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Celebrate great outdoors.

Byline: Rick Eggleston

COLUMN: OUTDOORS

If it's been some time since you fired that old .22 or tried out your fishing gear, this is perhaps the weekend to dust off one - or both - and get reacquainted with the great outdoors.

After all, National Hunting and Fishing Day comes but once a year. This year's 37th annual celebration is officially on Saturday, although many sportsmen's organizations and state agencies will conduct events on Sunday as well.

For the uninitiated, National Hunting and Fishing Day was formalized by Congress in 1971 as a way to support and recognize hunters, anglers and conservation, and as a way to introduce the public to the outdoors.

"The key message behind this day is that conservation succeeds only because of America's 34 million hunters and anglers," said day coordinator Denise Wagner, adding that Massachusetts's 472,000 hunters and anglers spent more than $843 million on hunting and fishing last year. "The nationwide celebration is enjoying growth in enthusiasm and participation."

The Leominster Sportsmen's Association will hold a firearm and archery education camp from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, rain or shine, at the group's Camp Bartlett headquarters, 1455 Elm St., Leominster.

"We do it as a way to introduce the sport to people and kids, and instill gun safety," said LSA vice president Art O'Leary, who is running the event along with several volunteers. "We'll have various experts and coaches on site providing safety and handling instructions for specific guns - shotguns, pistols, .22s and black powder rifles."

Participants also will have the opportunity to shoot or pull back on a bow or go fishing at Club Pond.

It's no coincidence that the event is being held on National Hunting and Fishing Day.

"This is our fifth year doing it on National Hunting and Fishing Day," O'Leary said. "The main purpose is to pass on the tradition to the next generation and to introduce the sport to people who haven't been to a sportsmen's club before. Many places are into the competition of (shooting), but we take a more laidback, informal approach. We just want people to come, learn about gun safety, and have a good time."

While the folks at the LSA will do their part on Saturday, an even bigger event is slated from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday - the 12th annual Massachusetts Outdoor Expo for Families, otherwise known as the Big MOE. Best of all, it's free.

Big MOE returns to the expansive grounds of the Hamilton Rod and Gun Club off New Boston Road in Sturbridge, and features a huge variety of family-friendly outdoor activities, including firearm and archery target shooting, decoy making, fishing, kayaking, wildlife and forestry demonstrations, and a rock-climbing wall. The Facts About Wildlife and Nature Society, MassWildlife and the Worcester County League of Sportsmen Clubs are among the event's main sponsors.

"We had between 5,000 to 7,000 people attend last year, and expect at least that amount again this year if the weather cooperates," said Pete Mirick of the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. "We are determined to keep this event as noncommercial as possible. There is no other free family event like this."

According to Mirick, Gov. Deval Patrick signed a proclamation Wednesday tabbing it Outdoor Recreation Weekend in the state.

Eat duck, etc., tonight

Everything from wild boar to pheasant will be on the menu tonight at the inaugural Bass Pro Shops Outdoors Night and Game Sampling at Carrington Hall in Castellana's on Harding Street in Worcester.

The event kicks off at 6 p.m., with a portion of the $20 admission fee benefiting the UMass Cancer Foundation for prostate research and scholarship programs for the HourGlass Foundation. Bass Pro Shops representatives will also be on hand to conduct various fishing and hunting demonstrations. To reserve a spot, call (508) 757-5575.

Duck stamps get results

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service purchased more than 91 acres along the Assabet River in Stow, according to Libby Herland, manager of the Eastern Massachusetts National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

The land, purchased from the Sudbury Valley Trustees, will be managed as part of the 2,230-acre Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge. It includes 13 marsh and swamp parcels from White Pond Road to Gleasondale. Some of the parcels front Track Road, part of the Assabet River Rail Trail in Stow, Herland said.

"These areas along the river teem with wildlife, and I am thrilled that they will be permanently protected as part of the Assabet Refuge," Herland said. "They are actually the first acres we've added to the refuge along the river."

The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission approved using $125,000 from the federal Migratory Bird Conservation Fund to purchase this land in September 2007. The primary source of revenue for the fund came from the sale of Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps, which waterfowl hunters are required to purchase.

This is the first use of so-called "duck stamp money" to purchase lands at the Assabet River refuge.

Rick Eggleston can be reached by email at telegramoutdoors@yahoo.com.
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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Sep 25, 2008
Words:850
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