I can't remember a time when I didn't fish, and I barely remember the days when I was too young to hunt.
Today, I owe a great deal of gratitude to people like my father -- and others -- whose patience and generosity helped me catch my first bass and harvest my first buck.
On Saturday, for the 29th consecutive year, is National Hunting and Fishing Day, a time to remember generations of sportsmen whose efforts have preserved and improved the heritage we enjoy today.
It's also a time to consider introducing a newcomer to flyfishing, archery, black powder shooting, deer hunting or perhaps sporting clays. All across the country, there will be events to honor our favorite pastimes.
Locally, there will be fishing tournaments and hunting workshops. Here are a few of the planned activities for Saturday:
ú A Children's Fishing Derby will be held at the Mayor's Fishing Hole off Lock and Dam Road near Bush Field. Call the mayor's office at 821-1831or the Richmond County Recreation Department at 796-5025 for details.
ú The Thomson district DNR office will sponsor a primitive-weapons hunting workshop. Although specifics still are being arranged, you can contact Haven Barnhill or Vic VanSant at (706) 595-4222 for details.
ú A Kids Fishing Event will be held from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the McDuffie Public Fishing Area. Kids are defined as 16 and under. For information, contact George Atrip at (706) 595-1684.
ú The Clarks Hill Striper Club will sponsor an Open Team tournament to raise money for the South Carolina Wildlife Federation's legal battle against the Corps of Engineers over Russell Dam's fish-killing turbines. The event begins at safe light at the Dorn Boat Landing in McCormick County, S.C. Entry fee is $80 per boat. Breakfast will be served at 4:30 a.m., and a $5-a-plate barbecue will follow weigh-in. Call Ed Lepley at 860-0812 for information.
ú Twin Cities BASS Masters will sponsor an MCG Toy Store Team Tournament from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Little River Marina. Proceeds will benefit MCG's Children's Center. Entry fee is $50. Call 722-8326 for information.
Aside from these planned events, remember that dove season is in. Georgia's archery season for deer opened yesterday. Squirrel season, which offers excellent opportunities for young hunters, also is open.
Fall fishing is always good, too. Bluegill are getting a little finicky, but largemouths are feeding heavily. Nothing brings a surer smile to a youngster's face than a big fish.
National Hunting and Fishing Day is also a time to remember that the hunters and anglers of our country were the ones who kicked off conservation programs almost a century ago.
Sportsmen were the first to recognize the impacts of development, habitat loss and overharvesting of fish and game.
Led by people like Teddy Roosevelt, early conservationists were the ones who called for laws to eliminate market hunting and finance state wildlife agencies that help preserve our resources today.
Remember also that hunters and anglers today provide more than 75 percent of the funding for these agencies, and remember that organizations like Ducks Unlimited, the National Wild Turkey Federation, Quail Unlimited and countless others are still around, trying to insure a secure future for our resources.
National Hunting and Fishing Day, by the way, originated in 1972, when Congress adopted the idea and then-President Nixon signed it into law that May.
By late summer of that year, all 50 governors and more than 600 mayors joined almost 3,000 sporting groups and conservation organizations in endorsing the idea.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Reach Robert Pavey at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 119.