American hunters and anglers will be afield and afloat by the millions on Saturday, and it’s a special occasion: National Hunting & Fishing Day.
This is the annual event that celebrates the time-honored activities of outdoorsmen and women who know that meat doesn’t come from the butcher shop and fish don’t suddenly appear on a layer of crushed ice in a display case at the supermarket.
According to the National Hunting & Fishing Day website – using data from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, more than 44 million Americans over the age of six enjoy fishing every year. Hunters and target shooters have paid more than $7.2 billion in federal excise tax on firearms, ammunition and related gear through the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act since it was adopted in 1937. Anglers have paid $3.6 billion in similar excise taxes through the Wallop-Breaux and Dingell-Johnson programs.
For Fiscal Year 2017 alone, these special excise tax programs have apportioned $780,031,696 for wildlife restoration and $349,442,840 sportfish restoration to the states, according to data from the USFWS.
Hunting and fishing support more than 680,000 jobs in the United States. Hunters and anglers pay most of the expenses for fish and wildlife conservation programs through license purchases and those aforementioned special excise taxes.
Fish and wildlife agencies depend upon hunters and anglers. They actually are the original conservationists, not to be confused with market “hunters” or Old West bison killers who killed only to sell hides and tongues, not to mention depriving Native Americans of their primary food source in the process.
In addition to all the excise tax, license and fee money spent by outdoorsmen and women, many private conservation organizations have sprung up to raise millions of dollars for habitat acquisition and preservation, and species enhancement. Among them are the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl, the Mule Deer Foundation, Pheasants Forever, Wild Sheep Foundation, the Ruffed Grouse Society, Quail Forever, Trout Unlimited, National Wild Turkey Federation and Whitetails Unlimited. And there are undoubtedly more groups, and local chapters of organizations, hunting and shooting clubs.
Over the years, millions of American youth have gone through Hunter Education courses, which have firearms safety as their core ingredient, resulting in declining firearms accidents.
Next time you see salmon or steelhead leaping over a waterfall heading upstream to spawn, or herds of grazing elk, or a deer or bear crossing the road, keep in mind that some hunter or angler helped pay for that and their devotion to heading out on weekends made such sights possible.