Why Do I Have to Pay to Process Donated Meat?


Some people choose to donate all or part of their animal's meat to those who need it rather than take the meat home. Reasons vary - maybe your freezer is full, maybe your wife doesn't like venison, or maybe you don't want to pay the sometimes expensive freight required to ship the meat home.

Whatever the reason, I do require you to pay for the processing, even if you never see the meat again.

Of course, all hunters understand the ethics of not wasting game. But, the best way to explain Wilderness Connection's "pay your own processing" policy is by giving you two very recent examples.

My first example is of a hunter who brought a videographer along on an archery hunt. He was marketing his footage to one very well known specialty hunting product manufacturer as well as a very well known camouflage clothing manufacturer. Ours was hunt number 2 of a 4 hunt western tour. He had already killed a decent bull in Utah, and after hunting with us was on his way to Wyoming and Idaho.

Now, this gentleman was a very good hunter, and very pleasant to hunt and deal with, but after killing a bull and getting ready to leave the ranch wanted nothing to do with the meat. He absolutely refused to even pay for processing, let alone take the meat. Let me remind you, he was on hunt #2 of 4 hunts, and didn't want to part with another $150 to pay for processing! This is not only poor ethics, but also a very poor reflection on the hunting industry. Do me a favor: remember this very true story the next time you watch a hunting video or hunting show.

My second example also happened very recently. We had a very warm, dry hunting season and elk hunting was tough. Frustrated with the hunting conditions, a gentleman from New York State killed a small, immature mule buck to just fill a tag. Now, this is no reflection on New York hunters as I've had the pleasure of hunting with many fine New York gentlemen over the years. However, this gentleman got very nasty when I told him he had to pay for the processing, even though he wanted none of the meat.

His argument went like this "In New York, we can just shoot an animal and drop it off at a food bank and the state will pay for all the processing. After all, people really need the meat, and why shouldn't the state pay for the processing?"

Here's my argument: Montana does not have a program to pay for donated meat processing. A program similar to New York's could only be paid for by hunting license fee increases. The New York City metro area alone has a population of around 18 million people - the entire state of Montana has yet to reach 1 million. I know people that need meat in Montana, and if they're not able to hunt their own, they also don't have the ability or knowledge to process their own "donated" animal. So, if these people accept a donated animal, you're actually "donating" them a $150 debt to the local game processor.

After hearing my argument, the hunter said, "If I had known that I would have never shot the deer."

I should note one additional fact: I've never had a hunter harvest an animal that he or she is proud of and complain about paying for processing. Never. (In addition, this particular New York hunter had signed our contract for services prior to his hunt that very clearly outlined our policy.)

In short, I don't think a hunter has to eat even a bite of the animal he harvested. We at Wilderness Connection are going to take extremely good care of the animal after you harvest it. I have no problem with you donating the meat to the food bank, as long as you understand that I expect you to pay for the processing.


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