CASTINE — Local families in need will be the beneficiaries of approximately 300 pounds of frozen deer meat, courtesy of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife.
State Wildlife Officer Jeff Wenning delivered the meat to the Castine Church of the Brethren Thursday. Bob Fellers, a volunteer at the church, helped unload the meat into freezers at the church’s food pantry.
“It’s an opportunity for us to give back as an agency, to benefit local food banks,” he said. “Things aren’t cheap nowadays.”
The meat delivered to the church consists of a variety of products derived from venison, including hamburger, tenderloins, chops, trail sticks, bologna, and summer sausage.
But this donation isn’t typical — it’s meat confiscated by the Wildlife Division as a result of “unlawful harvesting” or poaching.
“It could mean the deer was never checked in. An incorrect or false harvest number. It could be an over-bagging situation, a jacklighting situation, it could be using the tag of another. There’s a lot of different violations that could play into it,” Wenning explained.
“Jacklighting,” or the use of a spotlight or other artificial light to hunt nocturnal animals, is illegal in Ohio. The state also has strict limits on when deer can be hunted, by what means they can killed, and the number of deer a hunter may bag in a season.
Wenning said the venison was harvested in different counties, not just in Darke County, and prepared by a number of local meat-processing companies in southwestern Ohio, none at taxpayer cost.
“The processing was actually done by the violator. He, or she, paid for the processing,” he said. “When it was all said and done, when the court cases were finished, the meat was given to the division.”
“It all has to go through a disposition, to be awarded to the state by a court or judge. It’s all part of the process of evidence,” he added.
Despite the origins of the meat, Wenning calls being able to help others the “fun part” of his job.
“We’re trying to get out everything to the people who need it the most,” he said.
“It’s rewarding, getting this out to folks who need it. It will be put to great use,” he added. “My family and I, for thanksgiving, we try to feed five families in the county every year. We might start including Easter in that, too.”
Though 300 pounds of confiscated deer meat may seem like a large haul, Wenning says it isn’t representative of the number of deer hunted annually in Ohio. It also indicates that the vast majority of hunters are, indeed, following the state’s regulations.
“We had 180,000-some [deer harvested] this year,” he said. “And we’re looking at 15 to 20 deer here, maybe. So if you think about the numbers, it shows most hunters are law abiding.”
Wenning says the Wildlife Division also donates animal remains that haven’t been processed, for example, to the Glen Helen Raptor Center in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and Brukner Nature Center near Troy, Ohio.
“That could be anything from meat to fish, or other types of animals that were confiscated through the year,” he said. “It’s great to be able to supply those birds with something they normally would be eating.”
Wenning says the public provides a valuable service aiding the Wildlife Division in its efforts to stop those engaged in illegal hunting.
“A lot of times we get tips from the public,” he explained. “They can call our tipline at 1-800-POACHER and leave an anonymous description of the crime, who may be involved, things of that nature.”
People can also report illegal hunting activity online at the ODNR Division of Wildlife via its website at wildlife.ohiodnr.gov. A reward may be offered if the information submitted results in a conviction.
The writer may be reached at 937-569-4314. Join the conversation and get updates on Facebook search Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.