Bismarck, N.D.-Delta Waterfowl is continuing its partnership with National Hunting and Fishing Day, set for September 25.
"Hunters and anglers are our nation's original conservationists and continue to play a primary role in protecting our land and waters, and that's a message that cannot get lost," said Delta Waterfowl Senior Vice President John Devney. "National Hunting and Fishing Day is a great time to celebrate our past achievements, as well as educate the public -- especially the non-hunting public -- about how they're benefitting from our conservation work and advocacy today."
The annual commemoration will promote awareness about hunting, fishing and wildlife conservation through a series of nationwide events. Delta Waterfowl's regional directors will promote the day's activities. "Delta will promote the day at the grassroots-with our chapters and through our volunteers," Devney said. "We're very pleased to be apart of this worthwhile partnership."
Devney said hunters and anglers are the primary funders of habitat-conservation work across the country, and having a "special day" is important because it highlights their work. "The day is a great way to raise awareness about hunters as environmental stewards," said Devney. "When I see hunter numbers falling, particularly among waterfowl hunters, I get worried, because it's a signal that we may have a conservation crisis in the making."
Devney points to the most recent federal statistics on hunting and fishing participation, namely the 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation. The survey showed waterfowl hunter numbers from 2001 to 2006 dropped a whopping 27 percent.
In response to those lagging numbers, Devney said Delta Waterfowl dissected the issue in its five-part magazine series called the Vanishing Hunter. The investigative series documented the demographic and social issues that are contributing to the decline in hunter participation.
"It's a complicated issue, but our investigation taught us that we have to stay connected to our hunting culture, those ancient roots that give life to our long-held hunting traditions," said Devney.
Devney said the investigation has improved Delta's hunting recruitment and retention program, First Hunt. The mentored hunting initiative incorporates conservation education, safety and ethics, as well as all aspects of waterfowl hunting.
"A big part of First Hunt revolves around cleaning and eating the birds we kill on the same day," he said. "What that does is bring the hunt full circle, and it passes on a vitally important aspect of our culture. When someone goes through our program, they leave with the knowledge of how to prepare the birds they kill. It's a powerful educational message -- killing a bird one minute and eating it the next -- that has the added benefit of promoting a discussion about habitat conservation."
While recruiting and retaining youth hunters is vitally important, Devney said hunter participation can be increased by reaching out to adult demographics: college students, women and families. "Adults simply do not have the same learning curve kids have," he said. "Kids are the future, of course, but adult men and women have been very receptive to what we're teaching. Our women's hunts in the U.S and Canada are extremely popular."
Denise Wagner, program coordinator for National Hunting and Fishing Day, says reversing the decline of hunters and anglers is critical to the long-term future of conservation. She says through licenses, permits and special taxes on hunting and fishing equipment, hunters and anglers generate $100,000 every 30 minutes -- totaling more than $1.75 billion per year -- for fish, wildlife and their habitat.
"We're pleased to partner with Delta Waterfowl again this year," said Wagner. "With Delta's help we're reaching out even further with a message that healthy fish, wildlife, and habitat depend on leadership and stewardship of hunters and anglers."
For more information about National Hunting and Fishing Day and its events: www.nhfday.org
. For more information about Delta Waterfowl: www.deltawaterfowl.org