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Animal groups' criticism bounces off hunters who feed hungry

Hunters maintain that accidents, although tragic, are rare; a careless few giving a time-honored sport a bad reputation. The real moral question, as they see it, is whether killing deer is worse than having a family go without food.

"One doe can feed up to 200 people," said Richard Satterfield, a hunter and supporter of the food ministry. "They are high-protein, low-fat, very nutritious. And there are plenty of them, so there's no reason for anyone to go hungry in this country."

According to the Department of Agriculture, more than 50 million people, including one of four children, struggled to find enough to eat last year -- the largest number since the federal government began tracking the problem.

On the day venison was being served at Loaves & Fishes, people began lining up for food more than an hour before the kitchen opened.

"Sometimes you stop to talk to them, and their clothes smell like kerosene and you know they've been sleeping next to space heaters," said Ann Richards, who, with her husband, John, have helped run the soup kitchen for 15 years. "They are unemployed or working poor. Sometimes you see their pictures on the obituary page because they were sick and couldn't afford health insurance."

Despair was etched in some of the faces as they waited, but that gave way to smiles when volunteers greeted them and began serving lunch.

"Tastes good," a diner said of the venison chili. "Like ground beef but with a kick."

The meat had been dressed at Wild Game Processors in St. Mary's County. Owner Mike McWilliams refers to deer as "St. Mary's wild beef" and expects hunters to deliver about 5,000 pounds for donation before the hunting season ends next year.

Higgs donated 20 doe last season, most of them shot with his compound bow and three-blade arrows. Told that animal rights activists consider bowhunting especially cruel, Higgs replied, "How many hungry people do they feed?"

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