Annual nuisance deer hunt hoping to supply a New Brunswick food bank hit by red tape. Deer are pictured here in this file photo .Photo: Telegraph-Journal file photo

Original Published on Aug 20, 2022 at 23:09

By Rhythm Rathi, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A pilot project using meat from the annual nuisance deer hunt in Saint Andrews to supply a Charlotte County food bank fell short in its inaugural year.

Only two deer – weighing about 160 pounds each – came into the St. Stephen Food Bank in 2021, and only four out of 30 registered families were able to enjoy it, according to food bank coordinator Donna Linton. 

Up to 450 kilograms of ground venison and stew meat had been expected in the fall of 2021 when the provincial government announced the deer donation program.

“We didn’t receive the meat till like mid-December,” Linton said. “Butcher didn’t have a chance to get it cut in a timely fashion, so It really wasn’t a project that we’re gonna move forward with this year.

“We are gonna take a break from that, I think.”

The not-so-successful first year of the program was discussed at Saint Andrews council this week.

Coun. Steve Neil questioned whether the program could be more successful this year because out of the 41 deer harvested through the 2021 nuisance program, only getting a handful to the food bank “seems kind of shameful to me.”

Saint Andrews Mayor Brad Henderson said only a small group participated in the nuisance hunt in 2021, and due to warm temperatures in the fall, there were delays in putting the tags out for the animals. He said the organization of the food bank program was “very flawed.”

Hunters had to make multiple trips outside Saint Andrews to participate, he said, noting there were not enough certified butchers who could cut the deer meat, and that caused more delays in getting the venison to families.

After harvesting a deer through the program, the hunter had to field dress it and take a trip to the Department of Natural Resources and Energy Development office in St. George where they tag it, he added. If the hunter lived in Saint Andrews, they’d have to return home to skin the animal and make another trip to St. George.

“The first hunter that did it was told the freezer was full, so he had to go home and do a third time, so you can see when you’ve got 10 hunters that all talk, it was deemed that it wasn’t really worth the effort,” Henderson said.

A potential solution could be that the department approves a different type of butcher, he said, as they only prefer a certain class of certification and there are only two that meet the standards in Charlotte County.

Linton confirmed the food bank had received calls from hunters who wanted to donate their harvest, but she was unable to accept the donations without them meeting the designated provincial standards. She said only if the town decided to carry out the program again would the food bank be happy to receive donations. 

Saint Andrews operates an annual nuisance deer hunt, with approval from the province, to control the significantly increasing population of deer in the town. Under the program, private landlords with more than one acre of land can apply for permits to allow registered hunters to be able to bag an antlerless deer during the hunting season between Oct. 4 and Nov. 21. 

Henderson said he will be meeting with Mike Holland, New Brunswick’s Minister of Natural Resources and Energy Development, around the end of August to discuss the future of the food bank donation program. 

“My personal opinion is if the program remains with the same format as last year, I would not continue it,” Henderson said. “I was a big ambassador for the program.

“If we are able to make some changes to improve the program and make it more successful, then it is something we should reconsider.”  

In an interview Friday, Holland said he only became aware of the town’s feedback after the Telegraph-Journal reached out to him for comment. He considers the program a valuable initiative as it can help feed several families.

He noted that every new project requires some work in the early years to make it function better with time. And while even though the program turnout was low last year, he said at least some venison made it to tables.

Holland said he is looking forward to meeting with the town to hear its concerns firsthand and “then we’ll go to working at finding areas with which we can improve it, to ensure that there is a higher uptake on this program for sure.”

“Brad has an open door to my office,” he added.

This item reprinted with permission from Telegraph-Journal, Saint John, New Brunswick