Tennessee RoadkillWheeling through a Brentwood neighborhood just after dawn, Secret Weapon Lures president Joe Haubenreich steered wide to avoid a blue-shirted figure kneeling by the side of the street. A quick double-take revealed a huge 12-pount buck sprawled in a lawn at his feet. I’m pretty sure the deer wasn’t there a half hour earlier.

Epps was getting ready to cap the buck before several Brentwood public works employees loaded the carcass for disposal in a municipal landfill.

Disposal! There was almost 70 pounds of venison in that buck, and it would be a shame to feed it to the coyotes. None of the crew voicing their objections, ten minutes later Joe was on his way to Flowers’ Garden Center and Deer Processing with a donation in his pickup bed for Tennessee Wildlife Foundation’s Hunters for the Hungry program.

Each year hunters donate thousands of pounds of venison that wind up as steaks, roasts, and ground meet in the kettles of hungry families and kitchens of worthy charities.  But there’s no telling how many tons of prime venison goes to the dogs (or coyotes).

Tennessee’s Roadkill Law (TCA 70-4-115) allows deer (actually, any wild game animals except non-game and federally protected wildlife species) accidentally killed by a motor vehicle to be removed for personal use and consumption. The person who takes the animal into possession simply calls TWRA or any law enforcement officer and reports the possession, giving his name and address, within 48 hours.

Why not take advantage of this to fill your freezer with meat! Field dressing is just a matter of a little know-how and a few minutes, providing you carry the necessary tools at all times:

  • A sharp knife suitable for slitting hide and field-dressing the carcass
  • A flashlight, preferable a head-lamp, with fresh batteries
  • Shoulder-length Game Cleaning gloves that go over your hands and sleeves to protect your clothes and the meat. ($11.99 per pack including 6 pair latex gloves at Bass Pro Shops.) Rubber gloves are no joke; any small cut or nick on your hands and arms can be an entry point for life-threatening infection, as they were for a friend of Mike’s, who now uses the gloves unfailingly. I buy a dozen of these at the beginning of each season, hopeful that I’ll have a chance to use them all.
  • Plastic zip-seal, freezer-grade poly bags for the deer’s liver and other organs you wish to keep, and another to dispose of the offal.
  • Black pepper. Sprinkle this generously around the deer’s eyes, nostrils and mouth, any wounds and cuts, and in and around the open body cavity to repel flies. This really work! For some reason flies can’t stand being around the stuff.
  • A tarp for dragging the carcass back to your vehicle.

What if you don’t have the tools or time to field-dress a road-killed deer? No problem; call or text me! If I can’t break free, then Scott, Zach, or another Southern Woods and Waters pro staff will drive over, collect and report the deer, field dress it, and convert it into chow.

Flower’s charges about $75 to process a field-dressed deer into steaks, roasts, sausage and ground meat for your personal consumption. If you want to donate a field-dressed deer to Hunters for the Hungry, they’ll waive the processing fee for the first 100 donations each hunting season. After the first hundred, they charge just $50 to handle the processing.

It’s a real shame that a trophy-class 12-point buck met its end in a glaring headlight, screeching break, and crumpled fender, but I’m glad that David Epps will preserve its magnificent rack for others to appreciate. And I’m grateful that we live in a state where commonsense abounds among state legislators. Tennessee’s Roadkill Law has been a Godsend not only venison lovers across the state but for groups like Room at the Inn, which helps provide meals and safe lodging for many of the homeless of our Nashville community.

Drop by http://tnwf.org to donate or learn more about Hunters for the Hungry.