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by Gail Marsh
(September 27, 1998) Thousands of hunting and fishing enthusiasts converged on Stonewall Jackson Lake State Park Saturday for the kickoff of this year's National Hunting and Fishing Day celebration.
This is the 27th year for the two-day event, and the third one held at scenic facility just south of Weston.
"We were at the French Creek Game Farm for many years, but that was somewhat of a secluded location. Here at the state park the event has grown bigger and bigger every year," said Ron Saloky, president of the West Virginia Wildlife Federation. The federation is co-sponsor of the event, along with the state Department of Natural Resource's Wildlife Resource Section.
Games, exhibits and demonstrations were taking place all over the park grounds, including a youth fishing tournament, hot air balloon rides, live fish and snake displays and several shooting and fishing seminars. One of the favorite areas for the children was the Kids Archery Alley, an open-air tent lined with bulls-eye targets that the children could attempt to shoot with blunt arrows.
James and Kim Hawkins of Lumberport watched while their son, Zachary, 8, waited patiently in line for a chance to try his luck with the bow.
"I think an event like this is good for kids. It teaches them a little more about safety and helps to promote good sportsmanship," Hawkins said.
Hawkins said the show really has something for everyone in the family.
"It's really a myth that hunting and fishing is a guy thing. You can see that an event like this does draw a lot of women," he said.
Amy Spurgeon of Jane Lew, and her sister, Lisa Spurgeon, of Frederick, Md., said they came to the show with their dad, but both agreed there were a lot of things to see.
"We went to the deer field dressing exhibition. It was a little gruesome, but we enjoyed it. We're both interested in science so the dissection didn't bother us," Lisa Spurgeon said.
Amy Spurgeon would like to become a wildlife biologist so the celebration gave her a chance to talk with people from the DNR.
"I liked the game and fish cooking tent, too. They had alligator, deer, fish and a lot of other wild game," she said.
The visitor center at the park housed a number of educational exhibits, including one showcasing the West Virginia Hunters Education Association, Inc., a non-profit organization that promotes hunter safety.
"I had a buddy killed in 1994 in Harrison County while turkey hunting. We work to do everything we can to help save someone else from going through the pain of a hunting accident," said Danny Stonebreaker, a volunteer with the association.
According to Randy Chapman, a charter member of the association, the group works together with the DNR to make hunter safety classes available for anyone who would like to take them. The members raise funds to provide classroom space, equipment and supplies for the state-sponsored hunter safety program.
"We're coming up on the most dangerous months in the woods. So far this year the state has had the safest hunting season on record, and we hope to help keep it that way," Chapman said.
The celebration continues today with a UKC Beagle hunt, a bird dog demonstration, Bass youth casting contest and a turkey calling seminar among the approximately 50 events. John Satterwhite, former Olympic shooting star, will close out the day at 5 p.m. with a shotgun shooting demonstration.
Stonewall Jackson Lake State Park is located just off exit 91 of Interstate-79.