Hunters who kill more deer than they can eat will be able to donate the extra venison to those in need through a Georgia Wildlife Federation program called Hunters for the Hungry.
A Clito-area processing plant is the link between local hunters and the Statesboro Food Bank, said Mike Whorley, president and CEO of the Georgia Wildlife Federation.
The Little Chicken Ranch on Buster Miller Road, owned by Thomas and Denise Lariscy, will process deer meat and send it to the Statesboro Food Bank, Whorley said.
“This allows hunters to make contributions back to the community and helps control the deer population,” he said.
Many hunters find their freezers are filled before their hunting limit is met but don’t want to waste the venison when they harvest more deer, he said.
Hunters are encouraged to kill their limit, as deer are overpopulated in Georgia, which leads to problems with crop damage, an increase in automobile accidents caused by deer and the deer becoming unhealthy due to overpopulation. Also, a common complaint from non-hunters is seeing “wasted” carcasses abandoned improperly, often missing a head or antlers taken for trophies.
The Hunters for the Hungry program offers a solution at no cost to hunters or food banks, Whorley said.
It is illegal to sell venison or other wild game in Georgia, but it can be donated by licensed processors such as the Little Chicken Ranch, he said. The cost is paid through grants from the Georgia Wildlife Federation, which are funded by donations, fundraisers and funds matched by local farmers whose crops are endangered.
The processing plant prefers the deer to be field-dressed but will accept whole deer, Denise Lariscy said.
“This program helps people who kill more than they need or don’t like venison,” she said.
If hunters haven’t field-dressed their deer, the Lariscys will donate the cleaning fee.
The Lariscys are “medically retired.” Denise Lariscy is a former volunteer firefighter and EMS employee in Screven County, and her husband, Thomas, is retired from police, firefighting and EMS work, also in Screven. The meat-processing business is their “retirement” dream, she said.
“We are hoping to build the Hunters for the Hungry program in Bulloch County,” she said, adding that the Little Chicken Ranch is the only USDA-licensed processing plant in the county.
Statesboro Food Bank Director Joe Bill Brannon said he is thrilled to be a part of the program.
“We will be able to give people more fresh meat,” he said.
The Statesboro Food Bank, housed in the old Julia P. Bryant Elementary School building off Stockyard Road, feeds about 140 people each Tuesday and Thursday through Rebecca’s Café. The venison, which Brannon said is healthier than beef and pork, can be used in spaghetti, hamburgers and any dish that uses ground meat. Seventy pounds of ground venison will feed the crowd one meal.
The donated, processed venison also can be given to families seeking help with daily food needs at home, he said.
“Not only do the people at the food bank appreciate it, but the people who need it will mostly benefit,” he said. “As much as we have, there are still children who go to bed hungry at night.”
Venison hunters who harvest deer they do not want may take the carcasses, preferably field-dressed, to the Little Chicken Ranch and leave it. The Lariscys will process the deer and make sure it is delivered to the food bank, Denise Lariscy said.
For more information about the Little Chicken Ranch, call (912) 601-7389 or (912) 425-1595.
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.