The National Hunting and Fishing Day celebration took place at Stonewall Jackson Resort State Park in Lewis County this past weekend. Despite the rain, there was a very good turnout during the two-day event that features numerous seminars, demonstrations, and information about a wide range of hunting, fishing, and wildlife activities designed to appeal to everyone who enjoys the outdoors.
The event sponsored by the WV Division of Natural Resources and the WV Wildlife Federation held every year during the last weekend of September is a great way to introduce children to the outdoors and check out the newest gear and techniques for your favorite outdoor pursuits.
The events centered around the Roanoke and Park Headquarters buildings where displays featuring WV animal and fish mounts along with hands on activities such as snake handling, animal track identification, a hunting simulator and other activities designed to inform and educate people about nature and wildlife. Outside the buildings several tents were set up for the various seminars that included hunting and calling techniques for turkey, deer, and coyote, a bird dog demonstration, game and fish cooking and tasting plus various nature and wildlife seminars. Over 100 vendors and exhibits were also on hand to demonstrate and sell the newest equipment and gear for everything you could think of for the outdoors.
The marina and along the lakeshore featured an electrofishing demonstration, fly-fishing demonstration and instruction, fishing instruction, public fishing for those under age 18, boat tours of the lake, and a catfish tournament Saturday night. In the picnic area, people could watch fish filleting, squirrel, and deer field dressing and skinning demonstrations as well as sample many game and fish recipes, which I must admit were all very tasty. There was also a squirrel dog competition including a bench show, treeing contest and field trial.
At the shooting range, participants could shoot sporting clays with a shotgun, target shoot with .22 rifles and muzzleloaders and new this year was the opportunity to fire a crossbow, there was also a 3D archery shoot. A Blackhawk helicopter and climbing wall from the WV Army National Guard attracted many people and the DNR Law Enforcement conservation officers were on hand to discuss regulations and offer safety tips and advice. From all these events going on plus all the vendors and exhibits available one can see there was truly something for everyone,
The highlight of the weekend every year however, is the Outdoor Youth Challenge in which participants can compete for fun or points with other kids in a wide range of hunting and fishing skills and educational activities.
It is free and open to kid's age 6-18, youths age 11-18 had the opportunity to compete with other kids in their age group to score points in five events including archery, .22 rifle, muzzleloader, skeet shooting, and casting accuracy. The Outdoor Youth Challenge ran from 9-3 each day and participants had to complete 10 of 25 events to be eligible for prize drawings. I spoke with the coordinator of the challenge Shawn Head from the DNR who said they had almost 500 participants this year with 324 completing the required ten events and receiving prizes of hunting, fishing, and outdoor gear. The grand prize each day was a lifetime hunting and fishing license. The winners of the competitive portion of the challenge each day won a scholarship to the Junior Conservation Camp at Cedar Lakes in Ripley for ages 11-14 or the Senior Conservation Camp at Camp Caesar in Cowen for teenagers from 15-18. According to Shawn the numbers of young people taking up hunting and fishing has been declining in recent years and the Outdoor Youth Challenge is a way for young people to experience the many different aspects of the outdoors, not just hunting and fishing but hiking, bird and wildlife watching, camping and other outdoor activities.
Longbow archer Byron Ferguson was also on hand this year to entertain and amaze the crowd, his mastery of the longbow is second to none and he put on quite a show with his trick shots including shooting blindfolded and shooting lifesavers out of the air. It was amazing watching what he can do with the most primitive of archery equipment, a bow, arrows, and a leather three-finger glove release, nothing fancy and it just goes to show what practice and familiarity with your equipment can do for your accuracy. Many people gathered each day to watch his expertise with the longbow and I know I was not the only one envious of his skill with a bow and arrow.
National Hunting and Fishing Days is a great event for experienced outdoors people and those just interested in learning more about the outdoors or a particular aspect such as coyote hunting or wild game cooking. The event was not just for hunters and anglers, there was something for everyone with many exhibits focusing on bird watching, camping, boating, and hiking among others that would appeal to anyone who enjoys being outdoors in our wild and wonderful mountains.