Deer season runs from early fall through early winter in many regions of the country. For many hunters, it’s not only a sport but it’s a way to enjoy local food. Backyard Bow Pro, an organization that started in North Carolina and is now in more than 20 states, encourages hunters to team with landowners and in the process feed the hungry.
Founded by Joe Lasher, the organization draws on the age-old traditions of living off the land and sharing the bounty, while setting up a system for today’s hunters to give back to local communities. Hunters who are part of Backyard Bow Pro provide all or a portion of their meat to a local food pantry or to a family in need.
The goals of the program are to help landowners, hunters and the hungry. In much of the country, the white-tail deer population is quite large, causing problems not only for the deer herds but for farmers and landowners. In North Carolina, for example, the annual agricultural crop damage from deer is estimated at more than $30 million. In addition, many suburban and urban gardeners experience the frustration and expense of having their gardens turn into a salad bar for the local deer population.
Backyard Bow Pro supports the ethical treatment of animals. The organization provides both landowner and hunter education. Respect for natural resources – the land and animals – is important. So, too, is ensuring that Backyard Bow Pro members pass an extensive background check to make sure they don’t have a criminal record of any kind or wildlife violation charges. Background checks are renewed each year. Hunters must also pass a proficiency test. Landowners retain total control of their land and don’t have to pay to have deer harvested from their land. Likewise, it gives hunters a place to hunt without paying a fee as long as they agree to give a portion of the processed meat to a local food pantry or family in need.
Chef Derek St. Romain is a regional coordinator of the program. He also is the executive chef at the Duke Diet and Fitness Center in Durham, North Carolina. An avid hunter, he jumped at the chance to work with Backyard Bow Pro and considers it his way to give back to the community. He works with local farmers, food pantries and farmers markets to show others how to prepare venison. He says that one deer can provide 200 meals.
Backyard Bow Pro works with nearly 30 food pantries across the state. According to Jen Waite, the director of food procurement for the MANNA Food Bank of western North Carolina, there is always lots of excitement around venison and what recipes are going to be prepared. “We appreciate the venison because it is a lean, healthy protein,” she says.
The organization has begun teaming up with municipalities. They also work with churches. If a congregation wishes to help provide venison to local food pantries, they may sponsor the processing of a deer.
Learn more at www.backyardbowpro.org or www.nohungrypeople.org. Watch Chef Derek prepare venison sausage at this link.