Officials with the West Virginia DNR are confident they’ll draw high numbers this weekend at the annual National Hunting and Fishing Day Celebration in Lewis County. Last year was the biggest year ever for the event aimed at celebrating the Mountain State’s hunting and fishing passion and heritage when 19,000 people attended over the course of two days.
"It is the largest outdoor oriented activity in the state of West Virginia," said Jerry Westfall who oversees planning of the event for the West Virginia DNR.
It’s the second largest National Hunting and Fishing Day event in the nation. Illinois holds the top position and should, since they draw the mass of their attendance from metropolitan Chicago.
It’s the 31st year for the event that has grown into an amazing exposition of hunting and fishing in West Virginia from some pretty humble beginnings in Upshur County.
"We’ve hosted this with the West Virginia Wildlife Federation going back to 1978 when we hosted it at the French Creek Game Farm," said Westfall. "The reason we have this is to celebrate our hunting and fishing heritage here in the state and we’re hoping to continue that tradition."
Continuing that tradition is incumbent on a new generation of hunters and anglers picking up the torch. Unfortunately in today’s society fewer and fewer youngsters are finding their way into the fields, forests, and stream banks. Many are hung up scanning a monitor rather than glassing a hillside. Others are fingering trigger buttons on a video game rather than the steel trigger of a deer rifle. This weekend, those youths will have a chance to experience a taste of the excitement of hunting and fishing.
"That is one of the main reasons, if not THE main reason we do National Hunting and Fishing Day," said Westfall. "We’re hoping to promote the recruitment and retention of young, budding hunters, fishermen, and wildlife watchers and those older individuals who have temporarily abandoned those sports."
The weekend will include opportunities for everyone from youths to adults to shoot rifles, shotguns, and muzzleloaders. There will be fly fishing and fly tying demonstrations. There will be various demonstrations of deer skinning, field dressing small game, coyote hunting, turkey calling, and an almost endless list of outdoor related activities that will hold the interest of outdoors men and women–and even those who are unfamiliar with outdoor activities.
As for the competition with the WVU/Marshall game, Westfall says he knows that will be a tough nut to crack–but isn’t worried.
"Not everybody’s going to be going to the game, and certainly folks can come out on Sunday,” said Westfall. "We’re continuing to grow this weekend and we’re continuing to actively promote the event our gate won’t be down that much."
Admission is $3.00 for adults, $1.00 for children 4-15, and ages 3 and under are admitted free.
Click HERE for a full schedule of events.