The roots of hunting and fishing in the Mountain state run deep. Those roots are set to be celebrated this weekend at the Stonewall Jackson Lake State Park.
"We’ve been doing this for about 30 years," said DNR Biologist Scott Warner. "This actually began when Rockefeller was governor. He proclaimed the fourth weekend in September as the official National Hunting and Fishing Day weekend for West Virginia."
The National Hunting and Fishing Day Celebration was actually a day set aside by Congress to recognize the enjoyment and widespread participation in hunting and fishing across the United States. It also serves to recognize the contribution outdoors men make to conservation of the country’s natural resources.
Most states use a big get together to mark the event, but West Virginia does it up bigger than most. The enormous celebration covers all of Stonewall Jackson Lake State Park and Stonewall Jackson Resort with a variety of activities for the entire family. It started as a fairly modest event at the West Virginia Wildlife Center in French Creek, but moved to Stonewall to accommodate it’s vast growth in the late 1990’s.
"We are actually the second largest National Hunting and Fishing Day in the nation attracting over 20,000 people. We’re second only to Illinois, and they’ve got a few more people to pull from," Warner said.
The celebration includes demonstrations on archery, shotguns, rifles, muzzle loaders, and all forms of fishing.
"We design this program as a fun, family event," Warner said. "We’re trying to get people to get excited about the upcoming hunting season or maybe fishing in West Virginia. We’ve developed activities that people of all sizes and ages can participate in. It’s a family fun activity."
Additionally more than 100 vendors will have booths set up to sell hunting and fishing gear. There are periodic seminars on everything from bass fishing to coyote calling.
"The coyote calling is always a big draw. I urge you to get there early for that. There won’t be an empty seat," Warner said.
World renown longbow archer Byron Ferguson will also put on shooting demonstrations that defy logic. Along with several other well known national figures.
Hunger won’t be a problem as the DNR has incorporated a new event that involves gourmet chefs from around West Virginia to prepare wild game "gourmet style."
The event runs Saturday and Sunday at Stonewall Jackson Lake State Park, off the Roanoke exit of I-79 in Lewis County.
Photo courtesy of Byron Ferguson