Bracken County deer hunters set out on a brisk fall morning with more than antlers on their minds. They were hunting to provide meals to the hungry in their communities.
“For many years, we have watched the bountiful herd of white-tail deer grow in Bracken County,” said David Appelman, agriculture and natural resources extension agent for the Bracken County office of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. “The county benefits economically with the vast number of hunters here during season. Unfortunately, the number of deer has exceeded the balance and crops, gardens and vehicle damage are at an all-time high. There are even concerns that the size of the herd is affecting the health of the deer.”
With the help of Bracken County wildlife officer James Beckett and UK meat science specialist Gregg Rentfrow, Appelman worked on a plan to encourage hunters to harvest a doe.
“Many hunters are interested in the trophy bucks,” he said. “To harvest more doe, we had to come up with an option to use the meat in a safe and responsible way while giving hunters a way to increase the doe harvest.”
He set up the Hunter’s Harvest deer donation station at the extension office where hunters would bring deer. Even with challenging weather conditions, hunters were able to bring 14 deer to the station where volunteers were waiting to prepare the deer according to safe food handling practices. Weber Farms and the Kern family provided a refrigerated truck to deliver the meat to the UK Meats Lab, where Rentfrow’s staff ground and packaged the meat.
Appelman and other volunteers will distribute the meat to needy families through local food banks.
“The weather limited how many deer our hunters were able to bring in, but we are still very pleased with their efforts,” he said. “Still, this is a great place to start, and we already have plans for next year.”