Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas need no introductions—all are well-known holidays that most Americans proudly and almost automatically recognize and celebrate. What if such a holiday existed specifically for sportsmen and sportswomen? In case you’re unaware, one does. Enter National Hunting and Fishing Day (NHFD), which kicks of a month-long celebration of hunting and fishing in October.
NHFD History As covered by this website through the years, NHFD annually lands on the fourth Saturday of September, which is Sept. 28 this year. According to NHFD.org, “The first to suggest an official day of thanks to sportsmen was Ira Joffe, owner of Joffe's Gun Shop in Upper Darby, Pa. In 1970, Pennsylvania Gov. Raymond Shafer adopted Joffe's idea and created ‘Outdoor Sportsman's Day’ in the state.”
Later, the NHFD holiday gained national status when it was landmarked in May 1972 after President Nixon signed a proclamation to make it official. He said, "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."
The Johnny Morris Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium serves as the home of NHFD. Honorary chairs of the NHFD over the years have included some well-known sports and entertainment figures such as Travis Tritt, Jeff Foxworthy and Terry Bradshaw, to name a few. This year, honorary co-chairs for the holiday are country stars Luke Bryan and Chris Janson.
The hunting landscape has changed dramatically since those early practices, all thanks to caring forefathers who understood the value in being wise stewards of land and wildlife. For example, elk herds exist today where they didn’t 100 years ago. Many state-managed public lands are planted in food plots and improved to attract and hold wildlife. Wild turkeys now flourish in areas where they were nearly extinct.
Other creative measures are being taken to ensure continued hunting and fishing opportunities. One example is the Colorado Wildlife Sporting Plate, a wildlife-geared license plate that raised $450,000 for shooting ranges, which benefit hunters, and fishing programs during its first two years. These are things to celebrate not only on NHFD, but every day of the year.
The NRA certainly celebrates hunting and fishing 365 days a year. “I am very thankful to be involved with programs like NRA’s Youth Hunter Education Challenge, NRA’s Online Hunter Education and our Hunters for the Hungry clearinghouse that allow us here at NRA to celebrate National Hunting and Fishing day all year long,” said Matt Fleming, manager of NRA Hunter Services. “As America’s hunter safety and education leader, the NRA will continue working to meet the needs of hunters at every age and skill level while defending the future of our cherished hunting traditions.”
A Reason to Celebrate Obviously, hunting and fishing are indispensable conservation tools. But, they’re also time-honored traditions and lifestyles that we must pass down, generation after generation, in order to keep the conservation wheels turning. As NHFD approaches, let’s all be mindful of how rich American soil is with opportunities to experience the outdoors. Let’s also not forget that the conservation pioneers were hunters and anglers themselves and that they are, in a large way, why we have so many hunting and fishing opportunities today. As we recognize NHFD, let’s celebrate their efforts to make hunting and fishing what they are today.
Finally, NHFD isn’t merely a celebration. It’s, more importantly, a medium through which we can promote hunting and fishing to the whole world. That is, we not only must educate others about hunting and fishing, but also recruit them to become part of our great traditions so that we don’t lose the incredible outdoor opportunities we have along with abundant fish and wildlife.
Please join me, the NRA and like-minded hunter-backed conservation groups nationwide in spreading the word to get out and celebrate NHFD this Saturday.
About the Author: Darron McDougal is a full-time freelance outdoor writer and editor who lives in Antigo, Wisc., with his bride, Becca. He's hunted in 12 states and successfully taken elk, bear, hogs, turkeys, pronghorn, whitetails and mule deer, most with archery equipment on DIY hunts. The McDougals enjoy all things hunting and shooting. They believe in God and love to travel.