As bow-hunting season kicks off and hunters descend upon Central Texas, Brownwood’s Good Samaritan Ministries is preparing for another year of the Deer Project, an initiative that allows hunters to donate tagged deer to local processors to help feed hungry Brown County residents.
    The Deer Project began eight years ago and received a record number of donations last year, serving over 16,000 pounds of meat that lasted Good Samaritan almost a year. Good Samaritan communications director Misty Bowers said the organization was expecting even more donations this season.
    “We’re excited about this season,” Bowers said. “I think we will easily surpass what we brought in last season, just from what the processors have been telling us, the landowners. There’s deer everywhere.”
    Bowers said the Deer Project was a special to her because it involved so many different entities in the Brownwood community, from hunters to processors to donors.
    “We love the program because it didn’t start here,” Bowers said. “It’s all handled by the committee and these guys that just kind of saw a need met the need themselves.”
    Mike Tittle serves as the chair of the Deer Project committee. Tittle got involved with the project years after his fishing buddy, Kirk Wall, started the program in 2008. Tittle said most hunters don’t use all five of their tags each season, and he encouraged them to consider doing so to donate to the project.
    “If they love hunting and they’ve already paid for that license, it doesn’t cost any more and there’s no cost to the hunter,” Tittle said. “They just go out and hunt and enjoy the hunting, use all five of their tags, drop those deer off at the processor and then they’ll fix it up.”
    Tittle said the hunters were able to donate free of charge because Good Samaritan covered the cost of processing with the help of donors.
    “We can always use donors,” Tittle said. “We do have to spend a little money to pay for processing the meat … Particularly as we get into end-of-year giving and charitable giving, if there’s folks that want to support Good Samaritan Ministries or the Deer Project, and help supply food for the hungry in our county, it’s a really good ministry and a good way to give back.”
    Bowers too said donors were essential to the Deer Project mission.
    “We have a lot of people who love the idea of the project, but they don’t hunt and don’t really want to hunt,” Bowers said. “It’s a good idea. We went out and started letting people know, hey, if you just want to donate to the project, that’s something you can do as well.”
    Last year, Good Samaritan held a drawing and awarded prizes to several hunters who donated their deer. They’re continuing that initiative this season, with available prizes including a scoped Browning rifle; a $500 shopping spree at Weakley Watson; a family hunt at Wheeler Ranch in Medina; and more.
    “Sometimes I think the hunters get overlooked in this,” Bowers said. “Without the hunters we wouldn’t have a project, so we just wanted to do something to let them know that we appreciated them.”
    Hunters who would like to donate a deer, or a portion of a deer, may leave their donations at M&M Deer Processing in Zephyr, Perk’s Processing in Brownwood, Lone Star Taxidermy and Processing in Owens, or Santa Anna Custom Processing in Santa Anna.
    Tye Cope owns Santa Anna Custom Processing. He said his company processed over 4,000 pounds of meat for Good Samaritan last season.
    “It’s good to give back,” Cope said. “I think there’s more deer this year. Should be more kills, so it should be even better.”
    The donated venison is processed into two-pound chubs that Good Samaritan Ministries stores in a freezer at their Brownwood facility. The meat is used to help feed Brown County families living in poverty, a group that rarely gets enough protein on a low-income diet.
    “People don’t realize,” Tittle said, “in a town that has 20,000 people, 10 percent of them are chronically hungry.”
    Texas deer hunting season runs until January.