LITTLE ROCK – In addition to the opening of the statewide archery deer season, Sept. 23 marks National Hunting and Fishing Day, a special day to recognize hunters and anglers for their leadership in conserving America's wildlife and wild places. Join the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission as we celebrate the true heroes of North America's conservation story – hunters and anglers whose license fees and taxes pay for conservation work throughout the nation.
All AGFC nature centers and education centers as well as the AGFC's shooting range in Mayflower will be open on National Hunting and Fishing Day, and most will have special programming dedicated to the event.
"Our facilities often offer the first real exposure to the outdoors for many people," said Doug Newcomb, AGFC chief of education. "With many people growing up in cities and not being from a hunting or fishing family, a trip to a nature center may be the first step in the journey of becoming a lifelong hunter or angler."
Newcomb says all nature centers and education centers offer instruction in hunting and fishing as well as detailed information about the habitat that is vital to wildlife in Arkansas.
"We teach about everything from the invertebrates and nongame species to Arkansas's big game and waterfowl because they all fit together as a piece of the puzzle," Newcomb said. "Nearly every hunter or angler I know is an outdoors person first, and that's what we try to build through our facilities – hunters and anglers who have an appreciation for the whole picture instead of simply the one species they pursue."
One of the more popular annual events for National Hunting and Fishing Day is the marksmanship challenge at Governor Mike Huckabee Delta Rivers Nature Center in Pine Bluff. Eric Maynard, assistant chief of education for the AGFC, says the program offers school-aged participants an opportunity to try their skills at a variety of outdoor disciplines and compete for prizes.
"Anyone from 1st through 12th grade is welcome to compete in five events at the center during the challenge," Maynard said. "We'll have Olympic-style archery from our National Archery in the Schools Program, 3-D archery, a baitcasting competition, BB gun shooting and a laser shot event in the challenge. The shooters in each of four age classes with the highest combined scores will win a prize."
Maynard says he hopes to see the competition spread to other nature centers, and a version of it already has. The Fab Five competition at the AGFC's Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center in Fort Smith has become a favorite with guests and includes many of the same competitions as the marksmanship challenge. Chad Lowe, education program specialist at the nature center, says guests may compete in target casting, laser shot, BB gun shooting and archery, but also have the opportunity to try their hand at wall climbing in the Fab Five.
"We also have expanded the archery portion of our event to include 3-D archery, Olympic style archery and even a bowfishing simulation," Lowe said.
If you're looking for crafts instead of competition, the AGFC's Forrest L. Wood Crowley's Ridge Nature Center in Jonesboro may be the right destination for your National Hunting and Fishing Day experience. Lee Elkins, education program specialist, said the focus at the Jonesboro center will lean more toward conservation programming and crafts the whole family can enjoy.
In the Little Rock area, guests of the AGFC's Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center will find a wealth of information and activities to expose them to hunting and fishing. Lauren Marshall, education program specialist at the center says casting, archery, laser shot and BB gun competitions will be held beginning at 10:30 a.m., and a special round table hosted by up to 14 hunting and fishing organizations such as the Arkansas Trappers Association, Arkansas Fly Fishers and Arkansas Dog Hunters Association will be held during the day.
Although education centers typically focus more toward planned school experiences, each of the four education centers will be open for the event as well.
The Fred Berry Conservation Education Center on Crooked Creek will host a fishing derby from 9 a.m. until noon, while the Potlatch Conservation Education Center on Cook's Lake will open its waters to youth anglers and mobility-impaired anglers from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Rick Evans Grandview Prairie Conservation Education Center will open its range for a special skeet program as well as host a Hunters Education course during the day. The Ponca Elk Education Center also will be open, and will set up its new archery range and equipment during the day for guests to learn more about the challenge of shooting a bow.
for more information on AGFC nature and education centers and a calendar of each one's latest events.