After six months or more of waiting, deer season is upon us once again. Actually, a few hunters around the country have already put some fresh venison in the freezer, and I hope to be among them next week when I travel to South Carolina for a deer hunt where Winchester will be unveiling some cool new products (which I’m sworn to secrecy about, at least for a few weeks).

The opening of deer seasons means it is time for my annual reminder that hunters are an important component of helping the less fortunate. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, hunters donate as much as 2.8 million pounds of game meat to shelters and food banks each year, which equals 11 million meals served to those who otherwise may have gone hungry. Virginia leads the nation in hunter-donated meat, with more than 400,000 pounds of venison given in 2010. Broken down into region, America’s Heartland, not coincidentally the epicenter of whitetail hunting in the U.S., accounted for 46 percent of all venison donated, with the South close behind at 45.7 percent.

I don’t know about you, but I’m proud of these numbers. It shows hunters are passionate about helping others, rather than the not-quite-as-caring stereotype we’re sometimes given in the media. Commit a couple of these facts to memory, and you’ll have some useful ammunition. The next time an anti-hunter questions your lifestyle, ask him what’s he’s done to help those in need. My guess is very little outside of whining about hunters being heartless.

Better yet, prove to him you’re not heartless by donating some venison (or other game) of your own this season. Even just a few pounds of burger or a roast or two can be enough to change someone’s life. The NRA has compiled a pretty comprehensive list of organizations in each state that oversee hunters helping the hungry, or contact your local shelter and food bank and ask about their willingness to accept game meat. My guess is they’ll be thrilled to hear from hunters in their area.