Deer pie, bear meatloaf, duck kebabs and moose sausage are not unusual snacks to find at a Maine camp or rod and gun club potluck dinner.

But at Unity College each spring, wild game meat is turned into an elegant five-course meal and adventure in outdoor eating.

It is illegal to sell wild game meat in Maine, so such a feast must be given away. In the case of the Unity College Sportsmen’s Conference and Wild Game Dinner, local hunters and Unity students who hunt donate their game to the annual charity fundraiser.

This year the event will donate proceeds to Operation Game Thief as well as the national outdoor charities that benefit children with terminal illnesses, Hunt of a Lifetime and Catch a Dream.

The event on April 13 is the sixth annual conference in the college’s Centre for the Performing Arts, but the ninth year Unity has held the dinner, which raises as much as $5,000.

“It reminds people why sportsmen enjoy the sport,” said senior Andrew Butler of Walhonding, Ohio, a member of the Unity Archery Club.

The first year the dinner was held at the arts center set the tone for this now-famous rural feast. The Archery Club needed money to go to the national 3-D tournament. So the dinner was held as a fund-raiser for that trip. But when the dinner raised as much as $5,200, well over what was needed to travel to the tournament, event coordinator Joe Saltalamachia presented the students with a decision.

“You can keep the money and enough to go to the tournament, or you can choose to donate the money to a charity. I’m just your adviser. The choice is yours,’ ” recalled Saltalamachia, Unity’s associate director of admissions.

He said the students decided they would give all the money to charity, and pay their own way to the tournament. And every year since, they’ve worked to raise as much money for charities as possible through the event, Saltalamachia said.

Butler, a hunter since age 6, said he is proud of the way the dinner helps hunters who have disabilities, educates the Unity community about hunting and shares the bounty he and other hunters have to give.

“It seems in the Northeast there is more of a non-hunting sentiment. But every year those people come to the dinner, whether they come to support the school or try something new. Everyone comes together. It’s a Unity thing,” the Ohio hunter said.

The tradition has been to offer each guest the chance to sample every one of the appetizers and entrees so they can taste deer, bear, moose and beaver meat, as well as some game not native to Maine, such as bison.

The perennial favorites are fried beaver balls with dipping sauce, and moose meat pie.

“I’m big into hunting and am lucky enough to eat exotic all the time,” said Saltalamachia. “But a lot of people have the wrong impression about hunters. They think they’re trophy hunters and think they just shoot animals for the pelt. If I can make them eat something really good, maybe we’ll make headway in changing the thoughts of those caught between the wrong impressions.”

The dinner sells out every year, and last year a line of hopeful diners was turned away at the door.

The arts center only can accommodate 150 and just a week after going on sale, only about a dozen tickets remained.

Those interested in the charity event can contact Saltalamachia at Unity College at 1-800-624-1024, ext. 205.

 Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

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