Too often, perhaps, hunters and fishermen are seen in the wrong light by ultra-conservationists and wildlife preservationists, who view the killing of game or the catching of fish as dubious activities at best.
But those among us who neither hunt nor fish but enjoy nonconsumptive pastimes out of doors such as wildlife photography, wilderness hikes or watching a trout feed in a cold mountain stream should understand there are sides to hunting and fishing that should be noted and appreciated.
In Maryland last year, the state's 149,291 paid hunting license holders contributed $4,105,202 to fund wildlife conservation, education and safety programs run by the Department of Natural Resources or volunteers under its guidance.
The state's 530,952 paid fishing license holders contributed $4,834,716 to similar programs for aquatic life and activities.
DNR programs also received $4.3 million from excise taxes paid on hunting, fishing and boating supplies purchased.
Those funds provide for scientific investigation, conservation, protection and management of wildlife. Those funds also pay for the education of new hunters in the hope of ensuring that once in the field they will be safe and ethical.
Hunting and fishing also contribute to the state and local economy in the tune of millions of dollars spent to travel to and stay where the fish and game are.
If 530,952 licensed fishermen spend only $100 a season to get to and from their fishing holes, that's $5.3 million pumped into the economy. If the state's hunters do likewise, that's another $1.5 million moving through service stations, restaurants and convenience stores.
State and federal matching funds generated by the sale of hunting and fishing licenses and gear have played a key part in Maryland's restoration of the wild turkey to all counties in the state.
Rockfish are back, in part, because of funding from sportfishermen.
Each spring, when DNR stocks trout, the sale of state trout stamps funds the program.
Saturday is National Hunting and Fishing Day, a celebration to recognize hunters and fishermen for their support of wildlife conservation.
In Maryland, sportsmen's groups and DNR have activities scheduled from tomorrow night through Sunday, including the following:
* Allegany-Garrett County Sportsman's Association and DNR fishing and hunting displays at the Wal-Mart in LaVale, Allegany County, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, call (301) 777-2136.
* Washington County Federation of Sportsmen and DNR wildlife display and information center, Valley Mall, Hagerstown, Washington County, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday.
* Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, Prince George's County, and Meade Natural Heritage Association, program to introduce prospective hunters and anglers to conservation, wildlife management, ethics and safety, with an emphasis on youths. Advance registration required for youth classes. Also demonstrations on fly-tying and casting and exhibits by National Wild Turkey Federation, Ducks Unlimited, Quail Unlimited, DNR and other groups. Sunday only.
* Hashawa Environmental Center, Carroll County, second annual Hunting and Fishing Expo. Fly-casting, gun dog demonstrations, archery, black powder shooting, bass fishing, kids contests, hay rides, etc. Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
* Hopkins Game Farm, Turners Creek Road, Kennedyville. Demonstrations of muzzleloaders, archery, .22 rifles, fly fishing, field trials, sporting clays. Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call (410) 348-5287.