Over the weekend, the country observed a day to honor, "the many contributions of America's hunters and anglers, who add to our heritage and keep our wildlife populations healthy and strong." That's how President George W. Bush's proclamation declaring Sept. 27 National Hunting and Fishing Day starts off.
The history of the commemorative day began in Pennsylvania (shout out to Pa.! I grew up near Philly). In 1970, Pa. Governor Raymond Shafer adopted the idea of a local sportsman (Ira Joffe, owner of Joffe's Gun Shop in Upper Darby) to create Outdoor Sportsman's Day. Through the efforts of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the concept made it to the floor of the United States Senate. In 1971, Sen. Thomas McIntyre (N.H.) introduced a resolution calling for a National Hunting and Fishing Day on the fourth Saturday of each September. Rep. Bob Sikes (Fla.) then introduced the same measure in the House. Congress passed both bills and on May 2, 1972, President Richard Nixon signed the first proclamation declaring National Hunting and Fishing Day, which read, "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."
Over the years, many celebrities have helped to spotlight National Hunting and Fishing Day by serving as Honorary Chairs: Arnold Palmer, Hank Williams Jr., Travis Tritt, Tracy Byrd, Jeff Foxworthy, and -- in 2008 -- Michael Waddell.
It's fitting that this year's National Hunting and Fishing Day (an event so focused on the future of outdoors sports) should fall so close to the first debate between the 2008 presidential candidates (one of whom will be steward-in-chief of our natural resources). Of course, that debate didn't delve into conservation, so this week, I'll be posting the two candidates' energy and conservation policies. We'll talk about what gives you hope, what makes you nervous, and who you'd rather have writing next year's National Hunting and Fishing Day proclamation. - K.H.