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Festivals help celebrate National Hunting and Fishing Day

Our country will recognize the efforts of hunters and fishermen with National Hunting and Fishing Day on Sept. 28. This will be the 48th year that this special day honors the outdoor ranks of sportsmen and sportswomen, a proclamation that began when it was designated by Congress in 1972.

For the national recognition, country music superstars Luke Bryan and Chris Janson are co-chairing NHF Day this year to help ramp up the awareness level for all that hunters and anglers do for conservation and our natural resources. We need to do a better job tooting our own horns, even when it’s easier to simply get a particular job accomplished without much fanfare.

For instance, even within the ranks of the hunters and anglers, not everyone understands that sporting license money goes into a special fund called the Conservation Fund in New York. This money is dedicated to fish and wildlife programs. The Conservation Fund Advisory Board oversees expenditures from the fund.

Each license sold in the Empire State is used to gain additional funds collected through federal excise taxes thanks to legislation like Pittman-Robertson, Wallop-Breaux and Dingell-Johnson. These excise taxes come from the sporting equipment used to pursue our outdoor pastimes. Again, the uses are restricted for this money.

Hunters and anglers help in other ways, too. Hunter safety training classes are run by certified volunteers. Fishing clubs along the Great Lakes volunteer their time to run pen-rearing projects for salmon and trout. Conservation clubs operate youth events that involve both hunting and fishing.

We could spend an entire year of columns on all of the work that goes on behind the scenes when it comes to supporting our natural resources for everyone to enjoy.

The Niagara County Federation's shooting trailer gives kids the opportunity to shoot an air rifle. (Photo courtesy of the NYPA Wildlife Festival)

On a local level for NHF Day celebrations, there are two big gatherings. The biggest is the NY Power Authority’s Wildlife Festival, set for Sept. 28 and 29 at the NYPA Visitors Center, located at 5777 Lewiston Road in Lewiston, adjacent to Niagara University, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.

Last year, nearly 15,000 people attended the festival, a free event. From the Niagara River Anglers Association trout pond to the Niagara County Federation of Conservation Club’s youth shooting trailer, there are lots of fun things to do for the whole family. The event is co-sponsored by the NCFCC.

NCFCC president Chris Schotz of Sanborn encouraged the general public to attend the festival to hear more about what the outdoors community does for our natural resources.

“Learn what we are passionate about with hands-on outdoor experiences involving a fishing pond, a shooting trailer, archery and crossbow shooting, and many of the sportsmen and conservation clubs," Schotz said. "Get involved and become part of the conservation movement.”

Teresa Martinez, who chairs the event for NYPA, points out that the wildlife festival is a family event that gets people in touch with the outdoors. In addition to the hunting and fishing focus that includes DEC and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, exhibitors will include Aquarium of Niagara, Buffalo Zoomobile, Skyhunters Birds of Prey and several wildlife rehabilitators.

Jessica Hill of Skyhunters Birds of Prey with Barney, a 23-year-old European Barn Owl. Looking on is Dylan Mills, 5, of Hickory, N.C. (Photo courtesy of the NYPA Wildlife Festival)

In Erie County, the festivities will be held at the Elma Conservation Club located on 600 Creek Road in Elma from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sept. 28. There will be multiple fishing clinics, trap shooting, field dog demos, archery, crossbow, air rifle, trapping, turkey calling, predator calling and deer and waterfowl management. Again, the event is free.

The day is focused on hunting and fishing or outdoor-related activities and it’s still a great combination of hands-on opportunities for the entire family.

“We have about 25 different organizations with presentations and displays,” said Jeff Jondle, president of the Erie County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs. “We have everything outdoors-related for you to check out and look at. Come on down and spend a couple of fun hours and learn something. Try something new.”

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Jondle was quick to point out that Erie County was a groundbreaker of sorts, holding one of the first NHF Day celebrations in the country in Alden, with the help of Congressman Jack Kemp, in 1970 or ’71. It was definitely before the national adoption of NHF Day and another good reason to see what the day is about. In addition, the first 25 kids attending will receive a free rod and reel combo and there will be a hot dog lunch for those attending around the noon whistle.

The list of participants includes local fishing clubs Trout Unlimited, Southtowns Walleye and Niagara Musky; shooting clubs Hawkeye Bowmen, Ten X and trap teams from Elma and Lancaster; conservation groups Ducks Unlimited and Whitetails Unlimited; and exhibitors Erie County Trappers, Deer Search, Messenger Woods and Outdoor Photography with Jim Monteleone – to name a few.

In addition to these special events, Sept. 28 is designated as a Free Fishing Day in New York. If you’ve wanted to take a friend or relative fishing, this is the perfect opportunity. It’s also a good way to introduce people to one of these NHF Day activities and show them what it’s all about after fishing in the morning.

The Salmon River Fish Hatchery will hold an Open House on Sept. 28, and will offer tours, displays and games for kids. Located at 2133 County Route 22 in Altmar, Oswego County, this event will highlight the critical role that hunters and fishermen play in the Salmon River corridor.

Tours will be ongoing throughout the day. The popular fish viewing deck will be open, allowing the public to view salmon as they migrate up the river. Kids will be able to learn how to cast a rod and participate at a laser shooting range.

Yes, it’s time to shout from the rooftops and let people know that hunting and fishing are important activities that mean so much more, and that these outdoors enthusiasts are the true stewards of our natural resources.

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