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A Personal Perspective on National Hunting and Fishing Day

National Hunting and Fishing Day is this Saturday, Sept. 23.

This is a significant day.

No, this is not just another one of those celebratory days, not by a long shot.

I grew up hunting and fishing in rural Nebraska.

My hunting heritage began 54 years ago this fall as a “quail dog” for my dad and his friend, Jim on our family farm in southeast Nebraska. I am eternally grateful to my dad for taking me hunting! Below a cottontail rabbit was harvested by your blogger at 12 years of age on that family farm in rural southeast Nebraska. It was 1974 and I  had just successfully completed the hunter education safety course (note the patch  on the hat) prior to going afield with my dad. Photo courtesy of  the Wagner Family Album.

So this day is deeply personal to me and many others as we are devoted hunters and anglers. We experience nature directly as a participant, not simply a spectator.

Your blogger is pheasant hunting the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) grassland acres of a private farming operation in east-central Nebraska. Photo courtesy of Mark Davis/Powell, WY.

We take our roles as stewards of the land and wildlife very seriously. In fact, we represent the original conservationists who established the North American Model of Conservation more than a century ago.

Success was experienced and healthy protein was acquired during a recent Nebraska firearm deer hunting season on my aunt’s farm in rural southeast Nebraska. I am thankful for the hunting opportunity and deer harvest! Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

National Hunting and Fishing Day, the fourth Saturday in September each year, was launched in 1971 by Congress to acknowledge the tremendous contributions made financially and otherwise by us natural resource users toward wildlife research projects, wildlife habitat improvements, wildlife management practices and to local, state and national economies. Interestingly, many of these contributions have greatly assisted rural landowners, community safety, non-game wildlife species, individual ecosystems, the environment as a whole and the protection of species from unregulated exploitation.

In Nebraska, Governor Jim Pillen has proclaimed Saturday, Sept. 23rd as National Hunting and Fishing Day on the state level. Collectively, hunting and fishing is a big deal here in the Cornhusker State. In fact, stats show more than 450,000 hunters and anglers support the state’s economy through their spending, contributing to the $2.6 billion spent on outdoor activities in a single year.

Get this. On the national scale in the U.S., through self-imposed fees and excise taxes, hunters and anglers have raised more than $57 billion–that’s more than $100,000 every 30 minutes being raised for conservation!

In 1972, Richard Nixon signed the first ever Presidential proclamation of National Hunting and Fishing Day. Now on its 51st year, National Hunting and Fishing Day is the largest, most effective grassroots movement ever undertaken to promote outdoor sports and wildlife conservation.

Western meadowlark,, the official Nebraska State Bird, is seen in the grassland acres of Bowwood State Wildlife Management Area in southeast Nebraska. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

National Hunting and Fishing Day also serves an avenue for us to promote hunting and fishing as legal, wholesome, memorable outdoor activities to new audiences.

It’s funny when I think back to my early hunting days, because it’s not about the game animals I took that made such wonderful memories. It’s the crazy scenarios I remember that were part of the hunting experience (Deer in my case, with my dad, who is deceased).

I recall my dad and me borrowing my brother Steve’s pick up truck and then sinking it in a shallow ravine on our farm on the way to our blind at o’ dark thirty. I recall my dad asking me: “Did you save the coffee?”

I recall the first time I left the confines and comfort of the blind and went to the bathroom (No. 2) in the complete darkness of the woods, there were a thousand different sounds, it seemed.

I recall listening to Husker football games on a scratchy transistor radio while my dad vocalized his displeasure with the play calling, never mind being quiet so as not to scare the deer.

Seriously,  I recall the long discussions with my dad about everything from relationships to politics and  I recall watching the sunrises and sunsets without a word even being spoken.

Those things are the stuff of memories.

The beauty of legal shooting time beginning is captured from a blind during a recent firearm deer hunt on a southeast Nebraska farm. Photo by Greg Wagner//Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Now, we need to help others experience great memories as well as a personal, hands-on connection to nature and the cycle of life. We, as licensed outdoor enthusiasts, must engage and pass along what we know to the folks around us, and especially to those who don’t look and act like us, on a continual basis. It is vital to the future of fish and wildlife.

New young hunters take a break during a January Canada goose hunt along a Platte River wetland in rural Butler County, NE. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Participation in activities like hunting and fishing is intensely rewarding and provides rich opportunities to grow human relationships, reconnect with the environment, help landowners, support the economy, supply revenue for conservation and obtain fresh, free-ranging food.

National Hunting and Fishing Day also presents an opportunity to thank the rural landowner who allows you to hunt and fish on their property. This is particularly important in a state such as Nebraska where the land is 97 percent privately owned.

To me, our hunting and fishing heritage remains a key component to who we are as Nebraskans and as Americans.

Coyotes harvested by my great-grandfather, J.O. (Otto) Wagner of Gretna, NE (left), and a friend, somewhere in rural southeast Nebraska long ago. Photo courtesy of the Wagner Family Album.

So hunt, fish, share your passion!

Your blogger’s young grandson, Jackson Edward Wagner of Omaha, NE, enjoys coming along on wild turkey hunts in a blind with his grandfather. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

About greg wagner

A native of Gretna, NE, a graduate of Gretna High School and Bellevue University, Greg Wagner currently serves as the Communications and Marketing Specialist and Manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission's Service Center in Omaha. On a weekly basis, Wagner can be heard on a number of radio stations, seen on local television in Omaha, and on social media channels, creatively conveying natural resource conservation messages as well as promoting outdoor activities and destinations in Nebraska. Wagner, whose career at Game and Parks began in 1979, walks, talks, lives, breathes and blogs about Nebraska’s outdoors. He grew up in rural Gretna, building forts in the woods, hunting, fishing, collecting leaves, and generally thriving on constant outdoor activity. One of the primary goals of his blog is to get people, especially young ones, to have fun and spend time outside!

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