Hunters, farmers come together to feed hungry
By JOHN BADEN
Farming and hunting may be two important professions in meeting the eating needs of the world, but what might outweigh their significance alone is how they work together to meet this role.
According to a 2012 deer hunter effort and harvest survey, more than 80 percent of hunters did their deer hunting on private land in Ohio. While not all of the private land is farmland, the state Division of Wildlife’s Executive Administrator Vicki Mountz, said that most of it is.
Mountz, who identifies herself as a “serious hunter,” described the current relationship between farmers and hunters today as “pretty excellent.”
“For the most part, the relationship has been a good one because the farmers primarily allow hunters onto their property because of deer eating their crops and things like this,” Mountz said.
One of these farmers is Bud Runner of Miami County, who owns a 105-acre farm northeast of Troy.
Runner recognizes that deer not only eat up the corn and soybeans out in the field but that its population can become “fairly dense” if it is not controlled by hunting.
Coyotes also are another kind of animal that is commonly hunted on private land because of their tendency to destroy livestock such as sheep and calves.
Paul Gearhardt of Casstown co-owns more than 300 acres of farmland besides his 158-acre farm and allows hunting on all of them.
“I can’t tell you a farmer in the area that is going to restrict somebody from coming on and hunting coyotes because they’re dangerous pests,” Gearhardt said.
While Runner does give permission to hunters to be on his land, he tends to only give close friends the opportunity to hunt there.
“I only give a few people permission to do so who won’t go back and litter and will respect the land, so I’m kind of choosey by who I allow,” Runner said.
Mountz recognizes there are farmers and landowners who don’t give permission to hunters because of a past experience where a hunter behaved badly on their property and did not respect the land.
“As a good sportsman and a good conservationist, that just makes me mad,” Mountz said. “For someone to open up their property to you, that’s a wonderful thing.”
Another reason Runner is careful about which hunters he allows on his property is his son,
a seventh grader who likes to take walks and ride his go-cart back in the area hunters search for deer.
While there’s a possibility that hunters could mistake a human for an animal if not careful, Runner said that he makes his hunting friends aware of his son and trusts them.
“The people I allow back there are season hunters,” Runner said. “They’re not just going to start unloading their M-16 as soon as they hear a noise.”
Besides allowing hunters on his property as a favor to a friend and to keep the deer population in check to protect crops, Runner also sees the opportunity as a way that helps manage wildlife through the fee hunters pay.
The cooperation between farmers and hunters is more than just fees, permission slips and good sport. The nationwide organization, Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry (FHFH), is a result of this collaboration.
FHFH works with hunters through contracts with local butchers to process donated meat at
a discounted price. This meat is then distributed to local food banks and ministries and feeds the hungry by soup kitchens, pantries and shelters. FHFH was founded in 1997 in Maryland, and since then, Ohio has been one of the largest sources for meat donation with nearly 485,000 pounds of wildlife and livestock, including hogs, sheep and cattle.
Mike Armentrout, a coordinator for West Central Ohio FHFH, is a hunter who works with farmers “to serve those less fortunate.”
Like other hunters, Armentrout does what he can to help keep the deer population from getting out of hand and damaging crops.
“In my opinion, this reassures the farmer of the decision to allow me to hunt the property and makes them feel good that they can help feed those who are hungry in their county,” Armentrout said.
Because of the teamwork between farmers and hunters across the county, this organization alone has donated more than 3 million pounds of meat, providing more than 13 million meals to those in need.