Hunting, fishing and living the outdoor lifestyle are part of our state’s heritage and culture. Many of us hold those traditions surrounding that lifestyle as valuable as a family heirloom that has been passed down through the generations. In fact, I would argue that passing down those traditions and keeping alive the knowledge and the art of outdoor pursuits in many ways can be even more valuable.
Introducing family and friends to a way of life that has been so celebrated by our people can spark a lifelong interest in learning and participating in the natural world and wildlife conservation. Not to mention, most outdoor arts do not require staring at a screen — something that we all need a break from in this modern day of staring at a light box like a computer, our phones or a TV screen.
Celebrating hunting and fishing in the month of September is a tradition that dates back to the ‘60s and ‘70s. According to National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), 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 NSSF, the concept soon emerged on the floor of the U.S. Senate. In June 1971, Sen. Thomas McIntyre, D-N.H., introduced Joint Resolution 117 authorizing National Hunting and Fishing Day on the fourth Saturday of every September. Rep. Bob Sikes, D-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.”
Today, there are celebrations all over the country. In West Virginia (and depending when you read this column you may be able to catch part of the celebration) we celebrate the event the third weekend in September with a huge event at Stonewall Jackson State Park. Each year the event gets bigger and better and the annual show is a great way to learn about West Virginia’s outdoor traditions, abundant natural resources and outdoor recreation opportunities, and provides many hands-on activities for hunters, anglers, families and outdoor enthusiasts. For sportsmen and women, this is one of the events to have on your calendar every year.
But if you missed our special weekend, don’t fret. There are many ways to join in the tradition of celebrating. Maybe the best way is to get out and do some hunting and fishing this month and to do things right, introduce someone new to the great outdoors. After all, hunters, anglers and target shooters in the United States contribute billions annually to conservation through the purchase of licenses, excise taxes paid on hunting and fishing equipment and ammunition and contributions to various wildlife conservation organizations.
That is worth celebrating no matter how you choose to do so.