Donating Deer

Deer donation programs give Wisconsin hunters an opportunity to give back after filling their freezers.

“Most hunters I know, they’re generous people,” Lee Dudek said. “It’s really a win-win situation. The hunter can get out and hunt more, harvest an extra deer and donate it.”

Dudek began the Hunt for the Hungry program in 1994 on a hunting trip in Marinette County. He was hunting with friends, and they were hoping to harvest extra deer to balance the herd but didn’t have a way to use the extra meat.

They decided to donate the deer, and Hunt for the Hungry was born.

Hunt for the Hungry is a program that allows hunters to donate whole deer, or a few pounds of a deer. If they want to donate, hunters can take it to a participating processing station and have it processed for free. The processors are reimbursed with revenue collected through hunting license sales. The donated venison goes to local food pantries.

Two deer processors in Door County participate – Haberli’s Deer Processing and Door County Custom Meats & Venison Processing.

“We often tell people that love to hunt but don’t like to have to deal with their deer that they can always donate it, and it goes to the local pantries,” said Jaci Birnschein of Door County Custom Meats. “They can donate anything from one pound of burger to the whole deer. It’s their choice. Every little bit helps.”

In 1995, the first full year of Hunt for the Hungry, 28 deer totaling 1,260 pounds of meat were donated. In 2000 the program grew when the DNR joined and began its Deer Donation Program. Over 3.5 million pounds of venison have been collected in Wisconsin since 2000.

“It’s an opportunity for people to shoot additional deer and a good outlet if they don’t know friends or family that are willing to take it,” said Brad Koele with the DNR Deer Donation Program. “It certainly goes to people who are in need of quality venison. It’s a great program for everyone involved.”

Lakeshore CAP received about 600 pounds of venison in 2011, which Sandy Soik of Lakeshore CAP said is a popular item at the food pantry that serves over 300 households every month.

Koele said 1,733 deer have been donated in Door County since 2000.

Donations fluctuate with every season, and Dudek said the economy and size of the deer herd affect the amount of venison donated. Some people may know friends and family in need of meat, and donate deer to them directly instead of going through the program.

Either way, he said, it’s good when hunters give back.

“They know there’s a need out there, and they respond,” Dudek said. “It makes them feel great, plus they can hunt some more. They’re benefitting people who can’t hunt, who don’t have the means to do so.”

Deer Hunting Seasons

Bow Hunting

The first bow-hunting season runs from September 15 through November 15, 2012 with the later season running from November 17 through January 6, 2013. The antlerless deer hunt, which only allows hunters to kill a deer without antlers, goes from December 6 through December 9.

When used for deer hunting, bows must hold a draw weight of at least 30 pounds. Metal broadheads are required to be sharp and have a width of at least 7/8 of an inch.

Shotgun and Rifle Hunting

Gun hunting starts November 17 and runs through November 25 this year. The antlerless deer season will start December 6 and run through December 9.

The overall minimum length for shotguns must be 26 inches, with the barrel length being at least 18 inches. The same requirements are needed for rifle hunting, except the barrel length must be at least 16 inches.


The season runs from November 26 through December 5. Muzzleloaders must be at least .45 caliber if smoothbore and .40 caliber or larger with a rifled barrel. The gun itself must be loaded with one single ball or slug to be legal for deer season.

To double check the dates and times for various hunting seasons visit: