In 1971, under President Nixon's tenure, Congress established National Hunting and Fishing Day (NHFD). During those 46 years, Americans have celebrated this day on the fourth Saturday of September, which this year falls on Sept, 23. Most of us who hunt and fish have been well aware of NHFD, but what does it really mean? How can we participate to make it a truly special day that honors the outdoor activities that are such a big part of our lives?
First, it's important to know that the day is a profound reminder of the enormous contributions made to conservation by hunters and anglers. Tens of billions of dollars have been raised in countless ways such as through the purchase of duck stamps, other fish and wildlife stamps, hunting and fishing licenses and excise taxes on guns, ammunition and fishing equipment. Funds have also been donated to conservation groups who, in turn, relay those funds into more habitat and hunting and fishing opportunities, and through many other means. There's an old saying, "Hunters are Americas true conservationists." Those profound words are so true.
The day is also a time when we're urged to be involved in outdoor activities, with emphasis on inviting newcomers to participate in the sports we cherish. More than 3,000 events will be held around the country this Saturday in celebration of NHFD.
To truly make this day special, consider making a serious effort to take a youngster on a hunting or fishing trip, whether it's actually on Sept. 23 or in the near future. Better yet, instead of making just an effort, make a vow. Hunting requires guidance from an experienced hunter after a Hunter Safety Certificate is obtained. Very few of us learned to hunt on our own. Most of us had mentors. For me, it was my dad, grandfather and uncles. I started out with a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun, then graduated to a .22, a 16-gauge shotgun and a lever-action 30/30. I grew up when there were three TV channels, no social media or cell phones or any of the other distractions that are everywhere in today's society. Some kids are so tuned in to their devices to the point where hunting may be an unacceptable activity. In that case, it takes patience and persistence to get them interested in outdoor activities. The events on Sept. 23 are a good place to start.
NRA First Vice President Richard Childress, who is the honorary chairman of NHFD this year, has this to say about folks being introduced to hunting and fishing. The legendary icon in NASCAR racing, who has 200-plus wins to his credit and was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in January, is passionate about hunting and passing on our all-American outdoor traditions.
"When I was asked to be honorary chairman," Childress said, "I thought it would be a good opportunity to try to get people involved in hunting and shooting. Some of my fondest memories are squirrel hunting with my stepfather in the woods of North Carolina and bass fishing in ponds or rivers."
Childress offered a special program that hasn't been part of NHFD in the past. Prior to Sept. 23, anyone who pledges to take someone with them on their next outdoor adventure will be automatically entered in a drawing for a VIP race weekend for themselves and a friend, or a weekend of outdoor fun at Big Cedar Lodge in Missouri's Ozark Mountains. To take the pledge, click here.
Childress continued, "It's really something to incentivize people to go out and take people hunting and fishing for the first time. Every one of us had someone take us the first time. It's just one of those things that we all owe it to take people out and let them see the great resources that we have today in this country."
Obviously, Richard Childress is all about mentorship. But how about this? If you’re a male, consider taking someone of the female gender on a hunting trip, whether it's a daughter, spouse, significant other or whoever. The number of female hunters is growing rapidly, yet hunting is often considered by some to be a man’s sport. That's unfortunate. I had a personal experience years ago that indicated my ignorance regarding female hunters. I grew up in an era and a family where only men hunted with few exceptions. I have four children—three daughters and a son. Because of my upbringing, it was my son who received my attention when it came to hunting. I never figured my oldest child, Janette, would be interested in hunting. Finally, when she was in college, she told me she wanted to hunt deer, and always did. I was astounded. She soon shot a nice muley buck, and I learned a lesson of a lifetime. My other daughters weren't likewise neglected. They started out with rabbits and graduated to deer and elk.
NHFD has always had honorary chairmen, including national celebrities such as Jeff Foxworthy, Arnold Palmer, Bill Dance, Hank Williams Jr., Terry Bradshaw, Johnny Morris and many others. In fact, Johnny, who is founder of Bass Pro Shops, is having the grand opening for his Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium on Saturday to honor National Hunting and Fishing Day. The facility is the official home of NHFD.
In conjunction with the grand opening, a national conservation summit will highlight a series of celebrations and commemorative events with leading conservation partners, special guests and dignitaries from across the nation. The events will honor the positive role hunters and anglers play in wildlife conservation.
Try to attend an event in your area on Sept. 23. If not, make a sincere effort to plan a hunt or fishing trip with someone who needs a mentor. This would be a most valuable contribution to our outdoor sports in these days of challenges by those who want to see our hunting and fishing sports abolished. And remember that hunting is a tradition, largely passed from one generation down to another. We all need to do our part to carry on that most important tradition.
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About the Author Jim Zumbo is best known as a Western big-game hunter, though he has hunted deer inall 50 statesand is an avid turkey, upland game and waterfowl hunter. With two degrees in forestry and wildlife, he has had more than 2,000 articles published in outdoor magazines, written 23 hunting books and conducted numerous hunting seminars nationwide, including forNRA Hunter Services. In addition to serving as a full-time writer/editor forOutdoor Lifemagazinefor 30 years, most of them as hunting editor, he was host of the popular outdoor TV show “Jim Zumbo Outdoors.” A Benefactor member of theNRA, Zumbo has won numerous awards for his writing and remains active with conservation groups, including serving three terms on theRocky Mountain Elk Foundation’sboard of directors. For information on his biography, “Zumbo,” released in November 2016,click here.