Fishing & Boating News

Spiffed-up National Hunting and Fishing Day to Debut in 2006

Missouri Governor Welcomes 34-Year-Old Celebration to New Official Home in Springfield

(Sep. 26, 2005 - NEWTOWN, CN.) Like putting fresh line on your best fishing reel, or refinishing the stock of your favorite hunting gun, an alliance of energetic partners in 2006 will begin spiffing up traditional outdoor sports’ preeminent public showcase—National Hunting and Fishing Day.   Though still vibrant in many areas, national momentum of the holiday waned as decades passed.  Wonders of Wildlife, the National Fish and Wildlife Museum and Zooquarium based in Springfield, Mo., is leading a charge to invigorate the celebration and message. Initial partners include NSSF, The Outdoor Channel and Bass Pro Shops. More are expected to join this effort to unify America’s sportsmen and women into the cohesive force that hallmarked early National Hunting and Fishing Days.   On Saturday, Missouri Governor Matt Blunt and other dignitaries spent this year’s National Hunting and Fishing Day by welcoming it to its new official home in Springfield. In his remarks, Blunt said the strong fishing and hunting culture in Missouri—the No. 1 state in recruiting young hunters according to a recent report titled “Families Afield”—will accelerate the national renaissance.   “National Hunting and Fishing Day belongs here,” said Wonders of Wildlife executive director Tony Schoonen. “Our plans start with a new museum exhibit to show off the colorful history of the celebration, but our real focus is on the future. We’re already developing new tools to communicate the value of hunting, fishing and conservation. We want more people to understand the connections, and ultimately we’d like to see more people—especially young people—participating.”   “We’re discussing a signature National Hunting and Fishing Day celebration with big-name entertainment, a television special, renewed involvement from agencies and sportsmen organizations, a much stronger retail presence, a fun new Web site, and lots, lots more,” Schoonen explained.   He added, “Look for many new announcements between now and the 35th Annual National Hunting and Fishing Day, which is Sept. 23, 2006.”   [b]About National Hunting and Fishing Day[/b]   The 34-year-old annual commemoration, founded and fostered by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), has been called the most effective grassroots campaign ever undertaken to promote hunters, anglers and the conservation benefits they provide for all Americans who appreciate wildlife and wild places.   Held each year on the fourth Saturday in September, legions of proud sportsmen once rallied to help broaden appreciation of their craft, staging public events ranging from shopping-center displays to major statewide expos.   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 NSSF, 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 and appreciate traditional outdoor sports.   Over the years, with guidance from NSSF, National Hunting and Fishing Day boasted many successes, assisted by celebrities who volunteered to help spotlight the yearly observance. 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.   In 2005, country music star Tracy Byrd served as honorary chairman. He was especially active in helping fans understand that sportsmen and women now contribute more than $4 million a day for conservation. Thus, by buying hunting licenses and paying special conservation excise taxes on sporting goods, hunters and anglers continue to fund most wildlife and habitat programs in the United States.   President Bush on Friday gave an official pat on the back to hunters and anglers for their contributions to conservation, writing:   “I send greetings to those observing National Hunting and Fishing Day.   “Across our Nation, hunting and fishing are great ways to spend time outdoors and enjoy memorable experiences with family and friends. America’s hunters and anglers are among the world’s foremost conservationists because they recognize the importance of maintaining the environment for future generations. As a lifelong hunter and fisherman, I take this responsibility seriously. My Administration has provided record increases in funding for conservation programs, enhanced habitats on public and private lands, and increased opportunities for outdoor recreation at national wildlife refuges.   “I appreciate all hunters and anglers who work hard to advance conservation and practice good stewardship of the land. Your efforts protect our natural treasures and help more Americans enjoy the great outdoors.   “Laura and I send our best wishes for a memorable celebration.”   Bush’s letter will be added to a collection of National Hunting and Fishing Day archival materials such as presidential proclamations, memorabilia from honorary chairs, photos and records from the past 34 years. All will be delivered to Wonders of Wildlife by yearend for creation of a new museum exhibit.   NSSF owns National Hunting and Fishing Day trademarks and artifacts. Last month, Wonders of Wildlife and NSSF signed an agreement granting promotional authorities to Wonders of Wildlife.   [b]About Wonders of Wildlife Museum[/b]   Opened in 2001, Wonders of Wildlife emerged as an icon for the North American wildlife conservation model. In fact, it’s the only hunting- and fishing-focused facility that’s an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution and certified by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association.   With soon-to-begin expansions, the museum will become part of a larger “American Sportsman’s Heritage Center” including the Archery Hall of Fame, Fred Bear Collection, King of Bucks Exhibit, Heroes of Conservation Library, Hunters and Anglers Hall of Fame, IMAX theater featuring outdoor films, and, of course, Missouri’s top tourist destination—the original Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World store.   Next year, Wonders of Wildlife also is scheduled to launch a new distance-learning project to deliver conservation education to youngsters nationwide via broadband “online TV” technology.   NSSF president Doug Painter, who serves on the Wonders of Wildlife board along with other directors from a wide range of outdoor interests, organizations and agencies, said, “Wonders of Wildlife is an important leader in conservation education. It’s a world-class facility that makes sportsmen and women deservedly proud of their contributions to the great outdoors and overall quality of life that we enjoy in our country.”   Painter said Wonders of Wildlife and National Hunting and Fishing Day share the goal of strengthening the image of hunting, shooting and fishing, “so it makes sense for them to work together. After all, that’s the kind of teamwork that helped make National Hunting and Fishing Day so effective in its early years.”