National Hunting and Fishing Day

Outdoors with Forda Birds—By John Andreoni

September 28 is National Hunting and Fishing Day, an annual celebration that has been around since 1972. 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.” During those early years, outdoor writers of the day focused on the impact that hunters and fishermen had in sustaining their sports by financing them through license fees and taxes mandated by law. They also made it clear that wildlife watchers also enjoyed benefits hunters and fishermen produced by their financial support.

A major source of funding for hunting and shooting related activities come from the Pittman-Robertson Act that was approved by Congress in 1937. The act provides funding for the selection, restoration, and improvement of wildlife habitat and for wildlife management research. It also includes funding for hunter education and operation of public target ranges. Funds are generated from an 11% federal tax on sporting arms, ammunition, and archery equipment. A 10% tax on handguns is used for hunter education and target ranges. In addition, hunters add to hunting’s financial support with license fees and other charges. Donations to organizations such as Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever also have a significant financial impact.

The Dingell-Johnson Act of 1950 provides Federal aid to the States for management and restoration of sport fish. In addition, amendments to the act now provide funds for aquatic education, wetlands restoration, boat safety, and other boating related issues. Funds are derived from a 10% excise tax on certain sport fishing tackle, a 3% excise tax on fish finders and electric trolling motors, import duties on fishing tackle, yachts and pleasure craft, interest on the account, and a portion of motorboat fuel tax revenues and small engine fuel taxes. Add license fees and other donations and expenditures, and the significant amount of money contributed by anglers is evident.

Roughly 40% of the U.S. population of 327 million take part in wildlife related activities. According to 2016 figures, 132 million people hunt, fish, or watch, feed, or photograph wildlife. Of that number, roughly 35.8 million people fish, 11.5 million hunt, and 86 million watch wildlife. It’s evident that hunters and fishermen are having a significant impact by their financial support. You don’t necessarily have to like hunting or fishing, but it would be appropriate to celebrate the role that hunters and fishermen play in maintaining their sports and activities along with ensuring that they remain for future generations.

Have these funds impacted our area? Definitely. The Mercer Waterfowl Refuge is a direct result of hunter and fisherman contributions. New wetlands on the site are also courtesy of the hunting and fishing fraternity. Our fish hatchery provides a major service to Ohio anglers and is funded primarily by monies generated by hunters and fishermen. The new boat ramp at Little Chickasaw wasn’t funded by any general fund money. Thank hunters and fishermen for the facility. There is a lot of talk about putting saugeye in Lake St. Marys. In order to do this, the East Bank bulkhead will have to be modified. Since this is modification is partially fish related, I’m sure that some of the funding will come from Dingell Johnson and/or the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Again, hunters and fishermen have an impact.

Looking back, for some reason I didn’t write about the first National Hunting and Fishing Day. Since Nixon didn’t sign the proclamation until May, 1972, maybe there wasn’t much opportunity to get the word out. I did write about it in 1973, and spent a lot of time justifying both sports. In the early 1970s, the anti-hunting and fishing crowd started to impact the media and began getting national coverage. The national news ran anti-hunting related stories depicting hunters as unethical and out for the kill. One specific photo story I recall showed goose hunters on a shooting preserve allowing geese to land in a field and then shooting them on the ground. That story generated a lot of negative press for hunters, and they received an instantaneous bad rap, some of which was deserved. In a way, the anti-hunting and fishing people did us a favor. The lesson learned was that hunters and fishermen who ignored the law and failed to follow the rules could ruin the sport. Most got the message.

It’s National Hunting and Fishing Day. It’s a day worth celebrating, especially if you’re one of 132 million Americans who enjoy our fish and wildlife resources.