The Illinois Northwest Suburban Chapter of Ducks Unlimited hosted a special DU event in March. Thirty-five volunteers from this chapter gathered for an activity unlike any other on DU's grassroots scene: they made venison jerky. Event organizer Jim Schroeder explained that the chapter wanted to "send a taste of home" to U.S. Armed Forces currently stationed overseas.
"I'm hoping this is an experience the Northwest Suburban Chapter will repeat many times in the future," Schroeder said. "Everyone enjoyed working together on the project, and even though it wasn't the typical DU event where we were trying to raise funds, it brought these members of the chapter much closer, and fostered a sense of pride in serving those who so humbly serve us."
The "Jerky for the Troops" idea was first pioneered by the Northwest Towns Sportsmen's Club, which is also located in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, Ill. This group uses venison donated by deer hunters in the club. For the IL NW Suburban Chapter's project, several outside partners pitched in to make the event possible. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources provided 300 pounds of venison from culled deer certified free of disease, Gold Standard donated the jerky spices, Cabela's donated a mixing machine, oven racks and vacuum-sealing material, and the Arlington Heights American Legion provided the facilities for the event.
The process was relatively straightforward: volunteers ground the venison meat, mixed the meat with jerky spices and cure, extruded the mixture into strips which are placed on strips of waxed paper and then loaded them into aluminum trays for transport to the volunteers' homes. At home, the DU volunteers removed the strips from the waxed paper and dehydrated them using drying racks in their ovens or dehydrating machines. Finally, the strips were vacuum-sealed, boxed and shipped.
More than 120 pounds of jerky was shipped to nine servicemen and women overseas − all friends, family or neighbors of those who participated in the jerky making − who will share with the men and women in their units. Recipients include Malcolm A. Ewing, SHSN, aboard the USS Blue Ridge, currently involved in relief efforts for the United States in Japan, and Joe Merz, serving in Afghanistan. A local company, Charter Transportation Inc., covered the cost of shipping.
Both the IL NW Suburban Chapter and NWTSC would love to see this event copied as many times as possible. Both event organizers are willing to mentor new groups interested in hosting an event. Contact DU "Jerky for the Troops" organizer Jeff Schroeder at firstname.lastname@example.org or 847-903-4909, or contact NWTSC "Jerky for the Troops" organizer Wayne Wagner at email@example.com or 847-804-6464.
Watch a three-minute video of the NWTSC "Jerky for the Troops" project, which appeared on WGN TV for the 5 o'clock newscast on January 26, 2011. The clip not only promotes this support-the-troops project, but also hunters and the sport of hunting.