As I sat down to type this week's column, I experienced a sort of calendar shock. It's a situation that happens every year about this time, when the first of September and Labor Day weekend loom large on the horizon.
Summer is my favorite time of year by far, and each one seems to slip by faster than the one before, especially since I never seem to get as much done as I planned to. And because the beginning of September and Labor Day usher in the unofficial end of many summer activities, I always look forward to those dates with some mixed emotion. But the cycle of the seasons is inevitable, so it is far better to accept the transition than to fret about it.
Of course, each change of season also brings new opportunities, and turning the calendar page to Sept. this coming Saturday will mark the beginning of two early hunting seasons. Both the dove and early Canada goose seasons begin on September 1 as usual and offer wing-shooting enthusiasts a chance to go afield and test their skills on agile, fast-flying mourning doves or the big and elusive Canada geese. The daily limit for doves is 15, while hunters may take eight geese per day during the early season. Those generous bag limits have the potential to produce lots of shooting action for hunters who happen to know a hot spot for either of those great game birds.
One of my personal traditions for Labor Day weekend includes attending the annual ox roast at the Blair County Game, Fish and Forestry Association. This year will mark the 74th installment of the event, which will be on Sunday and Monday, Sept. 2 and 3 starting at 10 a.m. each day, and the public is cordially invited to attend all the festivities.
I typically spend most of my time at the various shooting ranges where I always meet some old friends and make a few new ones in the process. And there are certainly plenty of shooting opportunities at the club, including 3-D archery, trapshooting, running deer, bowling pin and novelty shoot, kids games, bottle cap shoot, a World War II vintage rifle shoot, a .22-caliber shooting gallery and more. A field day shoot will be held on Labor Day.
Other activities throughout the weekend will include hayrides, arts and crafts vendors, a sportsman's flea market and a gun show, which is a new addition this year. Of course, there will be plenty of great food available featuring the club's signature ox roast sandwiches.
The club is located about three miles north of Altoona on 301 Riggles Gap Sportsmen Road. Visit the club website at www.blaircountygame.com for a map and directions or call their lodge at 942-8522 for more information.
The Blair County Game, Fish and Forestry Association is just one of many fine sportsmen's clubs here in our area. Each of these organizations does much to preserve and promote our outdoor traditions at the all-important grassroots level, and those efforts are accomplished at most clubs largely via an often small but dedicated group of volunteers. One of the greatest services local sportsmen's clubs provide is a place to shoot.
Be it archery, rifle, shotgun or handgun, most clubs maintain some combination of shooting ranges for their members' use and often the general public as well. This is important because the so-called liberal segment of the political spectrum continues to do all it can to erode our Second Amendment rights. By the imposition of extreme restrictions and regulations, they have made the establishment of almost any kind of a new shooting range a near impossibility.
Local sportsmen's clubs also provide the facilities and instructors for many worthwhile educational and outreach programs such as hunter safety courses, self-defense, youth field days and more. Clubs that have a stream or pond on their property often hold youth fishing events, and a few actually raise trout as part of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission's co-op nursery program. Those fish are then stocked in waterways open to public fishing for the benefit of all anglers. Some clubs also make their facilities available for general social functions such as class reunions or wedding receptions.
For all these reasons and many more, I would encourage everyone who enjoys the outdoor and shooting sports to support their local sportsmen's clubs whenever possible, especially their fundraising efforts. Those dollars often do a lot of good so close to home.