R-C Wildlife Club hosts national tribute

Published 7:52 pm Monday, September 28, 2009

TUNIS – The Roanoke-Chowan Wildlife Club sponsored its annual observance of National Hunting and Fishing Day here Saturday, September 26.

Despite overcast skies, a good crowd attended the free event, located at Hare’s Millpond just off River Road, south of Winton.

Club members cordially welcomed everyone – the young, the young at heart, families and groups – to bring attention to the abundance of local wildlife and to demonstrate the wise use of natural resources.

Numerous conservation and natural resource exhibitors and craftspeople set up booths on the site. Those in attendance observed, learned about and tested their skill with black powder and 22 caliber rifle target shooting, archery and trap shooting. Boat tours on both millpond and Chowan River as well as nature trail hikes were provided.

Children were provided with fun handbooks that explained hunting and fishing as well as how to protect natural resources. Adults were reminded of the state’s hunting and fishing regulations.

Hot dogs, hamburgers, BBQ and other refreshments were available all day. Free door prizes were won and posted throughout the day. A grand finale drawing of door prizes finished the activities.

Club members thanked its membership, exhibitors and craftspeople who provided booths and demonstrations. They recognized local businesses and individuals who donated prizes for the drawings as well as thanking everyone for coming and sharing the day at the millpond.

According to the National Hunting and Fishing Day website, over 100 years ago, hunters and anglers were the earliest and most vocal supporters of conservation and scientific wildlife management. They were the first to recognize that rapid development and unregulated uses of wildlife were threatening the future of many species.

Led by fellow sportsman President Theodore Roosevelt, these early conservationists called for the first laws restricting the commercial slaughter of wildlife. They urged sustainable use of fish and game, created hunting and fishing licenses, and lobbied for taxes on sporting equipment to provide funds for state conservation agencies. These actions were the foundation of the North American wildlife conservation model, a science-based, user-pay system that would foster the most dramatic conservation successes of all time.

Populations of white-tailed deer, elk, antelope, wild turkey, wood ducks and many other species began to recover from decades of unregulated exploitation.

During the next half-century, in addition to the funds they contributed for conservation and their diligent watch over the returning health of America’s outdoors, sportsmen worked countless hours to protect and improve millions of acres of vital habitat—lands and waters for the use and enjoyment of everyone.

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 the National Shooting Sports Foundation, 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, understand and appreciate traditional outdoor sports.

Over the years, National Hunting and Fishing Day boasted many more public relations successes, assisted by celebrities who volunteered to help spotlight the conservation accomplishments of sportsmen and women. 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, Tracy Byrd, Jeff Foxworthy and many other sports and entertainment figures.

National Hunting and Fishing Day, celebrated the fourth Saturday of every September, remains the most effective grassroots efforts ever undertaken to promote the outdoor sports and conservation.