Editorial September 2011

Steve Burch | September 10, 2011

Sportsmen shouldn’t be sued for doing what is right. Now, they won’t if we band together in a simple program.

Sportsmen have always been noted for their generosity, their willingness to share the bounty of the land with others. That willingness is consistent with the sense of fair chase and husbandry that is at the core of sportsmanship — it is the hallmark of sportsmanship.

This common thread of sharing has worked well in the past, but today, it could put sportsmen at risk of being sued if they simply act out of the goodness of their hearts.

The simple fact of life in today’s world is that if you donate processed venison directly to an individual, and there is anything wrong with that venison, you could be liable.

Fortunately, there is a law that protects you from being sued… if you act according to the law.

The law is known as the “Good Samaritan Law.” Under its provisions, donations of food that pass through a system that oversees the quality of that food carries with it a protection from liability for those who are acting in good faith in making such donations.

The overseer of that quality control system is what most of us call “The Food Bank.”

The food bank is a national non-profit organization that operates state agencies that are divided into regions within each state.

It is a system that works well.

But it poses a problem for sportsmen who want to donate venison to their local community. Typically, food donations all move to one of the regional depots of the food bank. The food bank does not distribute food directly to those who need it, but typically distributes food to local agencies in their region. The Savannah region has 21 counties; the Athens region has 24 counties.

Consequently, venison donated in Greene County (on I-20 between Atlanta and Augusta) might feed a family up in Stephens or Franklin or Hart counties (up on I-85 near the South Carolina border).

While there is nothing wrong with that venison moving, and in fact, that is the way the current program functions, it falls short of what sportsmen want in two areas.

Sportsmen prefer to keep the donation close to their community. It promotes a sense of community involvement and puts hunting in a positive light.

Second, it is simply more efficient to distribute within the community. There is a significant and unnecessary cost to move venison from Greene County to the Athens regional depot, and then to Stephens County, or for that matter, back to Greene County to the end user.

The current deer donation system suffers from these two issues.

Consequently, many groups simply process the deer and make local donations, bypassing the food bank system. When they do, those groups are exposed to liability.

To protect sportsmen, deer processors and community groups, GONetwork has developed a program called the Sportsman’s Pantry.

The Sportsman’s Pantry accomplishes three primary goals.

First, it secures the provisions of the Good Samaritan Law for the participants of the Sportsman’s Pantry program.

Second, it facilitates local donations by sportsmen to local participating agencies approved by the regional food bank. This means that your local charity can simply drive over to your local processor and pick-up venison directly from the processor.

And third, it provides real-time information on the website to sportsmen on where a deer may be donated.

Processors donate the first 100 pounds of processed venison, and then are paid $1 per each additional pound processed. But there is a financial limit. The website will show everyone which processors can accept venison. The processors themselves will keep the site current.

GONetwork is committing $10,000 to this program this year. The majority of these funds come from the Sportsman’s Pantry Live Auction held at the Outdoor Blast in Macon.

But the Sportsman’s Pantry is open to all groups not currently participating with the state program. The Georgia Hunting & Fishing Federation is participating. There is no cost to participate. If your group or processor wants to participate, send an e-mail indicating your interest to [email protected].

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