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National Hunting and Fishing Day Celebrations Sept. 22 include Free Fishing Day

National Hunting and Fishing Day, set for Saturday, has become a tradition since it was first established in the early 1970s. Since that time, every fourth Saturday in September is dedicated to these popular outdoor pastimes, recognizing the endless contributions that the hunting and fishing ranks invoke in our country’s conservation movement. We need to show more pride in what we do.

“National Hunting and Fishing Day, established in 1971, recognizes the invaluably important role hunters, anglers, trappers and shooting sports enthusiasts play in wildlife and fisheries conservation and protection,” said Rich Davenport of Tonawanda, the chairman of the Erie County celebration held each year at the Elma Conservation Club (600 Creek Road, Elma).  “Each 4th Saturday of September, sportsmen and conservationists offer events celebrating NHF Day, with hands-on learning experiences and demonstrations of these outdoors sports – all for free.  This is perhaps the best opportunity to learn as a family about our wild treasures, how to actively interact, and the importance of assuring that future conservation stewards are ready to accept the responsibility that helps to secure a positive future for our lands and waters, wildlife and fish, for well into the foreseeable future.”

There’s much more to hunting and fishing than the act itself. Sportsmen and sportswomen are the true conservationists when you look at the big picture. They are important stewards of our natural resources and we need to do a better job tooting our own horns to let other people know. So much goes on behind the scenes that many participants don’t even realize what is happening with the simple purchase of a hunting or fishing license.

Here in New York, all sporting licenses are earmarked for a special account called the Conservation Fund. None of the money is put into the General Fund and expenditures for Fish and Wildlife programs are overseen by a Conservation Fund Advisory Board made up of sporting/conservation leaders from around the state, appointed by state politicians and conservation groups.

Included in the Conservation Fund are Federal monies generated through several excise taxes. For example, the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act (Pittman-Robertson Act) places an excise tax on firearms, ammunition and archery equipment. From this tax alone, an additional $12 billion has been raised and distributed around the country. The Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act (Dingell-Johnson or Wallop-Breaux acts) was modeled after the P-R Act. It collects excise taxes on fishing tackle, fish finders, trolling motors, motorboat and small engine fuel among other things. It has raised more than $14.9 billion since 1951. The money is divided up among the states based on sporting license sales in each state. That’s why we hate to give away any free licenses.

When volunteer hunter safety education instructors were asked about getting a free license to help compensate for their time and effort, a majority said no. They understood the double impact of such a move – lost revenue from the license and lost revenue from the Federal excise tax pool. Yes, hunter safety education classes in New York are free and it’s all performed with volunteers who have been certified in firearms training.

Getting back to NHF Day, this year the honorary national chairman is none other than racing great Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – who is an avid outdoorsman. He’s a great role model to serve in this capacity.

As you look around Western New York, there are several exciting events going on this weekend, including the 33rd Annual two-day Wildlife Festival sponsored by the New York Power Authority (NYPA) and the Niagara County Federation of Conservation Clubs. The event is held at the NYPA Power Vista, 5777 Lewiston Road, in Lewiston (adjacent to Niagara University) and it runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days (Sept. 22-23) with a huge emphasis on getting the kids outdoors and in tune with nature.

“Wildlife shows, conservation and science activities and a glimpse of Tuscarora culture are a few of the highlights,” says Teresa Martinez, heading up this year’s festival for NYPA. Many of the old standbys are back like Carmen Presti and the Primate Sanctuary, Buffalo Zoomobile, Nickel City Reptiles and Hawk Creek Wildlife Center. The Conservation Federation has brought along many area clubs that will feature things like fishing in the Niagara River Anglers’ portable fishing pond, air gun shooting, archery and crossbow shooting to name but a few activities.

It's all about the kids as we look at the aging of the outdoor community. Getting the next generation involved with nature and exposing them to a wide variety of options and activities is important for them to get a taste of what’s available. Speaking of taste, the Tuscarora’s will also be cooking up some wild game for sampling – pheasant, rabbit, venison and elk.

Just a short drive from the NYPA Power Vista is a youth fishing derby on Hyde Park Lake in Niagara Falls Saturday morning starting at 8 a.m. Kids ages 6 to 16 can register at the Oasis Pavilion on Robbins Drive in Hyde Park. There will be canoeing and kayaking on the lake after the fishing derby, too, starting at 12:30 p.m. If you are thinking that a 16-year-old will need a license, thanks to recent legislation passed in Albany, Sept. 22 (NHF Day) was named an official Free Fishing Day in the state.

As we noted earlier, the Erie County celebration (sponsored by the Erie County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs) will take place at the Elma Conservation Club from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday only. Lots of hands-on activities from firearms safety to shooting sports, archery and crossbow shooting, bass fishing tips and casting clinics and much, much more. Take advantage of these special events and see why hunting, fishing and the shooting sports are so important to conservation and the country’s economy.

It’s not just hunting and fishing stuff either. Davenport pointed out that they will have information on “living with bears” as a time when bear populations have been expanding throughout Western New York. It’s a great way to learn about fish and wildlife without leaving the confines of the club grounds.

If you hunt or fish, take your kids or grandkids to these events. If you have someone who doesn’t understand why you hunt and fish, bring them to one of these NHF Day functions and show them around. If you are a single parent who would like to learn more about what the great outdoors has to offer, there isn’t a better place to start. It all begins with taking the first step outside.

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