The Elkin town manager enthusiastically introduced a new program to a cross-section of key citizens that promises to feed Elkin’s hungry. The program, “Operation Hunting for Hunger,” not only benefits those in need, but local landowners and farmers as well, and, at the same time, provides a recreational opportunity for those who like to hunt deer.
The premise is simple: deer cause damage to landowners’ landscaping and damage crops. Also, there is not enough food for the ever-growing deer population — causing much suffering in their ranks. Bow hunters cull the deer population and donate the meat to the food bank, thereby giving red meat to those who normally don’t receive it.
“We are trying to make this as simple as possible,” Elkin Town Manager Lloyd Payne said as he announced the program. “We want to give people more bang for their buck.”
Partners include Backyard Bow Pro, a nonprofit charity of hunters dedicated to feeding the hungry, the Surry County office of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension and Tri-County Christian Crisis Ministry (food bank). Comb’s Butcher Shop and Foothills Meat Market have agreed to process a deer into one-pound ground packages for $50 per deer, irregardless of the size. The Elkin Walmart and Lowe’s each donated a freezer to the food bank to hold the venison.
Residents are encouraged to contact local members of Backyard Bow Pro and give them permission to hunt on their land.
Joe Lasher of Asheville, founder of Backyard Bow Pro, said it is a win-win situation for all involved.
“One deer has the potential to provide 200 meals,” Lasher said. “In my opinion, it’s a God-given resource. Landowners are giving back to the community in a way they never thought of.”
Lasher said Backyard Bow Pro members are required to go through an extensive background check and then are given numbered photo identification tags that permit extensive monitoring. Felons, sex offenders, those with misdemeanor drug charges or wildlife violation charges, as well as those who have legal matters pending that could result in felony or misdemeanor charges, are refused membership. Members also must sign a written commitment to donate all or a portion of their meat to a local food bank.
“It looks like a wonderful program we can be involved in,” said Heather Macy, executive director of the food bank. “I shared it with our board and they were really excited about it. It will fill a huge gap in what we provide to our clients. We are focusing on getting more nutritious food for our clients — and we do have a couple of community gardens that provide fresh produce.
“Right now, we have no fresh meat coming in, except a few packages of meat donated by Food Lion. Deer meat is lean and a healthy choice. I was very excited when Lloyd came in and told me about the program.”
Gary Sparks, owner of Comb’s Butcher Shop, a partner in the program, said his business processes between 700 to 800 deer each year for local hunters.
Payne said since Elkin was the first municipality in North Carolina to permit urban bow hunting, it was a natural progression. Since 2008, 258 deer were reported culled via archery in the Elkin town limits.
Although Payne wants to make the program simple, there are specific guidelines: the deer may be killed by bow only, and then, it must be fully cleaned (with no hair), cut into quarters and placed in a cooler. The meat processors have the authority to refuse any deer that is submitted in an inferior manner. Hunters still must obey all state hunting guidelines and hunting dates. Hunters may solicit property owners to hunt, or property owners may solicit hunters to help cull their deer. Sometimes, landowners, who may not hunt themselves, request a portion of the venison for their families.
Lasher said the program benefits those businesses that serve hunters and all of the money is kept in the local economy.
Surry Cooperative Extension Director Bryan Cave heartily approves of the program.
“I have an animal science background,” Cave said. “Deer need space. You can see the graze line through the trees for miles at Stone Mountain Park. They (the deer) need to be thinned. There’s not a down side to this program. We are not reaching out for another federal or state program, but actually helping ourselves.”
Mike Fisher, one of the founders of the local Triad Chapter of Backyard Bow Pro, said his concern for hungry children was the drive behind his participation.
“In Surry County, 16 percent of the population does not know where their next meal will come from,” Fisher said. “North Carolina is 10th in the nation for children under 18 who don’t know where their next meal from and second in the nation for children under 5 years old who don’t know where their next meal will come from — 20 percent of those people have been in the military — so our veterans are suffering, too. One out of every six Americans struggle with hunger.”
For more information about Operation Hunting for Hunger, contact Payne at 336-794-6464. For more information about the Tri-County Christian Crisis Ministry, call 336-526-1089. For more information about Backyard Bow Pro, call 866-645-1772 or visit www.nohungrypeople.org.
Sherry Beason-Schmitt may be reached at 336-258-4059.