Illinois Department of Natural Resources officials are encouraging sportsmen to donate deer meat to food banks and charities as the fall hunting seasons approaches.
The department has a list of participating meat processors who will grind venison into two-pound packages. The Illinois Sportsmen Against Hunger program will offer $50 to help pay for the cost of processing whole deer donations.
The IDNR does not list any local butchers for the Illinois Sportsmen Against Hunger program, but the Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry list three area butchers who will process deer: Stork's Wild Game Processing, 18066 E. Walnut St., Palestine, 586-2131; Connelly Locker Service, 114 W. Cumberland St., Martinsville, 217-382-4621, and Hartrich Meats, Inc., 326 W. Embarras St., Ste. Marie, 618-455-3172.
All deer must be legally killed with proper tags. Hunters must properly field dress deer before delivering the game to meat processors. Processors won't accept questionable deer. Road kill deer can't be donated because it isn't possible to determine the animal's time of death.
There is no charge for the processing, but processors ask that you call ahead before bringing an animal. Hunters may have to pay for skinning or caping if the head or rack is kept.
Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry raises money throughout the year to pay for part of the processing. Local processors then donate their time to cover the rest of the cost. Regular processing cost between $75 and $85 for a 100-pound animal.
All of the processed meat is donated to local food banks. In Crawford County, meat is given to the Robinson, Palestine and Oblong food banks.
The youth firearm deer season starts Saturday. The firearm deer seasons for this year start Nov. 16 and Nov. 29. Muzzleloader seasons begin Nov. 29 and Dec. 7.