Hunters for the Hungry
For more than 40 years now, E.T. Weaver has had some
impressive, profitable success with his two Ashe County businesses, Weaver Equipment and
But for the past three years – at last – Weaver and his buddies at the Ashe County Wildlife Club have built an even more productive operation.
And they plan to never make a dime.
What they plan to do and, in fact, are doing, is helping the needy in the High Country keep hunger away.
Part of the nationwide “Hunters for the Hungry” program, Ashe County Wildlife is the only club across northwestern North Carolina turning its deer harvest into quarter-pounders and venison roasts for people in need.
“I absolutely believe in this,” said Weaver, 63, who grew up in West Jefferson and starred in football long ago at the old Beaver Creek High School. “It takes people wanting to do something. We had to work at this. It wasn’t easy.”
But look at what they’ve done. Although in the planning stages for almost a decade, the Ashe Wildlife Club (AWC) finally cleared state and federal regulations to turn their harvest into dinner for others three years ago. And in all three years, they’ve doubled production, boasted Weaver, whose only line item of concern with this balance sheet is full tummies.
Hunters harvested 67 deer this year and turned that into 12,000 venison meals, mostly quarter-pound deer-burgers that became the centerpiece for a good meal for hungry folks in Ashe County.
“For a lot of them, this was their primary source of protein,” Weaver said. “This is helping a lot of people throughout our county get fed.”
Here’s how it works, once a hunter brings in a deer:
The Harvest: the deer is taken to Joe’s Place, out on Friendship Church Road, off U.S. 221 in Jefferson. Owner Joe Gentry processes the deer into future dinners.
“This step was a big holdup in our plans for most of 10 years,” Weaver said. “We needed approvals for processing. In fact, it used to be in the state that only a person who harvested wild game could use it.”
The Wildlife Club battled through new regulations and even provided seed money for Gentry to upgrade his facilities and implement new procedures to meet state and federal guidelines.
The Money: Besides the seed money, the Wildlife Club also has to raise the cash to cover Gentry’s processing costs, about $50 per deer. Wildlife club members came up with $2,000 last year through dues and other methods, and collected another $1,500 from local Ashe County charities and just plain off-the-street donations. And that $3,500 produced the 12,000 meals.
The Meals: Weaver said the venison is turned over to four area organizations that feed local families: Ashe Really Cares, part of the Ashe Missionary Baptist Association that handles food distribution; Camp New Hope, a facility for families who have children with life-threatening medical conditions; Freedom Farms, a “Christian rehabilitation center of refuge for men”; and the Ashe Outreach Ministries of Creston.
Weaver, who says, “If I told you what the ‘E.T.’ stood for I’d have to sue you,” lives with his bride of almost 45 years, Marea, on a 30-acre spread near where they grew up. He doesn’t hunt his land anymore, but allows other to.
He also wants others to share credit for AWC’s good works, deflecting away praise he receives as spokesman for the program.
“There were many folks who helped and are helping now,” Weaver said. “I don’t want to take away from their efforts.”
Working as one, the AWC is determined to double deer harvest production each year going forward, especially by looking beyond Ashe County.
“We’re the only wildlife club in the High Country doing this,” Weaver said. “Hunters in Watauga, Avery and other surrounding counties are welcome to bring their harvest to us, and we’ll process it for needy families. Or we’d be happy to help them get started.
“I just hope we’re setting a good example.”
For more information on the Ashe County Wildlife Club and Hunters for the Hungry, visit http://www.acwlc.org.