A North Dakota program that distributes venison to the needy will accept only deer killed with arrows, fearing that firearm-shot meat may contain lead fragments.

"We're calling out to bow hunters to spend a little more time in the tree stand," said Ann Pollert, executive director of the North Dakota Community Action Partnership, which administers the Sportsmen Against Hunger Program.

Officials in North Dakota and other states have warned about eating venison killed with lead ammunition since the spring, when a physician conducting tests using a CT scanner found lead in samples of donated deer meat.

The findings led North Dakota's health department to order food pantries to throw out donated venison. Some groups that organize venison donations have called such actions premature and unsupported by science.

The North Dakota Community Action Partnership distributed 17,000 pounds of venison from 381 donated deer after last year's hunting season, a number that has tripled since the program began in North Dakota in 2004, Pollert said. At least 4,000 pounds of venison were in food pantries in the state when the health department issued its warning, she said.

Pollert said her group had been waiting on findings from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has been studying potential health risks for people who eat venison killed with high-velocity ammunition.

The results of the federal study were expected last month but have been delayed. North Dakota's deer season opens Friday.

"We had to make a decision," Pollert said.

A draft report has been completed but it has not been releaserved.