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Go out and celebrate National Hunting and Fishing Day on Saturday

Lynn Burkhead
Herald Democrat

It’s an annual event on the outdoors calendar, the arrival of National Hunting and Fishing Day every September.

That day arrives this weekend as the nation celebrates the 2020 version of NHF Day tomorrow on Saturday, Sept. 26.

But for a day of outdoors celebration that began in 1971 when President Richard Nixon signed National Hunting and Fishing Day into existence, this Saturday celebration in September often gets overlooked so early in the autumn season.

At least here in Texas, where there’s actually not much to do in the outdoors world. Dove season’s rush is fading as the birds move south on advancing autumn cool fronts, early teal are often long gone to the coast, deer season is still waiting in the wings, and the fishing action hasn’t reached its full autumn potential just yet.

Even so, this weekend’s NHF Day is worth noting and doing a little bit more than casting a glance towards its passage on the calendar. From actually getting out and going bird hunting or fishing, working on gear you’ll need later on this fall, or even cleaning the freezer out with a great wild game or fish dinner later that evening, there’s much to celebrate concerning America’s rich outdoors heritage.

Better yet, spend some time this weekend laying the groundwork to do what someone once did for you, working to plan a hunting or fishing adventure that a child, a spouse, or a coworker will never forget.

While it might not seem like much at the time, taking an inexperienced outdoors enthusiast out for a hunting or fishing trip can be the ticket to a lifetime of outdoors adventure. And it might even change their life in ways you can’t fully appreciate right now.

I was thinking about all of this yesterday, a day that happened to be the birthday of my youngest son Will. Now 22 years old, my little boy is a fully grown man about to graduate from Stephen F. Austin University at the end of this current semester.

And in some ways, that’s because of the hunting and fishing trips that I tried to make sure my children went on as they were growing up. From chilly mornings in duck blinds to warm spring evenings on a bass lake to cramped pickup truck campouts at deer camp, I always knew that I had to make hunting and fishing more about my kids and less about me.

Why? Because I found my own love of the outdoors world thanks to my late dad Bill, a man who never failed to get me up in the hours before dawn so that I could accompany him on various outdoor adventures.

From bass trips to rabbit hunts, my dad might have wanted to leave his talkative and inquisitive little boy at home. But I’m thankful that he never did, because those memories are the ones that I cherish the most now, some three plus years after he passed from this life on into eternity.

Because he always made sure to take me along, I found my way into a lifetime of hunting and fishing adventure across parts of this great country. Eventually, there was even a career change and a chance to make my living writing about the outdoors world and the hunting and fishing opportunities found there on the Creator’s grand canvas.

I’m hopeful that Will, his brother Zach, and his sister Katie, will all value those similar times that we spent together outdoors as they grew up. Even more so, I hope they’ll provide the fuel necessary for my three kids to take their own children on great adventures lying somewhere outside the back door.

While I can’t answer that question fully right now as they transition into the early years of adulthood, I do know that my two sons love hunting and fishing at least as much, if not more so, than I do. And I see that every time I try and pass through the garage, a spot filled as much with their outdoor gear now as it is with mine.

And in some ways, I also sense that taking my kids on outdoors adventures has helped to shape who they are and the trajectory that their lives are taking. Regularly attending our church, being active participants in our school and community, and getting outdoors every chance that we could is a part of the DNA of who they are today.

In Will’s case, his faith and love of the Creator’s world, not to mention the hunting and fishing adventure that it provides, has arguably changed his life.

Why is that? Because his choice of SFA wasn’t random. It was a result of much prayer and consideration as he pursues a degree in forestry and wildlife management at the home of Dr. James C. Kroll, the great Texas wildlife biologist known to millions as Dr. Deer.

And in deciding to head to the Pineywoods near Nacogdoches, Will’s own goal of becoming a professional wildlife biologist is well on its way to fruition. Not to mention the finding of the woman he’s soon to marry, a beautiful young lady named Ashley who loves the outdoors almost as much as he does.

As the 2020 version of National Hunting and Fishing Day gets celebrated this weekend, it might not mean much to many households across the country. But in my house in North Texas, it’s a chance to be grateful for a way of life that has paved a path forward to a career and so much more.

So, whether you get outdoors or not on this particular Saturday in September, spend some time thinking this weekend about how you can pass on a love for hunting and fishing to someone else this fall.

Because you never know, it just might change their life.