September 14, 2006

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

I often have joked that calendar makers and holiday sponsors should get together to help benefit we hunters and fishermen and women by recognizing the need for national workplace holidays for opening days of deer and turkey season as well as a possible three-day weekend during prime fishing weather.

Little did I know that there already was a special day on the calendar, one that will be marking its 35th anniversary later in September.

National Hunting and Fishing Day will be celebrated Saturday, September 23rd. The special date can be traced to Pennsylvania, which adopted the commemorative event in 1970 to honor sportsmen and women and their contributions to the state’s conservation efforts.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation took the idea to the federal government. The idea took flight in the U.S. Senate in June 1971, when Senator Thomas McIntyre of New Hampshire introduced Joint Resolution 117 authorizing National Hunting and Fishing Day on the fourth Saturday of every September. Representative Bob Sikes of Florida was responsible for an identical measure in the House. Congress unanimously passed both bills.

President Richard Nixon signed the first proclamation of National Hunting and Fishing Day. “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,” Nixon stated.

We Missourians can take pride in knowing that this great holiday has found an official home in our great state.

Missouri Governor Matt Blunt welcomed the special holiday to Springfield and its new official home, the National Fish and Wildlife Museum and Zooquarium.

Blunt said the strong fishing and hunting culture in Missouri, which he noted is the number one state in recruiting young hunters according to a recent report titled “Families Afield”, will fuel the efforts.

Organizers have been discussing hosting a special celebration each year in Springfield at the headquarters.

There are plenty of reasons to celebrate. Sure I joke about needing the time off from work to take part in hunting and fishing. However this grassroots effort definitely is worthy of our attention, even if it means taking time away from our favorite hobbies to help promote them to the rest of the world. Yes, believe it or not, there are people out there who don’t hunt or fish.

As difficult as that is to understand, the much scarier picture is the fact that we outdoor enthusiasts are actually a minority. That’s why this holiday is so important. It offers us an opportunity to join together to inform the rest of the world that hunters and fishermen and women are our nation’s #1 asset for conservation.

Animal rights activists and preservationists like to point a finger at hunters and fishers as enemies of their causes. What they fail to point out is that we contribute $200 million a year to conservation efforts according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Another $300 million is raised annually by private groups such as NRA, Ducks Unlimited and other wildlife organizations. As much as 75 percent of the money used by states for conservation efforts come from hunters and fishers purchasing licenses to pursue their efforts. We are the same folks that have fought to regulate ourselves, and enforce stricter limits and regulations to protect the sports.

That’s why this holiday is important. We can use our day to educate non-hunters and fishermen alike of the important role we play in maintaining and conserving our natural resources. Once we get the job done, then maybe all these folks will help support future holidays for season openers. We can always dream.

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