Despite the program’s name, HUSH is not something the Iowa Department of Natural Resources want area hunters to keep quiet about this hunting season.
HUSH — Help Us Stop Hunger — is a combined effort to provide quality red meat to those in need and help control the deer population in the state. This is the 11th year for the program.
“HUSH is a simple process from the hunter’s standpoint,” said Iowa DNR HUSH coordinator Jim Coffey. “It is a program that our deer hunters have asked for and the Food Bank of Iowa is just thrilled with it.”
Hunters must take a buck or doe legally, tag it, then transport it to one of 88 participating meat lockers in Iowa. Once the locker approves the deer, all the hunter has to do is sign a HUSH card, allowing the processor to connect with the Food Bank of Iowa to combat hunger.
The closest participating lockers are Corning Meat Processing and Zeb’s Smokehouse in Bedford.
“We normally end up with about 300 donations, last year we were in the 200s,” said Dave Walter, the owner of Corning Meat Processing. “It has been a great experience. Since it began in 2004, we have been near the top in number of donations and pounds.”
Last hunting season, 5,281 deer were donated to HUSH, generating about 880,000 meals for Iowa families in need.
While the total donations were down last year, Coffey said it is consistent with the decline of the total deer herd in the state. But even though the total deer herd may be smaller, overpopulation is still occurring in rural parts of the state.
Hunters who wish to use the meat for personal use are still contributing to HUSH in an indirect manner. Each tag has a $1 charge to help fund the program.
“That is the beauty of the HUSH program,” Coffey said. “There is a local connection and it is distributed right back into the community.”
The locker receives $75 for each processed deer and the Food Bank of Iowa gets $5 administrative cost for each deer distributed. The $1 charge to each tag helps cover the expense.
Walter said it takes about 15 minutes to prep a deer that has been donated to HUSH.
Corning Meat Processing is connected with the Presbyterian church in Creston and the MATURA office in Corning to help get the meat to those in need. Last year more than 10,000 pounds of red meat were distributed.
“It blew my mind the number of people that needed it (the meat),” Walter said.
Matt Carr, 22, hunts in Ringgold, Union and Adair counties during bow and late muzzleloader season. He has donated to HUSH an estimated 15 times since he started hunting.
“I like deer hunting, but we don’t eat a lot of deer (meat),” Carr said. “It gives me a place to take the meat to help feed less fortunate families and it helps take more does out of the herd.”
Coffey said hunters should contact the locker where plan they to donate. Most of the time the only requirement is to field dress the kill, but accepting the meat is at the locker’s discretion.
Corning Meat Processing, for example, is open extra hours starting in December. Walter goes in Saturday and Sunday from 4 to 7 p.m.
“It makes it easier on the hunter to take it in on Saturday and Sunday,” Walter said. “And it makes it easier on me so I don’t have to catch up on Monday.”
Since Christmas falls in the middle of the week this year, Corning Meat Processing will not be open on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
So after local hunters find their trophy kill this season, Coffey encouraged hunters to pick up an extra tag to make a contribution to the program.
“Any deer that is harvested on any tag may be donated,” Coffey said. “You do not have to be a resident of the county you donate.”