MARTINSVILLE, Va. (AP) - Deer hunters in Virginia are donating less venison to a program that delivers the meat to the needy than they did in 2011.
Donations to Hunters for the Hunger are down by 80,000 pounds through this year's archery and muzzleloading seasons.
The decline could be due to a couple factors, said Laura Newell-Furniss, program director of Virginia Hunters Who Care.
Warmer weather, for instance, may have kept hunters busy doing other things and affected the behavior of deer. The down economy also could be a reason for the slower pace of contributions, Furniss told the Martinsville Bulletin ( http://bit.ly/10fiwoa).
"I think there are enough deer here in Virginia, if hunters can just get out there," she said.
The program pays to have the deer processed and packaged.
Tim Belcher, owner of Rolling Meadows Custom Meats in Martinsville, said he has not seen a reduction in overall deer kills. But many hunters are keeping the deer that they kill, due to high unemployment in the area and the cost of food.
Processing a deer typically costs $50 to $60 for high-grade cuts, he said. This year's herd is larger than normal, producing 40 pounds to 50 pounds of meat.
"If you go and buy a family pack of ribeyes and T-bones, you're going to drop $8-$12 a pound and you have nothing, volume wise," he said.
As gun season begins, Belcher expects donations to Hunters for the Hungry to increase.
"The herd is fat, healthy and abundant," he said, "so there's no reason for someone not to be able to kill a deer" as long as they have the proper equipment and property on which to hunt.
Furniss also expects donations to rise in the coming weeks.
"We may be fine," she said. "It may be that the deer will start moving more (and) hunters will start having more success."
Information from: Martinsville Bulletin, http://www.martinsvillebulletin.com
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