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Editorial: Bill on deer hunting benefits state, needy

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One of the truly win-win aspects of the hunting season is Hunters for Hungry. Through this program, hunters donate part of their harvest to be processed and shared with food banks.

A bill approved unanimously by the Indiana Senate last week would set aside more money for the state’s Sportsmans Benevolence Fund, an account that has the ability to pay to process meat from hundreds of deer. The measure now goes to the House.

State Sen. Mike Crider, R-Greenfield, the bill’s author, said most hunters can use only one deer a year to feed their families. Those who kill more deer than they plan to eat can donate them for processing. The program can provide about 500,000 meals a year to hungry Hoosiers across the state.

The state even allows extra deer tags to be issued when the meat is to be donated. This allows the hunters to remain in the fields longer in a season and further helps with the harvest. So in effect, this is even a win-win-win situation.

Crider, a former Department of Natural Resources director, set up the fund in 2008. But since then only donations have kept the fund going, and many people outside the hunting community don’t even know about the program.

The bill would give the fund enough financial footing to make it well-known and beneficial, Crider said.

The money would go to state-certified butchers across the state. The DNR will advertise the program heavily through its website.

Since 2008, about $42,000 has been donated to the fund to process the deer meat, or venison. But Crider’s bill asks for an annual state appropriation of $150,000. Since each deer yields about 200 meals and costs between $50 and $70 to process, Crider estimates the program would provide up to a half-million meals to the needy each year.

“The amount of money we’re talking about currently is what I felt like was the minimal amount to really determine how successful this program can be statewide,” Crider said.

The exact dollar figure for the bill hasn’t been approved, Crider said. Because the measure would have to be written into the state budget, requests for money will be ironed out toward the end of the legislative session.

This measure addresses the problem of hunger in Indiana in a unique and relatively inexpensive way. In addition, it further helps control the state’s deer population, which is an ongoing issue.

The additional incentive would not lead to over-harvesting, as the DNR has mechanisms in place to control the hunt and the harvest.

The state’s Sportsmans Benevolence Fund has long been a positive force in the hunting community. With additional and ongoing support from the state, the program can have a significant impact in helping feed the needy.

We urge the House to pass the measure and Gov. Mike Pence to sign it. Then at budget-writing time, the exact amount of support can be worked out.

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