DES MOINES, Iowa -- For Iowa hunters, it is not just a trophy buck in their cross hairs any more.
"Control a rampant deer population and also help food-insecure Iowans," said Food Bank of Iowa CEO Michelle Book.
Created through legislation in 2003, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources' Help Us Stop Hunger or H.U.S.H. program, encourages hunters to donate an entire deer to help feed Iowa families.
"Between last year and this year we are around 630,000-640,000 meals each year getting donated to people that need the venison," said Alicia Plathe, Iowa DNR H.U.S.H. Coordinator.
The deer can be dropped off at any of the 79 participating H.U.S.H. lockers across the state. Plathe said, "They just have to fill out info on a card once they get to the locker and the locker takes it from there."
It then goes to Food Bank of Iowa locations in two-pound packages. Book said, "Those two pound packages fly out the door. I should say they scamper out the door."
A hunter's marksmanship in the field is making memorable meals across the state. "Every year we get calls from families asking when those deer seasons are because their children are waiting to find venison at their Food Bank location," Plathe said.
For hunters wanting to keep their deer meat, Jim Natzke of Des Moines says any Elks Lodge in Iowa will take the hide to help veterans at Iowa VA Hospitals."We give the hides to vets who do leather work and it gives them a chance to make extra money," Natzke said.
Natzke belongs to the West Des Moines Elks Lodge and says last year over 3,000 hides were donated to Elk lodges in Iowa. It helped make thousands of leather gloves for disabled vets in wheel chairs. Natzke said, "Bring us the hides. It gives a veteran something to do and it will make you feel good."
Hunting, helping veterans and eliminating hunger, a new trophy to be proud of. "Just because you shot that big buck doesn't mean you can hang your shotgun. If you still want to hunt get another tag and shoot a deer for HUSH and food insecure Iowans," Book said.
Since 2003, book says H.U.S.H. has helped make over ten million meals.
Find a participating H.U.S.H. Locker: https://www.foodbankiowa.org/make-a-difference/donate-food/hush