- Keith Sutton
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One of the great annual traditions in the outdoors, National Hunting and Fishing Day, is set for this Saturday, Sept. 27, 2008.
For the past 37 years, the day has served as a public reminder that hunters and anglers are America's premier conservation supporters. Through licenses and excise taxes, they now generate $100,000 every 30 minutes for fish, wildlife and habitat programs, benefiting all citizens who appreciate wild things and wild places.
How did National Hunting and Fishing Day begin? 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 Governor 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, 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 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 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 and many other sports and entertainment figures. The honorary chairman for 2008 is outdoor TV personality Michael Waddell.
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 five top ways to observe this important occasion:
Introduce a newcomer to the outdoors. Take a youngster on their 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, 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 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.
Log on to nhfday.org to learn more about the historic conservation leadership of hunters and anglers. Share the story with non-hunters! While online, enter to win a new ATV or bid on National Hunting and Fishing Day commemorative items.
National Hunting and Fishing Day has an official home and national coordinator in Wonders of Wildlife, a Springfield, Mo., museum that develops communications campaigns, event-planning tips, promotional items and free online tools to help build public appreciation for hunters, anglers and shooters.
National Hunting and Fishing Day sponsors include Wonders of Wildlife, National Shooting Sports Foundation, Bass Pro Shops, The Sportsman Channel, National Wild Turkey Federation, Realtree, Cabela's, Woolrich, GunBroker.com, Outdoor Channel, Safari Club International, Hunting Heritage Trust, Smith & Wesson, Field & Stream, Outdoor Life and Yamaha.
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