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Hunting family feels blessed, decides to pay it forward

Hunting - Region 7

Thu Dec 21 13:02:00 MST 2017

The Schantz family: Gussie, from left, mom Jessie, Kappie and dad Casey, and their two dogs.

Schantz Family

Gussie Schantz of Miles City, 10, poses with the first buck she shot as an apprentice hunter this season. It was her idea to donate the meat to families in need in the area.

Gussie Schantz and her deer

Hunting season has turned into the giving season for the Schantz family of Miles City. And if they have anything to say about it, that season will run yearround.

Ten-year-old Gussie Schantz shot her first deer this year as an apprentice hunter. Her mother, Jessie, also shot a deer, and then father, Casey, harvested an elk. Usually the family donates turkeys and canned goods to the food bank for the holidays. But they had a freezer full of game meat and were feeling fortunate, so the idea arose to share their bounty with other families.

“We talked about being blessed with all the wildlife, and being able to go out and hunt,” Jessie said.

They decided to reach out, but they couldn’t have imagined then what a simple Facebook post would bring.

Jessie wrote on Miles City Virtual Marketplace on December 20: “…If you know of a family that could really use some meat in the freezer for the holidays please let the girls and I know so we can spread some more cheer…”

The response was both quick and eye opening. She estimates that she received about 75 messages from people, many of them nominating friends who need a helping hand.

“I was surprised that there were so many in need,” Jessie said. “You would never know in our small community, even the community outside of Miles City, but maybe people just don’t want to go to the food bank because they think it’s just that last resort.”

This is actually the second post they have placed offering meat, and it was so well received that her parents and brother brought them more meat to share.

“By the time we’re done with this round of venison, we will have helped probably seven families, because we’re giving them quite a bit,” she said.

Jessie credits her daughter, Gussie, with the idea to pay it forward after her first hunt.

“She was so excited and grateful,” Jessie wrote. “She even braved the long-lasting family tradition of taking a bite of the heart! This humble hunter felt the need to help others as well, so she put together packages of her deer burger, spices, candy and oven mitts/towels and delivered these gifts to several families that needed some extras for the holidays! This girl is nothing short of amazingly caring and ‘wants to spread cheer to many to help them remember that there is so much good in the world,’ quoting her words! Makes for an unforgettable hunt when you can help others in need!”

The care packages are delivered right to the families’ doors by Jessie, Gussie and sister Kappie, age 8.

“Not a lot of people know how to cook with venison, so I’ve been putting ingredients in there and recipes,” Jessie said.

They know they can’t help everyone, so they choose families based on the stories shared by people who nominate them.

Recalling the first family they visited, Jessie said, “She was just really cheerful, so surprised and thankful that they had been nominated. We told her the story her friend had given us, and she was just in tears, and we were, too.”

The gift goes both ways, in the end.

“It definitely impacts the girls, to just give every day and have an open heart,” Jessie said. “It’s pretty inspiring, and they’ve been telling stories at school.”

The Schantz family hopes their giving doesn’t have to end with the holidays, and they hope it inspires others to give in their own way.

“My parents ranch out of town, and we’re trying to line up a beef for after the holidays,” Jessie said. “People tend to do a lot of giving during the holidays, buts they forget that it’s tough after the holidays, too.”

They are contacting some fellow hunters to see how full their freezers are, and considering approaching restaurants or local businesses to add to care packages.

“We hope people catch on and do the same thing,” Jessie said.

For hunters who would like to donate meat or help families in need of meat, there are a couple of other ways to help. First, anyone purchasing a Montana hunting license has the opportunity to make an on-the-spot donation to Hunters Against Hunger of $1 or more to help with processing charges for meat donated through the Montana Food Bank Network. Second, hunters who harvest big game during the hunting season can donate all or part of their meat to any processor in Montana that partners with Hunters Against Hunger. The Montana Food Bank Network website lists Triple T Specialty Meats of Glendive as the nearest participating processor. The ground meat is distributed through the food bank network’s partner agencies.