SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — More than 90,000 deer were harvested during the opening weekend of the November portion of the firearms deer season across the state. 

For hunters who are looking to donate their deer, there is a special program called “Share the Harvest” that helps families in need.

The program began in 1992 and the Missouri Department of Conservation tells KOLR 10 that more than 5 million pounds of venison meat has been donated.

“The fact that hunters donated more than 5 million pounds of venison to Share the Harvest since 1992 says a lot about hunters in Missouri. It says their heart is in the right place. Yes, they have an interest in hunting but they wanna make sure the venison goes to a good place,” said Francis Skalicky with the Missouri Department of Conservation.

For hunters, donating is easy; all you need to do is take your deer to an approved meat processor and let them know how much you want to donate. 

If you harvested a deer in a Chronic Wasting Disease county then you must get it tested and find a processor who participates in the Share the Harvest CWD-testing program.

KOLR 10 reached out to Oldfield Packing LLC in Sparta which participates in the program and they said the number of deer that’s been donated has increased over the years. And for hunters who are looking to donate their deer to Oldfield Packing, it won’t cost you any money.

“If you’re able to just bring the deer as long as its been field dressed and everything clean and we basically use everything else it doesn’t cost you or the hunter anything,” said David Walker, owner of Oldfield Packing. 

Walker said this is the busiest time of the year for them. 

“We’re trying to get a lot of stuff out so we can actually take more deer,” said Walker. 

The MDC said each processor is different because many, like Oldfield Packing, partners with local businesses to help limit the processing costs. 

For families looking to join the program, contact your local Department of Conservation to see which food pantry is participating.