More than 100 years ago, hunters and anglers became the lead supporters of conservation and scientific wildlife management. They were the first to recognize that development and unregulated uses of wildlife were threatening the future for many wildlife species.
Along with President Theodore Roosevelt, those early conservationists called for wildlife laws, implementing hunting and fishing licenses, and placing taxes on sporting equipment. Those self-imposed taxes would provide needed funds for state conservation agencies. This was the foundation of the North American Wildlife Conservation Model, a science-based, user-pay system.
Populations of white-tailed deer, elk, antelope, wild turkey, wood ducks and many other species began to recover after decades of unregulated exploitation.
In the 1960s, hunters and anglers sought ways to recognize the crucial role that sportsmen had played—and continue to play—in natural resources conservation. Ira Joffe, owner of Joffe’s Gun Shop in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, suggested a day of recognition for hunters and anglers. In 1970, Pennsylvania Governor 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. By summer’s end, all 50 governors and more than 600 mayors had proclaimed state and local versions of National Hunting and Fishing Day.
This year, National Hunting and Fishing Day falls on September 22.