Buffalo County tops deer donation numbers statewide - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Buffalo County tops deer donation numbers statewide

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Buffalo County (WQOW)- It's not deer season, but new numbers remind us of how generous hunters have been.  Those numbers show how much venison was donated last year.

You have to start in Buffalo County where hunters donated the most in the state; more than 240 deer.  All of that food will help feed the hungry, but a deeper look inside the numbers shows a downward trend statewide.

Buffalo County has been called the Mecca of deer hunting not only in Wisconsin, but in the country.  And last year's deer donation numbers would back that up. 

It led the state with 246 donations in 2012.  That's up about 35 from the year before and 80 more than Dane County, which ranked second. 

"I think a lot of folks are what I call venison saturated," explains DNR Area Wildlife Manager Tim Babros.  "They have a lot of meat for themselves and they have more venison than their families can utilize, so they are more willing to donate that to people that could really use it."

While most processing plants say they've seen donations increase this year, Eagle's Peak Processing in Mondovi says business has slowed down.

"I think a lot of hunters that would normally bring in 10 to 12 deer, a lot of them kept half of their deer this year to put in their own freezers and whether that's due to the economy or now, I don't know," says Eagle's Peak Processing Co-Owner Justin Henthorn.

More than 3,000 deer were donated throughout Wisconsin last year.  That may sound good but it's still a far cry from 2006, when the Earn-A-Buck program was in place, and donations nearly reached 12,000.

"People were shooting a lot of antlerless deer so they could earn their buck stickers to shoot a buck and so venison donation reached an all-time peak in Buffalo County at that time," Babros remembers.

But one thing hasn't changed since then and it's still what brings most hunters to Buffalo County.

"The chance for a once-in-a-lifetime deer is what brings them here," Henthorn says with a smile.

"People come from out-of-state to come and shoot a trophy buck and they are not really interested in having their meat flown back to wherever they live or whatever and so they are more apt to donate that venison," answers Babros.

That venison will mean food on the table for many needy families who won't have to take a hit in the pocketbook.

More deer were harvested in Buffalo County than any other county statewide as well.  Overall, there were about 250 more deer donated in the state in 2012 compared to the year before.  But that number is still a fraction of what we saw in the 2006 and 2007.

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