From the Rockies to the Appalachians, hunters are helping the hungry by donating deer, elk, and other wild animals they kill to food banks.
For Iris Bostic, who supports a family of four on her Social Security check, the two-pound packages of ground venison she brings home from the Mountaineer Food Bank mean she doesn't have to go without meat.
"We wouldn't eat red meat at all if it wasn't for the free deer," said Bostic, 64, who lives outside Charleston, W.Va.
She uses the donated deer meat to make meatloaf, chili, spaghetti sauce and Hamburger Helper for her disabled son, foster daughter and grandson.
The idea of donating game to feed poor people started in Texas in 1989.
Now, there are programs across the country, said Lynne Blair, coordinator for Sportsmen Against Hunger.
Last year, the group donated game that provided about 1 million meals through the Salvation Army alone, Blair said.
"Low-income people are looking for any meat resource," said Vivian Tuggle of the Food Bank of the Rockies in Denver, and wild game fits the bill.
"Venison is a cheap, low-fat protein source," she added.
Moreover, donated game helps hunger-relief agencies stretch their resources.
In Philadelphia, the Salvation Army used venison regularly at shelters for the homeless, said spokesman Gary Deckert.
"What we don't receive in deer meat we have to buy in beef," Deckert said.
But not everyone finds the idea praiseworthy. "More and more people think less and less of hunters, so they had to do something," said Cleveland Amory, founder of Fund for Animals, an anti-hunting group.
"Feeding the homeless is a terrific rationalization for the merciless slaughter of God's creatures," Amory added.
Hunters parry with a humanitarian argument of their own.
"The program doesn't encourage hunters to kill more deer," said John Edman, president of the West Virginia Bow Hunters Assn. "It ensures that none of that deer goes to waste and that someone benefits from it."