One of the great annual traditions in the outdoors, National Hunting and Fishing Day, is set for next Saturday. For the past 45 years, the day has served as a public reminder that hunters and anglers are America’s premier conservation supporters.
So, how do hunting and angling translate to conserving wild places? How exactly do sportsmen and sportswomen help the resources that are also enjoyed by mountain bikers, bird-watchers, backpackers and others?
Hunters and anglers do lots of things for conservation. They volunteer for work projects such as outdoor cleanup days. They help biologists develop water sources for wildlife. They teach hunter-
education classes, and do lots, lots more. But when you get right down to it, their most important contribution is cash, and lots of it. Can you guess how much?
The annual total is $1.75 billion — that’s billion with a B — and hunters and anglers contribute money in two primary ways. The first is through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses. Second, there’s a special excise tax of 10 to 11 percent on new firearms and ammunition, bows and arrows, and rods and reels.
The neat thing about these licenses and taxes is that hunters and anglers asked for them. They actually volunteered to pay for managing and conserving our outdoors. When’s the last time you heard of someone asking to be licensed and taxed?
All that money goes to conservation agencies in each state, such as the Game and Fish Commission here in Arkansas. Those agencies are responsible for managing wildlife, fish and habitat, and keeping those resources in top shape.
National Hunting and Fishing Day was founded to recognize those important contributions. The first to suggest an official day of thanks to sportsmen was Ira Joffe, owner of Joffe’s Gun Shop in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. In 1970, Pennsylvania Gov. Raymond Shafer adopted Joffe’s idea and created Outdoor Sportsman’s Day in the state.
With determined prompting from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the concept soon emerged on the floor of the U.S. Senate. In June 1971, Sen. Thomas McIntyre of New Hampshire introduced Joint Resolution 117 authorizing National Hunting and Fishing Day on the fourth Saturday of every September. U.S. Rep. Bob Sikes of Florida introduced an identical measure in the House. In early 1972, Congress unanimously passed both bills.
On May 2, 1972, President Richard Nixon signed the first proclamation of National Hunting and Fishing Day, writing, “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.”
By late summer, all 50 governors and more than 600 mayors had joined in by proclaiming state and local versions of National Hunting and Fishing Day. The response was dramatic.
National, regional, state and local organizations staged some 3,000 hunting- and fishing-related events that included everything from shooting ranges to suburban fishing ponds, providing an estimated 4 million Americans with a chance to experience, understand and appreciate traditional outdoor sports.
Over the years, National Hunting and Fishing Day boasted many more public-
relations successes, assisted by celebrities who volunteered to help spotlight the conservation accomplishments of sportsmen and sportswomen. Honorary chairs have included Jim “Catfish” Hunter, Ron Guidry, George Bush, Tom Seaver, Hank Williams Jr.,
Arnold Palmer, Terry Bradshaw, George Brett, Robert Urich, Ward Burton, Louise Mandrell, Travis Tritt, Wade Boggs, Tracy Byrd, Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Dance and other sports and entertainment figures.
The honorary chairman for 2017 is NASCAR racing celebrity Richard Childress, who has more than 200 NASCAR victories and was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame earlier this year. Off the track, Childress has a passion for investing in our nation’s youth and is the driving force of National Hunting and Fishing Day’s new campaign, which focuses on reaching experienced hunters, anglers and outdoor recreationists and motivating them to take someone new into the outdoors.
“Today fewer people are connecting with nature through hunting and fishing,” Childress said. “As outdoorsmen and women, we are one of the keys to reversing this trend. Help a friend, family member, neighbor or co-worker learn how to hunt, fish or shoot. Introducing someone to the joys of the outdoors not only enriches his or her life; it creates a future conservationist.”
National Hunting and Fishing Day remains the most effective grassroots effort ever undertaken to promote outdoor sports and conservation. And when this year’s event begins this Saturday, here are six great ways to observe this important occasion:
Introduce a newcomer to the outdoors. Take a youngster on his or her first fishing or hunting trip, or invite a friend or family member who has never had an opportunity to hunt or fish to join you for a day outdoors.
Visit your sporting-goods retailer, and treat yourself to a new piece of hunting, fishing or shooting gear. Then get outside and enjoy it.
Organize, volunteer or attend a National Hunting and Fishing Day celebration in your area. Many event listings are posted at www.nhfday.org.
Remember those whose service to our country will prevent them from joining us afield this fall. Appreciate the freedoms that make hunting, fishing, shooting and conservation possible.
Attend a National Hunting and Fishing Day event at one of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s nature centers or conservation education centers. A wide variety of outdoor and nature activities will be available at the Gov. Mike Huckabee Delta Rivers Nature Center in Pine Bluff, Forrest Wood Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center in Jonesboro, the Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center in Fort Smith, the Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center in Little Rock, the Fred Berry Conservation Education Center on Crooked Creek near Yellville, the Rick Evans Grandview Prairie Conservation Education Center near Columbus, the Elk Education Center at Ponca and the Potlatch Conservation Education Center near Casscoe. For more information, visit www.agfc.com.
Log on to www.nhfday.org to learn more about the historic conservation leadership of hunters and anglers. Share the story with nonhunters. While online, you can make a pledge to take a newcomer hunting, fishing or target shooting between now and Saturday, and you’ll be entered to win amazing prizes like a Richard Childress Racing VIP race weekend package or a two-day vacation at Bass Pro’s Big Cedar Lodge with guided fishing and attraction tickets.
National Hunting and Fishing Day has an official home and a national coordinator in the Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium. This Springfield, Missouri, facility develops communications campaigns, event-
planning tips, promotional items and free online tools to help build public appreciation for hunters, anglers and shooters. Learn more at
National Hunting and Fishing Day’s 2017 sponsors include Wonders of Wildlife, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Bass Pro Shops, Berkley, Ducks Unlimited, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, GunBroker.com, Plano, Realtree,
Shakespeare, Yamaha, Cabela’s, Keep America Fishing, My Outdoor TV, the National Wild Turkey Federation, Thompson/
Center Arms, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, The Izaak Walton League and the National Rifle Association.