It's that time of the year again! When men, and a few women, around the county get up before daybreak, make coffee, gather and check equipment, put on an extra pair of socks and something bright orange before disappearing for hours. That time of year when the forest comes alive with hunters trying to outmaneuver, and outwit, their prey in a game of stealth and survival.
It's deer season!
Local hunters, who love the sport but don't want, or need, the meat, can become generous benefactors this season in the fight against hunger by participating in the local "Hunters Against Hunger" program, which is sponsored by Safari Club International's Sportsmen Against Hunger.
Started nationally in 1989, the program, which helps feed the needy in the United States and countries around the world, has provided game meat for more than 230 million meals worldwide.
"It's a way for hunters to give back to their communities." said Chris Styleburg, owner of Jack's Fine Foods, one of the 27 participating processors in the program. His involvement began in the program three years ago.
The response was small at first, but has grown tremendously to the point where the charity will be able to donate over 800 pounds of game meat to local charities this season.
Gary Bunch, a local hunter who donates his harvest regularly to the charity, thinks the program is worthy of all hunters attention. "It's great for hunters, like me, who love to hunt, but don't like the meat."
Many hunters love the thrill of the sport, but don't hunt because they don't want to waste the harvest. Hunters unwilling to leave their kill in the forest or have meat processed that may go to waste can feel good about going deer hunting again.
"The meat processor is the key person for the program." explained Richard Forsythe, who is on the International Committee of Humanitarian Services for Sportsman Against Hunger. "When the hunter brings in their harvest to be processed it's the meat processor who does the most in educating people about the program. They are also the ones who insure that the meat gets to local charities in the immediate area."
Chris Styleburg goes beyond educating people about the program. He makes their participation as easy as possible by allowing hunters that have field dressed their deer 24-hour accessiblity to his business and by processing the meat for free.
"If I can donate a little of my time to help feed the hungry I don't care how many deer we process," smiled Stylesburg. "And my employees don't mind either."
The meat, once ground up and packaged, is passed out to local charities that contact Styleburg. He is always looking for new charities to help.
Some charities receiving donations in the past from the local program include: House of Hope, Lighthouse Mission, Church of Christ, Van Buren Volunteer Fire Dept, and many local families who have been brought to Stylesburg's attention. "This is a terrific program for hunters to be involved in this season," Stylesburg said about the upcoming deer shotgun season that begins Nov 13. "And hopefully this year we will be able to help even more families."