Hunting and fishing is about more than hunting and fishing. The list is too long to put here in this short space, but it includes just spending time outdoors, driving conservation of our wildlife, forests and waterways; fun, recreation, family time….you get the drift.
I was a sports & outdoor writer at the Monroe Morning World (that’s the News-Star today) 35 years ago when we got a news release for National Hunting and Fishing Day in the mail. I tried to find out some information about it, but the nearest “local” celebration was in Dallas, Texas. That wasn’t good enough. I went to the local LDWF office and talked to one of their specialists, Gerry Click. He felt the same way I did, so we got together with some vendors, called in a few favors from outdoor enthusiasts and put on the first ever local Hunting and Fishing Day celebration at the LDWF office in Monroe.
Fellow Morning Worlders Johnny Gunter, J.C. Zagone and my father-in-law Jack Brumfield fried fish all day long. LDWF biologists collected deer meat, manned the grill and handed out smoked samples all day. We even had some nutria and beaver from one of the trappers to sample. Near as I can remember, we had plenty of that left at the end of the day, but the fish and venison were all gone. We sold cokes to raise money to make the next year’s event bigger and better. At the end of the day, more than 500 people had attended that first event.
There were contests for the kids, displays and demonstrations. Over the years, hundreds of volunteers have made the day go well. One of the best was Marvin Williamson, an expert trap and skeet marksman who, despite having lost one of his arms in an accident, could shoot better with his eyes closed than I could with my eyes open. And he had the patience of Job. There are no telling how many thousand youngsters he helped learn how to shoot or learn how to correct their mistakes. Several times during the history of the event, the Duck Commander Phil Robertson has put on exhibitions or judged duck calling contests.
Over the years, up to 3,000 people have come out when the weather is good and the football schedule is favorable. This Saturday seems to meet that criteria, so I expect a good crowd. Since 1982, other LDWF offices have also begun celebrations like this and they have also attracted thousands of people. The one in Baton Rouge is now one of the largest in the country. LDWF personnel go above and beyond the call of duty to make this work — and it pays off by teaching our youngsters about the right way to enjoy the outdoors. If you go, make sure and tell them “thanks”.Personally, my wife and kids spent many hours setting up or going to NH&FD. There are some great memories there. Come out Saturday and make some of your own.
History — How a Good Idea Became a Great Tradition
Over 100 years ago, hunters and anglers were the earliest and most vocal supporters of conservation and scientific wildlife management. They were the first to recognize that rapid development and unregulated uses of wildlife were threatening the future of many species. Led by fellow sportsman President Theodore Roosevelt, these early conservationists called for the first laws restricting the commercial slaughter of wildlife. They urged sustainable use of fish and game, created hunting and fishing licenses, and lobbied for taxes on sporting equipment to provide funds for state conservation agencies. These actions were the foundation of the North American wildlife conservation model, a science-based, user-pay system that would foster the most dramatic conservation successes of all time. Populations of white-tailed deer, elk, antelope, wild turkey, wood ducks and many other species began to recover from decades of unregulated exploitation.
During the next half-century, in addition to the funds they contributed for conservation and their diligent watch over the returning health of America’s outdoors, sportsmen worked countless hours to protect and improve millions of acres of vital habitat—lands and waters for the use and enjoyment of everyone.
In the 1960s, hunters and anglers embraced the era’s heightened environmental awareness but were discouraged that many people didn’t understand the crucial role that sportsmen had played-and continue to play-in the conservation movement.
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.
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, N.H., introduced Joint Resolution 117 authorizing National Hunting and Fishing Day on the fourth Saturday of every September. Rep. Bob Sikes, Fla., introduced an identical measure in the House. In early 1972, Congress unanimously passed both bills.
On May 2, 1972, President 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 over 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 “open house” hunting- and fishing-related events everywhere from shooting ranges to suburban frog ponds, providing an estimated four 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 women. Honorary chairs have included George Bush, Tom Seaver, Hank Williams Jr., Arnold Palmer, Terry Bradshaw, George Brett, Robert Urich, Ward Burton, Louise Mandrell, Travis Tritt, Tracy Byrd, Jeff Foxworthy and many other sports and entertainment figures.
National Hunting and Fishing Day, celebrated the fourth Saturday of every September, remains the most effective grassroots efforts ever undertaken to promote the outdoor sports and conservation.