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Outdoors by Bill Hilts Jr.: A day for celebrating and educating

It’s that time of year again – National Hunting and Fishing Day will be celebrated around the country on Saturday, Sept. 24. First recognized back in 1971, this is a day that pays homage to the sportsmen and women who have done so much to preserve and protect our natural resources. It’s also a great way to get a personal introduction into the great outdoors. Local events offer opportunities to learn about various aspects of fishing, hunting, shooting and the beauty of nature from various clubs and organizations.

This year, the Honorary Chairman is Johnny Morris, leading national conservationist and Bass Pro Shops founder.

“America’s sportsmen and women are among the nation’s most active conservationists and it’s important we recognize and celebrate everything they do to protect outdoor habitat and ensure thriving populations of wildlife,” said Morris. “I’m proud to lend my support and raise awareness for hunters and anglers, America’s conservation heroes, through NHF Day.”

In Erie County, the 45th Annual National Hunting and Fishing Day Celebration will be at the Elma Conservation Club, 600 Creek Road, Elma from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Erie County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs (ECFSC) jumped on board Day One and recognized the importance of reaching out to the general public versus preaching to the choir.

4H 300dpiIn fact, Erie County was on board the year before the national recognition. “In 1970, the first National Hunting and Fishing Day celebration was held in Erie County,” said Rich Davenport of Tonawanda. “The following year Congressman and former Buffalo Bills Quarterback Jack Kemp championed the bill that officially created National Hunting and Fishing Day across the country.”

“Love of the great outdoors is a universal thing, provided one has an opportunity to experience first-hand our wild treasures,” says Davenport. “Oftentimes people want to ‘get closer to nature,’ but do not have the knowledge to know where to start. These NHF Day events are the perfect venue to gain some of that information, direct from the experts and stewards of our area. In the process, one gains exposure and some experience in the ‘tools of the trade,’ as well as insight into behaviors and habits of wildlife and fish species. This can truly embark one’s life upon the road to becoming a conservation steward.”

“This is a free, family-friendly event geared at exposing and educating people of all ages to the heritage that protects and conserves our wild wonders, waterways and green spaces. For many who attend, it is their first exposure to such activities as archery and crossbow shooting, air rifle and, for those youth age 12 and over, trap shooting. In addition, informational exhibits highlighting retriever dog training and demonstrations, sportsmen’s education efforts, hunting and fishing how-to, and the important role our friends at DEC plays are all part of the mix.” Call Rich Davenport at 510-7952 for more information.

In Niagara County, one of the biggest celebrations in the state is the New York Power Authority’s 31st Annual Wildlife Festival, set for Sept. 24-25 at the NYPA Visitors Center adjacent to Niagara University from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Last year, nearly 10,000 visitors came to celebrate during the festival, an event co-sponsored by the Niagara County Federation of Conservation Clubs.


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The lineup of activities is an impressive one. From a sportsman’s standpoint, there are exhibits and displays from many of the clubs around the county. The Niagara River Anglers Association runs its fishing pond and the Federation operates its shooting trailer. There are archery and crossbow stations, as well as other hands-on activities. Carmen Presti and The Primate Sanctuary will be organizing a couple of stage shows each day. The Buffalo Zoomobile will also be attracting scores of kids. Nickel City Reptiles are back, as is Hawk Creek Wildlife Center.IMG_8670

In addition, Festival coordinator Teresa Martinez with NYPA has continued with the New York-sanctioned Duck Calling Contest. If there are six contestants, this will become official and the winner will be sent to Stuttgart, Ark. (flight and entry fee paid) for the World Championship in November. If you are interested in competing, contact Ron Rezabek with the Niagara River Chapter of Ducks Unlimited at 773-1385. For more information on the Wildlife Festival call 286-6661.

Outdoors enthusiasts around the country rarely stop to realize where the money comes from to support fish, game and our natural resources. It primarily comes from the users of these resources, benefitting both game and non-game species.

“Here in New York, all of the money received from licenses is put into a Conservation Fund, to be used for fish and wildlife programs,” said Dale Dunkelberger of Lockport, Region 9 representative to the Conservation Fund Advisory Board that oversees those expenditures. “Each license purchased is also used to collect federal excise tax dollars to help fund additional fish and wildlife programming. Many of the programs also benefit non-game species. These are the kinds of things that need to be passed along to the general public. We really don’t do a very good job of tooting our own horn and we need to get better. Celebrations like NHF Day are perfect to help showcase all of the things we do for fishing, hunting and our natural resources.”

Take the time to stop out and visit the Elma Conservation Club on Saturday and/or the Wildlife Festival in Lewiston Saturday or Sunday. It’s all free!


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