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As sportsmen and women, we are blessed to live in a state that offers so many outdoor recreational opportunities.

With our four distinct seasons, there is always something “in-season” to fish, to hunt or to simply plan a day outdoors enjoying nature’s wonderful bounties.

In addition to our seasons, we are blessed to live in a state that understands the rich heritage and culture of hunting and fishing. West Virginia is known for its scenic mountain beauty, its friendly people and its strong, proud traditions of outdoor pursuits.

As hunters and people who fish, we understand firsthand the connection to the natural world that only folks who practice hands-on wildlife conservation understand completely.

For many of us, hunting and fishing are more than hobbies or phases of life we are going through — they defines us.

It’s simply who we are. We celebrate our cherished lifestyle, the fact that we are called on to be the tool in wildlife conservation, and understand the importance of protecting and giving back to a way of life that we hold and cherish so deeply.

Every year around this time, I dedicate a column to just that — a way that hunters can do a small part to celebrate their success in the field with others who may find themselves in less fortunate situations.

I know of no better way to represent our lifestyle and our state’s wonderful people than by donating fresh, healthy food to others in need.

If you find yourself blessed this deer season or you simply decide to harvest a deer to donate, the following information from our DNR may be seen as helpful.

The 2021 season will mark the 30th consecutive year the Division of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Section has sponsored the Hunters Helping the Hungry Program.

Since the inception of the program, hunters, financial contributors and participating processors have enabled the processing of 27,566 deer.

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With their generosity and the assistance of two area food banks, 1,046,697 pounds of nutritious meat has been provided to needy families and individuals throughout West Virginia.

Hunters who decide to participate in the program take their deer to a participating meat processor, where the processor grinds, packages and freezes the venison.

The Mountaineer Food Bank (Gassaway) and Facing Hunger Foodbank (Huntington), both members of Feeding America, pick up the venison and distribute it to the needy through their statewide network of 600 charitable food pantries, soup kitchens, senior centers, shelters, community centers, orphanages, missions and churches.

West Virginia is fortunate to have the generous support of its hunting community. The HHH Program has the potential to donate thousands of pounds of venison to the needy on an annual basis, making it a worthwhile program.

However, the total cost of this program has averaged $42,953.64 over the past seven years.

There is considerable interest in the program, but the DNR is restricted from using sportsmen’s license dollars to fund the program.

Therefore, the DNR must rely on the generosity of concerned individuals, businesses, conservation organizations, foundations and churches.

Two of the largest sources of fundraising include the annual “Governor’s One-Shot Hunt” and the annual “Share the Harvest Sunday” fundraiser.

Interested individuals, churches, organizations, and businesses can help to ensure the perpetuation of the HHH Program through a generous monetary donation that can be made at any time.

For more information about the HHH program, visit the WVDNR website at wvdnr.gov/hunting/hunters-helping-the-hungry or call the district office in French Creek at 304-924-6211.

More information about West Virginia’s hunting seasons can also be found online at wvdnr.gov/hunting.

Chris Ellis is a veteran of the outdoors industry. His book “Hunting, Fishing and Family from The Hills of West Virginia” is available at www.wvbookco.com. Contact him at chris@elliscom.net.

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