Outdoorsmen rally for ‘Hunters for the Hungry’ to help area’s needy

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 17, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Sometimes all it takes is a little needling.

For several years now Bowie Outfitters store manager Peter Dale has listened to cousin Richard Campbell talk about the Hunters for the Hungry charitable food drive Campbell helps administer.

Campbell would tell Dale that Natchez, with all its avid sportsmen, is an ideal community to hold said event, which promotes hunters to clean out their freezers of uneaten game and donate it.

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&uot;I think around the Natchez area it will do very well,&uot; said Campbell, who has been a part of a Hunters for the Hungry affair for nearly a decade now. &uot;Everybody up there I know has a freezer full of something.&uot;

Campbell’s wish is now Dale’s mission, as from 9 a.m. until noon at various locations Saturday Hunters for the Hungry will hold its first annual episode with food being distributed to the Stewpot, the Sunshine Shelter and the Natchez Children’s Home.

Dale also hopes to target a few specific needy families, as well as the local charities. Drop-off stops will be at Bowie Outfitters on Main Street, the Stewpot on Franklin Road and Fire Station No. 4 on Liberty Road.

&uot;For years we’ve had thousands of pounds of game donated to the Children’s Home,&uot; director Nancy Hungerford said. &uot;You can’t imagine what it does to lower the food bill here. And there’s just about nothing you cannot cook with venison.&uot;

The Stewpot is dependent on occasions like Hunters for the Hungry, especially during a slow time of year like now, said Stewpot board chairman Louis Gunning.

Gunning guesses since January the Stewpot, which has helped feed those who are needy since the mid-1980s, serves 185 meals per day each week.

&uot;If people wouldn’t give like this, we’d probably could not stay in business,&uot; he said.

Can and food drives at churches and schools during the holiday season are beneficial, but the lean months are when Gunning can really use the assistance.

&uot;This is the time of year to start making a push at people,&uot; he said. &uot;People in Natchez are good about giving. They just have to be reminded like the rest of us.&uot;

Campbell began a drive nine years ago after harvesting so many does at a favorite site that he began hauling his lagniappe to the Soup Kitchen, a shelter in Baton Rouge.

A year after outgrowing the Soup Kitchen, Campbell and some hunting pals had the bright idea to start a local Hunters for the Hungry, a project he heard about on the radio in North Carolina.

&uot;It’s always in late September here, and it gives everybody a chance to get rid of meat from the previous year,&uot; Campbell said. &uot;Where there is a will, there is a way. We’ve given a lot of people a lot of things to feel good about.&uot;

The first year Baton Rouge held a Hunters for the Hungry it collected 2,500 pounds, the following year 4,500 pounds to where now it’s grown to 10-15,000 pounds in one day &045; just for Baton Rouge.

Hunters for Hungry has caught on throughout the state with happenings as far south as New Orleans, west to Lafayette and north to Monroe and Shreveport.

&uot;Whenever you start something like this, there are always hurdles,&uot; Campbell said. &uot;We had an agriculture bureaucrat in New Orleans who tried to stop us because the meat wasn’t processed correctly. We had to get the governor to explain the situation to him, and then we got a bill through the legislature saying there was no liability for a Good Samaritan deed.&uot;

He anticipates Natchez’s biggest obstacle is being provided meat with dates as far back as the 1980s. Campbell added that wherever the drop-off posts are there needs to be someone who can distinguish between the good and the bad.

Dale hopes in future years to work out an agreement with local processors to squirrel the meat in cold storage.

&uot;Every year people have extra food. All it’s about now is putting the effort forth and get the food coordinated to those in need,&uot; Dale said. &uot;It’s a natural interest for me. It combines something I’d love to do as often as possible with outdoors.&uot;

Hungerford said the Children’s Home has been the recipient of some good-hearted outdoorsmen over the years and believes chances such as Hunters for the Hungry is helping it spread across the state.

The event will be broadcast live by 95Country Saturday, and organizers are placing an emphasis on wild game, but frozen vegetables and canned goods are also welcomed.

&uot;What happens is a lot of these hunters meet their quotas, and at some point have all they need,&uot; Hungerford said. &uot;Sometimes they’ll go hunt not to stock the freezer but simply for the love of hunting.&uot;

Campbell said more than just hunters drop by to bring items to the food drive. In recent years he has received brisket from people who have said, &uot;I haven’t eaten it yet, so it’s time to get rid of it.&uot;

Campbell related the following story: a couple of years ago a Jackson, La., woman in her 80s pointed out to her stubborn husband that Hunters for Hungry was having a drive in Baton Rouge and if he didn’t mind she planned on cleaning out the freezer and bestowing the food.

However, the man piped back, &uot;No, I’m going to eat that.&uot;

After watching him drive over the hill on a routine errand, the young-at-heart woman unloaded the freezer and filled up two 48-gallon ice chests in the back of the couple’s truck. Once the meat was packed away, she drove 45 minutes to deliver it in Baton Rouge.

She told Campbell and others, &uot;He won’t know it’s gone.&uot;

&uot;We’re not asking for your entire freezer full of duck and deer,&uot; Campbell said. &uot;All we’re asking is for what you have left over. For most hunters it’s time for them to share the extra.&uot;

Dale envisions making Saturday not only an annual mission but possibly a monthly event, as the course of the hunting seasons go.

&uot;This is a one-time event, but hopefully with the start of dove season next year through the end of deer season we can put on something like this routinely,&uot; he said.