PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — If you’re a hunter or angler and have more meat or fish than you need, or you would just like to donate your deer, pheasant or walleye to help feed people locally, there is an organization encouraging you to do so.

Sportsmen Against Hunger started in 1993 as a small local program by two hunters, one processor and a few hundred pounds of meat.

In 2005, the program went statewide with Ron Fowler as the field director.

“Our mission is to encourage and facilitate donation of wild game meat to needy families,” Fowler said.

You can donate any type of game animal or bird such as deer, geese, pheasant, antelope, fish and more harvested in South Dakota. They have specific programs for some of the game.

“We provide cost sharing on the processing of donated deer, especially antlerless deer. Beyond that, we have programs where we encourage donation of geese; we have a special program for that. Also with fish, pheasants, and so we work in several different aspects to provide meat to needy families,” Fowler said.

While the costs are covered for some game, you’d have to pay the processing fees for a deer or antelope buck, for example.

“There are a surprising number of hunters that will do that. This past couple years for example, there have been about 100 antlerless deer donated and about 50 bucks donated across the state,” Fowler said.

It’s a great way to give back if your freezer is full but you still want to hunt or fish.

“A lot of hunters liked if they had the opportunity to do extra hunting. Take their family out, do extra hunting and they may end up with more game than what they can use themselves, so it’s another benefit in that respect,” Fowler said.

Sportsmen Against Hunger works closely with the Department of Game, Fish and Parks, which provides some funding through donations when people sign up for hunting and fishing licenses.

Diana Landegent is a wildlife conservation officer in Chamberlain.

“When I have hunters with game, they call me and say, ‘hey, my freezers are already full. I’d like a way to donate the meat that I have. How am I able to do that?” she said.

That’s where Sportsmen Against Hunger steps in.

“If they have an overabundance of game, they want to donate to a good cause, definitely donating meat to help out needy families in their local communities is a great opportunity,” Landegent said.

There are many lockers across the state that participate in Sportsmen Against Hunger, and Dehaai Processing in Chamberlain is one of them.

“There’s been more and more every year. I mean, this year we’ve had probably 15 that have been donated already. Usually they’ll just keeping coming in now that, and the doe season opens now, so a lot of people will do that also,” owner Tina Dehaai said.

Tina Dehaai and her husband own Dehaai Processing. She says the process to donate game is easy.

“We do take whole, on the carcass critters. And they just call, ask and see to make sure that we are doing it. Once they bring it up, we get them unloaded. They come in. They have to fill out a form for the Sportsmen Against Hunger,” she said.

It’s all turned into one pound bags of ground meat.

“We grind twice and then we package it. It’s frozen. We contact Game, Fish and Parks. Game, Fish and Parks then come over. They pick up the packages, and then they take it, log it, and then they take it and distribute it through the food pantry here in town,” DeHaai said.

And that’s just one of the places food ends up — Sportsmen Against Hunger also partners with Feeding South Dakota and other food pantries all over the state. All wildlife harvested locally in South Dakota that stays here.

“The last few years it’s averaged about 20,000 pounds a year. And of course that goes up and down depending on number of hunter licenses, deer licenses issued by the department of Game, Fish and Parks, hunter success, that kind of thing, but that’s been our average,” Fowler said.

The organization reached the one million pound mark of total meat donated since the program began, which they say makes up over four million meals.

“Just knowing that people are getting food on the table is the most important part,” Dehaai said.

“Give a lot of credit to the hunters, the sportsmen and women, that provide a lot of this meat that goes to needy families,” Fowler said.

If you’d like to find out more about the program, what can be donated and the nearest processor to donate to, you can visit the Sportsmen Against Hunger website.

If you have any questions, you can reach out to Sportsmen Against Hunger or your local conservation officer.