Craig Morgan to Chair Celebration of National Hunting and Fishing Day
For the last 43 years, the fourth Saturday in September has marked a celebration as big and as grand as the American version of the Great Outdoors. That will happen once again this year at events all over the country next weekend as the 2014 version of "National Hunting and Fishing Day" takes place on Saturday, September 27.
First suggested by Ira Joffe, the owner of Joffe's Gun Shop in Upper Darby, Pa., the "Outdoor Sportsman's Day" was first officially celebrated back in 1970 after the Keystone State's then chief executive, Gov. Raymond Shafer, signed the day into existence. Knowing a good thing when they saw it, the National Shooting Sports Foundation urged the concept on towards the nation's capitol, pushing lawmakers for a national celebration and a day of recognition for the role that sportsmen have played in the American outdoors.
By June 1971, the idea was on the floor of the U.S. Senate thanks to the introduction of Joint Resolution 117 by Sen. Thomas McIntyre (N.H.). Rep. Bob Sikes (Fla.) would also introduce an identical bill in the House of Representatives. Both measures sought to authorize the creation of National Hunting and Fishing Day in America, an event to be held on the fourth Saturday of every September.
In a rare display of full bi-partisan cooperation, and thanks to the role that the American hunter and angler had played during the 20th Century in helping to conserve and restore the fortunes of wildlife and fish to our land, both houses of Congress gave their unanimous nod to the idea in early 1972.
On May 2, 1972, the nation's then chief executive, President Richard M. Nixon would throw his support behind the idea with the stroke of a pen, signing the first proclamation of NHF Day with these remarks: "I urge all citizens to join with outdoor sportsmen in the wise use of our natural resources and in ensuring their proper management for the benefit of future generations."
Now some four decades later, the annual celebration continues across the country, This year Outdoor Channel television show host, former U.S. soldier and country music superstar Craig Morgan will be sitting at the helm as the day's honorary chairman.
Well known for his good music and avid participation in outdoors sports arena, the former soldier is tireless in his support of U.S. troops at home and abroad. In terms of the latter, the music star has made ten trips overseas, including into combat theatres, to entertain U.S. troops.
So much so is Morgan's support for the men and women of America's armed forces that he received a 2006 "Merit Award" from the U.S.O. for his efforts to entertain and inspire the troops. His television show – Craig Morgan All Access Outdoors – is also a smash hit and an award winner on Outdoor Channel as he gives viewers a backstage pass into his life in music and his pursuit of hunting adventures all across the country. This year marks the show's fifth year in production.
As important to Morgan, or even more so, perhaps, is his strong desire to be a good steward of hunting, fishing and the outdoors world across America so that he can help leave things better than he found them, especially for the sake of his children's generation. Morgan believes that getting to serve as this year's NHF Day skipper will help him do just that.
“I couldn’t be happier to serve as honorary chair for National Hunting and Fishing Day,” said Morgan in a NHF Day news release. “As a parent, I’ve shared my love of the outdoors with my kids and I know that conservation is key to creating a better future for upcoming generations in outdoor sports.
"This is a very important day to reflect on and participate in activities that celebrate conservation efforts by sportsmen and women around the country and I hope everyone will join me in celebrating this year.”
Morgan is just one in a long line of other distinguished honorary chairmen. Previous NHF Day chairs have included Bill Dance, Jay Novacek, Wade Boggs, Arnold Palmer, Terry Bradshaw, Hank Williams, Jr., Travis Tritt, Tracy Byrd and Jeff Foxworthy, among others. The selection of Morgan as this year's honorary chairman has drawn praise from a number of different circles across the outdoors world.
“Craig Morgan is an amazing artist. NHF Day is excited to have such a diverse talent lead NHF Day as the honorary chair,” said Misty Mitchell, the director of conservation programs for one of the day's sponsors, Wonders of Wildlife, in a news release.
“He is constantly promoting good stewardship and conservation, which coincides with what NHF Day is all about," she added.
As previously noted, Congress established NHF Day to recognize hunters and anglers and their role in fish and wildlife conservation, but the support for the day isn't merely rooted in long ago Washington, D.C. congressional politics, mind you. In fact, since the day's launch back in the early 1970s, the annual celebration has been formally proclaimed by every U.S. President along with countless U.S. state governors and the mayors of numerous American cities.
This is because hunting and fishing have been, and still are, among the most important parts of the American fabric since our founding fathers first stepped foot on the shores of a country that seemed to have almost unlimited natural resources.
However, when it became apparent in the late 1800s and the early 1900s that those resources weren't unlimited, it was the American hunter and angler who stepped up and raised money, went to work to help create the best conservation organization that the world has ever seen and all but demanded that our nation's leaders fix what had become broken. It worked.
The proof lies in the fact that in 1900, experts estimate that only 500,000 white-tailed deer remained in the U.S. According to the NSSF, the whitetail's status today is more than 32 million deer nationwide today. This big rebound is due to hard work, lots of money raised for conservation efforts, strict seasons and bag limits enacted when necessary, an increasingly strong hunter ethic down through the years, and a nationwide commitment to see the nation's most important big game animal return to prominence.
According to the NSSF, similar rebounds in wildlife numbers have occurred in other species including the pronghorn antelope (12,000 a half century ago to 1.1 million today); the wild turkey (100,000 in 1900 to 7 million today); and the Rocky Mountain elk (41,000 in 1907 to more than 1 million today).
This has all taken place because hunters, anglers and the outdoors industry have continually stepped forward to demand tighter regulations, the acquisition of more habitat rich lands and the use of excise taxes on guns, ammo and outdoors gear to help fund wildlife conservation efforts. Add in the creation of the Federal Duck Stamp some 80 years ago and the signing into law of the Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act in 1937 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and you have the framework for the North American Wildlife Conservation Model, the most successful model that the world has ever known.
In fact, so successful has all of this been that in the past 76 years, the NSSF reports that sportsmen and the nation's outdoors industry have contributed nearly $9 billion – yes, $9 BILLION – to wildlife conservation efforts. Because of such successes, not to mention the fact that more than 38 million Americans hunt and fish each year while spending more than a thousand dollars annually on their pursuits (Source: NSSF), the annual NHF Day celebration draws an annual A-List of enthusiastic sponsors.
Evidence of that can be seen in this year's sponsor list which includes Outdoor Channel, Wonders of Wildlife, National Shooting Sports Foundation, Bass Pro Shops, Realtree, GunBroker.com, Ducks Unlimited, Scout, Izaak Walton League, National Wild Turkey Foundation, Smith & Wesson and Yamaha.
From the rebound of wildlife numbers to the generous wildlife conserving expenditures of American outdoorsmen to the growth of hunting and fishing all across the land, there can be little wonder of how and why a quaint statewide recognition of sportsmen in Pennsylvania has turned into a highly successful and much anticipated national celebration each year. One that is more than four decades old and still growing, a celebration as big and beautiful as all of the great American outdoors.
Editor’s Note: Visit the “Craig Morgan All Access Outdoors” page for air times, photos, bonus video and additional information about the show.