunger in South Dakota. One in nine individuals are food insecure according to one of our great partners, Feeding South Dakota.
The South Dakota Game Fish and Parks Commission and the Department are an integral part of making this all happen each year. Rapid City and Sioux falls also contribute deer burger to SAH through herd reductions within city limits. Sharpshooters provided 6400 pounds in Rapid City this year in which the City, Black Hills Sportsmen Club and SD Sportsmen Against Hunger provided funds to pay for the processing.
While most of the meat comes in the form of burger, we also take in lots of other wild game. Roosters, geese, antelope, walleye and even an occasional elk. We have food drives that will take frozen food items. A primary food shortage is fresh meat, which is in high demand and difficult to obtain. Game meat is nutritional in value in having low fat and high protein content.
Our primary expense is the cost of processing, and we thank all our processors that process these deer, antelope and geese at a reduced rate. We are also fortunate to have corporate sponsors. Walmart, the Elmen Foundation and Scheels have been with us for a long time.
The South Dakota Sportsmen Against Hunger Board of Directors, along with many South Dakotans that benefit from this program, would like to thank everyone who has donated meat and funds to support our efforts to help end hunger in South Dakota. We also want to thank the meat processors, Feeding South Dakota and the SD Game Fish and Parks organization. Without them, this program would not succeed.
Now, let us start on working on our second million pounds.
HUNTING FOR THE HUNGRY – South Dakota hunters donate game meat for families in need through Sportsmen Against Hunger program
By: Billy Gibson, West Central Electric Cooperative Connections, November 2021
One million pounds of meat is an awful lot of protein…and a lot of goose burgers.
The organization Sportsmen Against Hunger is closing in on one million pounds of wild game donated to the needy since the program was founded in 1993 by Dr. Jeff Olson and Dr. Tom Krafka.
For nearly three decades, generous hunters throughout the state have given away a variety of game meat including deer, antelope, elk, pheasant, grouse and geese.
According to Olson, the goose meat has been quite a hit.
“Apparently, there are a lot of people who like to eat goose burgers,” he said. “It may not sound too appetizing when you think about it, but it’s not bad and a lot of the people who receive our donations say it’s great. They’ve developed quite a taste for it.”
Olson recalls that even when he launched the program he was completely oblivious to how many people in the state were going to bed hungry every night.
“We’re reaching one million pounds of meat our hunters and processors have donated over the years, but there are so many who are food insecure in our state that we could use another several million and still not meet the need,” he said.
Olson is accustomed to working around a maze of regulations, restrictions and prohibitions, noting “there’s a new and different hurdle we have to jump every year.”
Presently, the program is facing the challenge of finding enough plants to process the donated animals. Just a few years ago, there were nearly 50 wild game processors on the list of licensed receiving plants. Today there are just 14.
Olson cites pandemic-related problems in the industry and a dearth of available workers. The plants have been forced to take domestic animals for production and push donated wild game to the back of the line.
Ron Fowler has served as field director for the program since 2005 when he retired from South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks as a game management specialist after 35 years. He works out the details of the operation, recruits processor and hunters to participate and sorts through the red tape of state and federal regulations, health precautions, quality control and program’s certification system.
He explained that when a hunters decides to donate a doe deer or antelope, they fill out a certificate and deliver it to any processor in the state that’s on the prearranged receiving list. The certificate covers $75 of the processing fee while the hunter is responsible for any balance, though some facilities will accept the certificate as full payment. In the case of bucks, the hunter is responsible for the entire balance, which could run to more than $100. Processors collect the certificates and turn them in at the end of the season for payment. Fowler said the policy is in place to help control and manage the state’s deer population. He said some hunters will obtain more than one deer license, keep one for themselves and donate the others.
“When the program started, we had no funds to cover any of the hunter’s cost, but then we created a foundation and now we can pay for does, plus we provide the casing for processors and pay for the cost of getting the meat to the food banks where it’s distributed to those who need it.”
Fowler said these days most donated venison is coming from deer taken within, or close to, city limits. Several larger cities and towns have allowed deer to be taken in close proximity of their borders simply to hold the deer population down and keep them out of yards, gardens and streets. The cost of processing those animals is typically shared with the local government.
Sportsmen Against Hunger is also seeing more anglers getting in on the action. More than 300 lbs. of cleaned walleye has been donated in the past year. At this year’s Governor’s Cup Walleye Fishing Tournament, for instance, nearly 1,000 fish went to the needy. Most of the cleaning is done by local volunteers and members of sportsmen clubs.
Thousands of pheasants are also donated each year, often by those who are visiting the state and can’t take home their kill.
Fowler maintains a steady drum beat of encouraging hunters to donate their game even though he know the incentives to do so are diminishing. He notes that in earlier times processors weren’t hard to find, but now a hunter may have to drive some distance to the nearest facility.
“It used to be more convenient for hunters when you didn’t have to drive across the state to find a processor, but people are still hungry,” he said.
Fowler said his work can often be challenging, but he stays motivated by remembering that there’s always a need.
“There are so many families in our state that struggle and they need help,” he said. “It all comes down to a warm, fuzzy thing for me. The work is a little more than I first anticipated but I can’t just ignore it when I see an opportunity to help someone who needs it. We get a lot of positive feedback from our processors and the people we help are very grateful.”
ONE MILLION POUNDS – Hunter donations help feed community
By: Michael Woodel, South Dakota Outdoors, Fall/Winter 2001
The meat cooler at the back of Steamboat’s Inc. on Dakota Avenue is largely empty this time of year, save a couple of skinned elk.
It’ll fill up soon enough, owner Caleb Gilkerson said, and when the season rolls around he’ll be processing ground venison that’ll be trucked to hungry families all around central south Dakota in collaboration with South Dakota Sportsmen Against Hunger and Feeding South Dakota.
So far, 986,150 pounds of game meat have been donated since the program’s 1993 inception in cooperation with Feeding South Dakota and the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks, putting SDSAH within 14,000 pounds of the million pound threshold.
That threshold is one that SDSAH Field Director Ron Fowler believes will open the door to fundraising and awareness opportunities.
“It feels really good, you know, it’s quite a mile-stone, it’s something we can work with publicizing and hopefully getting a lot of people to understand, appreciate, even take part in if they wanted to donate some funding to the program to increase, maybe, the incentives to hunters,” Fowler said. “And otherwise just make people aware that hunters are contributing quite a bit to the needs of a lot of people that have a desire for and a need for good, nutritious meat.”
The milestone also impresses Feeding South Dakota Central Operations Manager Andy Walz, whose organization is on the receiving end of SDSAH’s donations
“I was actually surprised, I didn’t realize they’d donated that much,” Walz said “Thinking back on, I’ve been here eight years, and Ron typically comes with truckload of stuff very frequently over time, so that does kind of make sense that that would add up to that amount.”
A total of 20,086 pounds of game meat was donated in 2020, thus all but confirming that SDSAH will hit one million pounds in 2021. The 2020 figure included 118 antlerless deer, 59 buck deer, 2 doe/fawn antelope, 755 pheasants and 465 walleye. Two hundred and seventy-six deer were salvage processed through the Rapid City and Ellsworth Air Force Base deer reduction programs, and hunters donated 459 pounds of game meat through food drives.
“I think they’re generally happy to have it,” Walz said of the families that benefit from Feeding South Dakota’s programs. “It typically comes from meat processing locker for us to distribute it so it’s processed into smaller packages whether it’s deer or pheasant or any of those other game meats. It usually comes from that locker processed down to what they traditionally see from a retail packaging perspective, and I think it kind of makes it easier for them to do, but I think they are generally appreciative of having that protein and that meat. “That might be different than what they might be able to get through that store.”
Walz said Feeding South Dakota generally sees ground venison and pheasant donated the most. Gilkerson said providing ground venison to hungry families is the best way to do, preparation-wise. “I’ve never gotten any kind of negative feedback on it,” he said. “I think that’s the best way for them to handle the program, it’s the best product to put back out because you never know if you go into steaks and roast, the quality of that is going to vary so much from animal to animal. And so, sticking with burger is the best way to go.”
The sweet spot for venison is 164 degrees, Gilkerson said. “We always recommend to people with anything wild game, whether it’s your buffalo, your deer, elk, all the way to your pheasants, you’re going to cook it less than you will chicken, beef, pork, those kinds of products,” he said. “There’s isn’t nearly as high of a fat content in it, so it’s a lot easier to dry back out.”
Though a small operation, Steamboat’s has a knack for going through a significant amount of game once hunting season hits its peak.
“We’ve had some seasons where we were doing over 1,200 carcass deer in a season and now with the deer numbers being down, we’re somewhere between 400 and 500 a year now,” Gilkerson said. “The numbers are down out in the field for a variety of reasons, but I think primarily they’ve been saying it’s like bluetongue and other diseases that are getting them during the summer months. That’s what we’re told.”
Pheasants are also a common sight at Steamboat’s, to the tune of almost 50,000 a year, Gilkerson said.
“And then depending on the years, some years we’ll do 25 to 50 elk and we’ve had other years where we’re doing more than a couple hundred elk,” Gilkerson said.
Asked how long it takes to process a deer once it gets in Steamboat’s front door, Gilkerson answers “too long” with a laugh.
“It’s entirely too manual, which is probably the number one reason that you see all the processors, you know, around the state, there’s just so few of us left that process them and it’s because it is extremely labor-intensive,” he said, “Like one deer comes in the back door, and that deer’s going to pass through six different peoples’ processes, if you will. There’s a lot of people that are going to handle it in order to get it back out that front door packaged up and ready to go. Each deer, total time, you’re somewhere in the neighborhood of… Two-and-a-half to four hours, depending on what they have done with it.”
Gilkerson himself generally does everything from checking in and cutting up the deer to making the in-house salami, bologna and jerky.
“I know that there’s a lot of venison burger that leaves this place and gets consumed around the area, so it’s a good thing,” Gilkerson said.
And the added help from donated meat is making difference for Feeding South Dakota.
“We’ve been working with Ron for over eight years now, and it’s just been wonderful to have that resource that they’ve been so dedicated to our mission to help us meet the need in south “Dakota,” Walz said. “Looking for the next million will be great.”
S.D. Sportsmen Against Hunger closes in on one million pounds of donated meat
By: Michael Woodel, Piere Capitol Journal, August 14, 2021
South Dakota Sportsmen Against Hunger announced earlier this month that they are nearing a donation milestone, with one million pounds of game meat since 1993 going to the hungry in cooperation with Feeding South Dakota and the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks.
“Initial emphasis was on encouraging donation of deer and antelope through participating game processors and local food pantries,” an Aug. 5 press release from Field Director Ron Fowler stated. “Through the years increased opportunities were provided by SDSAH for donation of additional game such as Canada geese, pheasants, and walleye. At the same time hunters became more aware of need and demand for game meat by poverty-level families and took advantage of the additional opportunities for donation.”
According to the release, 986,150 pounds of game meat have been donated thus far in cooperation with Feeding South Dakota and the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks. This puts SDSAH within 14,000 pounds of the million-pound threshold. A total of 20,086 pounds of game meat donated in 2020.
“With continued support from thoughtful hunters the milestone of 1,000,000 pounds of game meat donated to families in need will be reached in 2021,” the release read.
“This is a real milestone, and I think it’s something to be noted by the public, to know the good that’s being done by Sportsmen Against Hunger and know that there’s a lot of meat that’s going to needy families,” Fowler told the Capital Journal. “And we can kind of further describe the impact of it as that each pound of meat is considered to be enough meat for a family of four for a meal. That’s kind of the rule of thumb that Feeding South Dakota uses and in looking at this donated meat, when we’re looking at a million pounds of donated game meat, that’s four million meals for hungry people.”
Fowler said the feeling he gets from delivering donated meat is akin to that of “frosting on a cake.” I do a lot of work, organizing the donation program, working with the game processors, working with Game, Fish and Parks, working with Feeding South Dakota to get everybody on the same page and coordinated,” Fowler said. “Also working with hunters, like I’m doing right now in getting the word out through news releases and website information, that kind of thing to get it all to come together. And like I say, when I can go out and pick up processed meat from a game processor, meat that’s been donated, it’s just frosting on the cake. It’s a real reward for what I’m doing.”
South Dakota expands Canada Goose donation program
By: Trent Abrego, Aberdeen News, August 11, 2021
In cooperation with South Dakota Sportsman Against Hunger, the Games, Fish and Parks and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have expanded hunting opportunities for Canada goose hunters.
The program was expanded because of the high population of Canada Geese in South Dakota and to increase the donation of surplus harvested geese to families in need, according to a news release.
The expansion will add much of the eastern portion of the state to the Canada goose August Management Take, which would be open for hunting from Aug. 21 to 31. The daily limit is 15 birds per day, with no possession limit. The expansion also lengthens the Early Fall Canada Goose Unit 1 Hunting Season from Sept. 1 to Sept. 30.
Processing for the birds will be free for the hunters who take their geese to participating game processors. If geese can't be donated on the day they are harvested, they can be taken to the hunter's home for cleaning then to a game processor at a later time without evidence of the kind of bird being attached to the breast meat.
After processing, packaged goose burgers will be sent to Feeding South Dakota food banks and associated food pantries.
A description of the open area can be found by visiting https://gfp.sd.gov/goose/.
Locally, Economy Meat Market, in Bath and Jorgenson Meat Processing, in Waubay, are two of the participating game processors. Economy Meat Market accepts breast meat only, while Jorgenson Meat Processing accepts whole birds. Economy Meat Market can be reached at 605-225-9680. Jorgenson Meat Processing can be contacted at 605-947-4460.
Sportsmen Against Hunger Nears Game Donation Milestone
By: Ron Fowler, South Dakota Sportsmen Against Hunger, August 5, 2021
Established in 1993, South Dakota Sportsmen Against Hunger (SDSAH), in cooperation with Feeding South Dakota (FSD) and the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks (SDSGFP), has continued to provide a means for hunters to provide nutritious game meat to families in need. The result has been donation of 986,150 pounds of game meat since SDSAH inception, or near the milestone of 1,000,000 pounds.
Initial emphasis was on encouraging donation of deer and antelope through participating game processors and local food pantries. Through the years increased opportunities were provided by SDSAH for donation of additional game such as Canada geese, pheasants, and walleye. At the same time hunters became more aware of need and demand for game meat by poverty-level families and took advantage of the additional opportunities for donation.
To provide more incentive for hunters to harvest and donate antlerless deer, doe/fawn antelope and Canada geese in cooperation with SDGFP game management objectives, SDSAH developed a Processing Certificate Program to help hunters pay for processing of these donated game. Upon donation at a SDSAH game processor, hunters would complete a processing certificate and give it back to the processor which would cover most or all of the processing cost of the donated game. Processors would submit the completed processing certificates to SDSAH for reimbursement. A primary source of funding to support the Processing Certificate Program has been cash donations received from hunters through the SDGFP hunting license application check-off system.
To supplement hunter donation of game meat, SDSAH developed a salvage processing program whereby arrangements were developed with entities such as SDGFP for acceptance and processing of salvageable road-killed game, confiscated game, etc. Agreements were also made with cities for accepting game taken in population reduction programs, cost-sharing the processing costs, and providing the processed meat to FSD food banks.
In 2020, sportsmen and sportswomen donated 118 antlerless deer, 59 buck deer, 2 doe/fawn antelope, 755 pheasants, and 465 walleye. A total of 276 deer from Rapid City and Ellsworth Air Force Base deer reduction programs were salvage processed. Hunters also donated 459 pounds of game meat through SDSAH food drives. Total amount of game meat donated from all sources in 2020 was 20,086 pounds.
With continued support from thoughtful hunters the milestone of 1,000,000 pounds of game meat donated to families in need will be reached in 2021.
South Dakota Canada Goose Donation Program Expanded
By: Ron Fowler, South Dakota Sportsmen Against Hunger, July 13, 2021
South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in cooperation with South Dakota Sportsmen Against Hunger (SAH) are encouraging Canada goose hunters to take advantage of expanded hunting opportunities which will allow greater harvest of Canada geese and then hopefully also increase donation of surplus harvested geese to families in need.
One expansion is the adding much of eastern South Dakota to the Canada goose August Management Take area which would be open for hunting from August 21 – 31, 2021. The daily limit would be 15 birds per day with no possession limit. A description of the open area can be found on the GFP website gfp.sd.gov/goose and in the 2021 GFP Hunting and Trapping Handbook.
Another change is the lengthening of that portion of the Early Fall Canada Goose Unit 1 Hunting Season in which geese can be donated. The new dates would be September 1 – 30, 2021, with a daily limit of 15. The changes being implemented are due to South Dakota currently having a resident Canada goose population that is above the population objective and causing excessive damage to agricultural crops and urban landscapes as well as creating public safety issues to airports.
Hunters may donate harvested Canada geese by taking their geese to participating game processors who will process the birds at no cost to the hunters, and who will deliver the processed and packaged goose burger to Feeding South Dakota food banks and associated food pantries. SAH will pay for the processing through SAH Processing Certificates provided to hunters by processors for completing and giving back to the processor.
Hunters will need to check the SAH website (www.feedtheneedsd.com) or GFP website (sdgfp.maps.arcgis.com), or call toll-free (800) 456-2758, for names and locations of goose processors and to find out if a particular processor will accept whole birds or just the breast meat.
If geese cannot be donated the day they are harvested, they can be taken to the hunter’s home for cleaning and the breast meat delivered by the hunter to a processor for donation at a later time without evidence of kind of bird being attached to the breast meat.
Game processors participating the Sportsmen Against Hunger Canada goose donation program include:
|*Economy Meat Market, Bath, SD||Phone: 225-9680|
|*Ol’ Mill Meats, Milbank, SD||Phone: 432-5433|
|*Dakota Butcher, Watertown, SD||Phone: 878-3336|
|*Dakota Butcher, Madison, SD||Phone: 556-0169|
|*Spilde Quality Meats, Rapid City, SD||Phone: 219-6929|
|Waldner Specialty Meats, Milbank, SD||Phone: 432-6100 or 467-0744|
|Piedmont Cutting Edge Meats, Piedmont, SD||Phone: 787-9547|
|Jorgenson Meat Processing, Waubay, SD||Phone: 947-4460|
|Dakota Butcher, Clark, SD||Phone: 532-6328|
|* Accepts breast meat only, not whole birds.|
Sportsmen Against Hunger Changes Deer Donation Program
By: Ron Fowler, South Dakota Sportsmen Against Hunger, August 5, 2020
The Sportsmen Against Hunger (SAH) deer donation program will change in 2020 in that all deer and elk taken west of the Missouri River or out-of-state for donation in South Dakota must be tested for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) before they can be processed.
Even though public health officials have found no link between CWD and any neurological disease in humans, the SAH Board of Directors still wants to start taking steps to minimize risk of human exposure to CWD by testing donated deer and elk coming from out-of-state or the area of South Dakota where CWD is known to occur. The ultimate goal of SAH is to prevent all processed donated meat going to food pantries from coming from harvested deer or elk testing positive for CWD.
To accomplish the CWD testing of donated deer and elk harvested west of the Missouri River or out-of-state, additional cooperation and effort is being asked of hunters and game processors. Details on the CWD testing procedure can be found on the SAH website www.feedtheneedsd.com. For hunters who want to collect tissue samples from their own deer or elk for CWD testing, CWD testing kits may be obtained, ideally ahead of time, from any Department of Game, Fish and Parks Regional or District Office.
Donation of deer taken east of the Missouri River in South Dakota during any hunting season may be donated at any participating SAH game processor without testing for CWD. Location of participating SAH game processors is given on the SAH website www.feedtheneedsd.com. Processing Certificates worth $75 for each donated antlerless deer and $65 for each donated doe/fawn antelope will be available to pay for most or all of the processing cost regardless of where the animals are taken in the State.
In 2019, families in need received 33,201 lbs. of donated processed game meat from SAH through Feeding South Dakota and its associated food pantries across the State. This translates into 132,800 meals of meat for poverty-level families. This meat came primarily from 284 thoughtful hunters donating 197 antlerless deer, 132 buck deer, 5 doe/fawn antelope, 2 buck antelope, 27 out-of-state deer and 4 out-of-state antelope through 39 SAH game processors. Meat also came from salvage processing, paid for at least in part by SAH, of 245 deer from the Rapid City deer reduction program, 63 deer from the Sioux Falls deer reduction program, and 21 elk from the Wind Cave National Park elk culling program. In addition, 1,059 pheasants, 793 Canada geese and 341 walleye were donated.
Last but not least, hunters need to be recognized for donating funds to SAH through the Department of Game, Fish and Parks hunting license application check-off system. In recent years these funds have helped SAH to cover the cost of the Processing Certificate Program. The donated funds have also been used towards costs of salvage processing of confiscated game, deer taken in city deer reduction programs, etc. Special credit goes to hunters who paid the full or reduced cost of processing other donated game such as buck deer, buck antelope, and pheasants.
More information on Sportsmen Against Hunger can be found at www.feedtheneedsd.com.
GAME DONATION PROGRAM SUCCESS DUE TO HUNTERS AND PROCESSORS
By: Ron Fowler, South Dakota Sportsmen Against Hunger, July 12, 2019
For twenty-six years Sportsmen Against Hunger (SAH) has relied on countless hunters and game processors to provide game meat to families in need through food pantries. Donations of game, especially deer, has continued to grow in relation to hunting opportunities. And game processors across the state continue to cooperate with SAH in processing donated game at reduced rates.
In 2018, 332 hunters donated 214 antlerless deer, 146 buck deer, 9 doe/fawn antelope, and 8 buck antelope. In addition, 1,129 pheasants, 1,059 Canada geese and 141 walleye were donated. Processing of this game, plus game from other sources such as city deer reduction programs resulted in over 31,400 pounds of processed meat. This translates into 125,600 meals of meat for needy families. Total amount of game meat donated since SAH was created is now over 900,000 pounds.
Hunters are also recognized for donating funds to SAH through the Department of Game, Fish and Parks hunting license application check-off system. In recent years these funds have helped SAH to cover the cost of the Processing Certificate Program in which hunters may use processing certificates to pay most or all of the cost of processing donated antlerless deer, doe/fawn antelope and Canada geese. Credit goes to hunters who paid the full or reduced cost of processing other donated game such as buck deer, buck antelope, and pheasants. The donated funds have also been used towards the costs of salvage processing of confiscated game, deer taken in city deer reduction programs, etc.
Success of SAH can be attributed not only to hunters who donated but game processors who have participated in SAH and provided incentive to hunters to donate by reducing the cost of processing donated game. When coupled with the SAH Processing Certificate Program there was often no cost to the hunter. This past year the 40 game meat processors who cooperated with SAH were also instrumental in delivering the processed meat to Feeding South Dakota food banks and to local food pantries which then provided the meat to families in need.