With many heading out across the state to hunt deer, a unique nonprofit organization offers them a chance to give back.

Hunters Sharing the Harvest accepts donated venison to help Pennsylvania’s food-challenged residents.

Ben Moyer, the volunteer coordinator for Fayette and Greene counties, said participation in the program comes at no cost to hunters.

“When a hunter kills a deer he or she wants to donate, they simply take that deer to a participating butcher,” Moyer said. “They fill out one simple form and sign it, which enables the butcher to file that voucher with our program.”

Last year, more than 4,000 hunters donated about 160,000 pounds of venison – the highest total in the 29 years the program has been in place.

“Over the course of the program, more than 1 million pounds of venison has been channeled to those in need,” Moyer said, noting the program continues to grow.

The venison, distributed as ground meat, goes to food banks, soup kitchens who ultimately provide it to those in need.

Moyer said the food banks in Fayette and Greene counties, as well as the Salvation Army, receive the meat locally.

He said 125 butchers across Pennsylvania participate, and are paid for their services by donations people make to Hunters Sharing the Harvest. The program received deer during archery season, which ran from early October through mid-November, and will continue to accept donations through Dec. 12, when hunting season ends.

Monetary donations to support the cost of processing the meat come from both individuals and businesses. The state Departments of Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources and the state Game Commission also put funding into the program.

Moyer said cost of processing the meat works out to about $1.75 per pound of ground venison, which allows Hunters Sharing the Harvest to continue to put food on the tables of those who need it most.

“The program feels like it’s really suited to our region. We have a lot of hunters, and lots of people who need help,” Moyer said.

Haines Meat Processing in Gibbon Glade accepts deer in Fayette County, while Hungarian Smokehouse in Carmichaels accepts it in Greene County.

Washington County hunters who would like to donate can take deer to Bobeck’s Deer Processing in Monongahela, Lenik Deer Processing in Finleyville or Shuba’s Processing in Washington.

Espey’s Meat Market in Scottdale, Westmoreland County, also accepts donations.

A full list of butchers who accept deer, and a link to make financial contributions to the program, can be found at sharedeer.org.

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