The nation will honor the country’s hunters, fishermen, trappers and riflemen on Saturday. The celebration will mark the 50th anniversary of National Hunting and Fishing Day, a milestone that should be recognized by the local outdoor sports community. Even if you’re not one of the participants above, you owe it to yourself to learn more about what this segment of nature lovers is doing for our natural resources and these popular outdoor pastimes. That is much.
National Hunting and Fishing Day, established by an act of Congress in 1971, recognizes the invaluable importance of protecting wildlife and fisheries and being an active conservationist – a hunter, an angler, a trapper and a target shooting participant. In addition to our natural interaction, conservation activities since 1932 have funded the protection, restoration, and ongoing monitoring and study of our wild treasures, wetlands, waterways, forests, and the inhabitants who call these wild places home.
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Tonawanda’s Rich Davenport is one of those people who put their heart and soul into nature. He is a member of the Erie County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, chair of the Erie County Fisheries Advisory Board, and appears to be the heir to the Region 9 Conservation Fund Advisory Board to replace Lockport’s Dale Dunkelberer, who has resigned. They are important functions representing athletes in western New York.
“This holiday is a great opportunity to show the family the tools of the trade,” says Davenport. “The tactics and procedures for engaging in these outdoor sports are important. The rules and regulations that have led to such successful turnarounds in our wildlife and fisheries populations, habitat quality improvements, and enforcement that have led to the abundance of wildlife and quality fisheries that we have today are all part of the big Entire. Without athletes like Theodore Roosevelt, Aldo Leopold, Gifford Pinchot and others, our wildlife treasures would have disappeared from the landscape long ago, and the success of the North American Wildlife Conservation Model is celebrated and shared on National Hunting and Fisheries Day.”
There was no question that the pandemic affected special events surrounding NHF Day, but things should be back to normal this year. In Erie County, the celebration adds a year to the anniversary because it was the model the country used when it all began – celebrating 51 years of outdoor heritage. This year, the Erie County Federation will once again turn to the Elma Conservation Club, located at 600 Creek Road in Elma, to host the NHF Day celebrations. It is free and open to the public from 10am to 4pm. It is family friendly and caters to the youth.
Some activities for this year’s NHF Day include a deer hunting seminar with Corey Wiktor, walleye fishing tactics with Mark Hitcome, Lyme disease awareness with Sheri Voss of WNY Lyme Associates, outdoor photography with Jim Monteleone, catching and handling fur, archery and crossbow shooting, an air gun range, trap shooting, Messinger Woods wildlife rehabilitators, field dog demonstrations, firearm safety, a DEC exhibit and more.
“We saw a good resumption of this event last year,” said Davenport, “but post Covid we still face some challenges. These will be overcome. The good news is that the pandemic appears to have sparked a kind of renaissance in hunting and fishing that should only continue to grow as more recognize just what wonderful and rewarding pastimes hunting, fishing, trapping and shooting really are.”
In Niagara County, the focus of NHF Day will be the New York Power Authority Wildlife Festival, which will be held September 24-25 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at 5777 Lewiston Road in Lewiston. The Niagara County Federation of Conservation Clubs is a co-sponsor.
Chris Schotz from Sanborn acts as the current president of the association. While acknowledging that NHF Day is extremely important, he is a little disappointed heading into this golden anniversary weekend.
“Our participation has been declining lately,” says Schotz. “We can’t seem to find the volunteers we need to tend the booths at the Wildlife Festival or other events. Whether it’s a backlash from Covid or the aging of our core base of volunteers and not replacing them with new blood – or a combination of both – we need to be more inclusive of the next generation to continue these outdoor traditions.”
“What we do is extremely important,” Schotz continued. “We help spread the message about our natural resources to other outdoor users as well as the general public. We are also the stewards of these resources. We provide information on all things outdoor, from new hunting and fishing regulations to information about the new weapons law. We are the channel to our local politicians and help keep them informed. I’m not sure where this is all going.”
The 36th Anniversary NYPA Wildlife Festival brings back the Primate Sanctuary with Carmen and Christy Presti, Hawk Creek Wildlife Center with live birds of prey and mammals, Nickel City Reptiles and Exotics with Jeff Musial, K-9 dog shows and other sightseeing opportunities. Plus, hands-on activities like the Niagara River Angler’s fishing pond, archery with the Middleport Rod and Gun Club, rock climbing with the Niagara Climbing Center, and the goldfish toss will keep the kids busy. Of course, New York Parks, DEC and the US Fish and Wildlife Service will also be in attendance with displays to answer questions. The Greater Niagara Fish Odyssey Awards Ceremony will be held Sunday at 3:00 p.m. in the Primate Sanctuary tent.
Nationally, country music icon Luke Combs (the incumbent CMA Entertainer of the Year) was named Honorary Chairman of the 50th Annual National Hunting and Fishing Day. The surprise announcement was made at Bass Pro Shop’s World’s Fishing Fair Conservation Concerts for Conservation. Before an encore, Bass Pro Shops founder and noted conservationist Johnny Morris presented Combs with the honorary chairman plaque and a special edition 50th anniversary Bass Tracker boat autographed by all the employees who helped make the boat . Combs is an outdoor enthusiast and encourages country music fans to get involved with NHF Day and the great outdoors. Conservation really does last “forever”.
More than 50 million Americans hunt and fish and generate over $200 billion in economic activity. They are the stewards of our land and our waters.