Guest Columnist

Iowa hunters take aim at food insecurity

Payson Kerns (left), an employee of Edgewood Locker, and Ron Kluesner of Luxemburg carry a doe designated for the HUSH p
Payson Kerns (left), an employee of Edgewood Locker, and Ron Kluesner of Luxemburg carry a doe designated for the HUSH program into a cold-storage area of the locker on Saturday. The deer donated by Kluesner and his son, Ken Kluesner of Dyersville, was one of 76 HUSH deer taken in at the locker last weekend during the first two days of the shotgun deer season. The deer will be processed into 2-pound bags of frozen ground venison for distribution to the needy under the state's Help Us Stop Hunger program.

No way around it, 2020 has been tough. In Eastern Iowa, we have been challenged by COVID-19, rising unemployment, even a devastating derecho in another season of climate-fueled weather events. Bad enough by themselves, yet they also worsen the problem of food insecurity. Thankfully, we can help reduce the stress of putting food on the table.

Hunters are among those benefactors. Thousands of us have taken part in Iowa’s Help Us Stop Hunger (HUSH) program. Around for nearly two decades, it has provided over 10 million meals. Run by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, it enables hunters to drop off field dressed deer at participating meat lockers. Each locker processes the venison and gets it to those who need it, through the food bank network. Many of the deer donated are harvested with extra antlerless tags available to hunters.

If you choose to take part in HUSH, locate a participating locker on the DNR website — https://www.iowadnr.gov/Hunting/Deer-Hunting. Scroll down to Help Us Stop Hunger to find a participating locker. Just below that, a new program — the Iowa Deer Exchange — makes it easier for hunters to connect directly with families, to put food on the table.

Iowa’s various deer seasons stretch from late September into January. We spend time outdoors, doing what we love, while ensuring others have access to high quality, lean protein for their families. At the end of the day, it’s about putting quality food on the table.

One suggestion? The Deer Exchange could use plenty of additional donors. I had two potential recipients contact me, before Thanksgiving. And I hadn’t taken a deer, yet!

As our December shotgun seasons take center stage, 120,000 hunters will account for half of Iowa’s total deer harvest. Already, through November, more than 30,000 whitetails were harvested. Let’s spread the word through our deer hunting community. Whether you chose to participate in HUSH or the Iowa Deer Exchange (or each!) it’s a win-win for deer hunters and those on the receiving end.

Hunting allows Iowans to experience wildlife and wild places up close. The physical and mental health benefits from spending time outdoors? Priceless!

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Donating your harvest turns your hunt into a life-changing gift. It another Iowa family puts high-quality food on the table, rather than making tough decisions, like skipping meals to pay the bills.

Joe Wilkinson of Solon serves on the board of the Iowa Wildlife Federation.

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