DEER TRAILS 4: Make a venison connection, gain a friend

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Jerry Davis, a former UW-La Crosse professor, is a longtime free-lance writer who produces “Deer Trails,” during Wisconsin’s traditional nine-day gun deer hunting season)

There are numerous benefits to hunters sharing Wisconsin’s venison with other hunters, non-hunters and needy neighbors.
A connection between hunters and non-hunters may develop and uncover common interests and understandings.
High quality meat can often be obtained inexpensively. Deer populations can be better managed in areas of high deer populations.
Families can try a new cut of meat and may find it tasty.
Keith Warnke (pictured), a long-time Department of Natural Resources employee and now Administrator for the Division of Fish, Game and Parks, continues to teach sessions on “eating wild,” after work.
“Some of my past attendees from five or more years past will call and ask if I have any deer, venison cuts, or know where they might get some,” Warnke said.
Not every hunter is successful in killing a deer. Some hunters would like to have more meat than their hunts generate.
Combining those situations helped to develop an informal, out-of-DNR office, “venison connection” starting with Warnke.
“It all depends on luck if we have time to do extra hunting beyond what my extended family uses,” Warnke said. “Sometimes there are six or seven deer hanging, all legally taken, registered and tested.”
Warnke points to a 2017 article in the journal of Human Dimensions of Wildlife titled Wild-harvested Venison Yields and Sharing by Michigan Deer Hunters.
The four researchers estimated that between 11,402 and 14,473 metric tons of edible venison were procured during the 2013 hunting season. Of the hunters, 85 percent shared their venison and those who shared did so with 5.6 people, most frequently within tight social networks.
The sharing included their households, relatives, friends, neighbors and co-workers.
This past summer the Wisconsin DNR discussed a trial plan, dubbed “Venison Connection.” COVID-19, staffing vacancies and a concern of encouraging social mingling of new individuals shelved the idea until a later time.
Still, some hunters mimic the loose system Warnke and company have been using for years. Many hunters continue to donate deer through food pantry avenues. However, that system is not open to many people who would simply like to try venison, are all of a sudden suffering a cash-flow shortage or were simply unsuccessful in downing a deer themselves.
Hunters who want to gift whole or parts of deer cannot sell the meat to someone or even ask an individual to purchase a bonus authorization.
“With COVID-19, I’m not sure how our system will work,” Warnke said. “It might be that a party calls and we tell them there’s a registered deer hanging from the maple tree in my yard, Come and get it if you’d like and here’s the confirmation number from registration.”
Other connections are among landowners and hunters who want the deer population cut back and would like someone to come and shoot a few deer for themselves.
Now is a time to share the outdoors with others.

Contact Jerry Davis, a freelance writer, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 608-924-1112