If you're like me and are hunting in Colorado this week, then you know Saturday, Sept. 24, kicks off the last weekend of archery elk and mule deer season. But no matter where in the country you are hunting or fishing this weekend, Saturday is also National Hunting and Fishing Day (NHFD)—a nationwide celebration of our all-American hunting, shooting sports and fishing heritage. Held on the fourth Saturday of September since 1972, NHFD is the most successful grassroots effort ever created to give thanks for our outdoor sporting traditions for hunters' and anglers' key role in wildlife conservation.
Taking Pride in Our Leadership American hunters and fishermen are the nation's first conservationists. For more than a century, we've been the No. 1 supporters of wildlife conservation and scientific wildlife management. Through our hunting and fishing licenses, stamps, permits and all the taxes we lobbied for on hunting and fishing equipment, we provide the funding for America's state fish and game agencies. For just two recent NRAHLF.org stories highlighting the role sportsmen play, click here and here.
It was our efforts that laid the groundwork for the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation—the science-based, user-pays system regarded as the greatest conservation success story in our history. And our funding does not even include the personal time we volunteer to help with wildlife habitat and restoration projects for the benefit of wildlife, hunters and non-hunters alike. So isn't it fitting that we acknowledge the vital role we play—and that we keep the ball rolling?
As for how best to celebrate NHFD on Saturday, I'll be chasing elk with my bow and I recommend the rest of you get out and do some hunting and fishing yourself. To second the motion, I reached out to a great conservationist who speaks regularly on sharing the excitement of hunting and fishing with the next generation: NRA 2nd Vice President Richard Childress of NASCAR fame. As chairman of the NRA Board's Hunting, Wildlife and Conservation Committee, Childress says, "Take someone on their first adventure outdoors! The memories last a lifetime."
Establishing an Annual Tradition So who had the idea to set aside this special day? It was Ira Joffe, owner of Joffe's Gun Shop in Upper Darby, Pa. In 1970, Joffe suggested sportsmen's contributions be recognized, and Gov. Raymond Shafer responded by creating Pennsylvania's "Outdoor Sportsman's Day." Thanks to a push from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), in 1971 both the House and the Senate proposed resolutions authorizing National Hunting and Fishing Day on the fourth Saturday of September. Congress passed them unanimously. Upon signing the NHFD proclamation on May 2, 1972, President Nixon wrote: "I urge all citizens to join with outdoor sportsmen in the wise use of our natural resources and in insuring their proper management for the benefit of future generations."
According to the National Hunting and Fishing Day website, national, regional, state and local organizations staged some 3,000 "open house" hunting and fishing related events everywhere from shooting ranges to suburban frog ponds. The move provided an estimated four million Americans with a chance to experience, understand and appreciate traditional outdoor sports.
Through the years, many celebrities have helped to promote NHFD. Past honorary chairs include Hank Williams Jr., Arnold Palmer, Terry Bradshaw, George Brett, Louise Mandrell, Travis Tritt and Jeff Foxworthy. The 2016 honorary chair is Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris.
New to Hunting and Fishing? If you are a newcomer to hunting or fishing or want to help expose others in your life to the outdoor experience, take advantage of the many organizations that are set to help, starting with the NRA, SCI and NSSF. Click here for a list of programs and other resources they offer.
Thanking National Hunting and Fishing Day Sponsors We sportsmen certainly appreciate the support of National Hunting and Fishing Day sponsors. First up for 2016—and for good reason—is the Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium, the official home of NHFD. Established by Bass Pro Shops' Johnny Morris in Springfield, Mo., Wonders of Wildlife educates visitors regarding the value of fish and wildlife and instills an appreciation of our hunting and fishing heritage. I can tell you this firsthand after visiting the museum in July. And while you're there, be sure to visit the NRA Firearms Museum!
National Wild Turkey Federation, dedicated to the conservation of the wild turkey, helping to restore wild turkey populations from a mere 30,000 in the entire United States to more than 7 million across the United States, Canada and Mexico;
Outdoor Sportsman Group, the outdoor media company comprised of the Outdoor Channel, Sportsmen Channel, World Fishing Network and 15 outdoor publications;