Outdoor Corner: A gemstone in the midst of rubble

Lyle Johnson
Some of the action provided on National Hunting and Fishing Day supported statewide by the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation.

Have you ever been digging around and something catches your eye? You dig through a pile to find something very unexpected and valuable. Or maybe like the TV show American Pickers, rummaging through an old storage shed to find an awesome item to add to the collection.

Every now and then that happens in life. Further, if you look hard enough through the political rubble that seems to be piling up more and more these days, there is a valuable gemstone.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries (LDWF) is one of them. To start off with, I'm not a big fan of your hard earned money being confiscated against your will and spent willy-nilly on a lot of (well, I better leave that word out) stuff that you might not like to spend it on.

But LDWF is much different. Not one penny is taken from the Louisiana taxpayers to fund all the great work they do. The LDWF funds itself from several revenue sources.

The first source is license fees. All of the fees collected from hunting and fishing licenses, permit fees, and fees collected from violators of fish and game laws go to the LDWF's annual budget. So if you don't like or choose not to participate in outdoor activities, you don't have to pay for it from your tax money.

The second source is from federal taxes collected from three funds. One of those funds follows the Wallop-Breaux bill passed in 1984. The Wallop-Breaux Amendment created the Aquatic Resources Trust Fund that provides for additional funds captured from a portion of the federal gasoline excise taxes attributable to motorboats by a formula based on boat registrations. So folks that buy gas for boats pay this tax. Again, if you don't participate, you don't pay.

The second fund was created in the Pittman-Robertson bill, officially known as the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, in 1937. To this day, it's arguably the most significant piece of conservation legislation ever.

The act puts in place a federal excise tax on firearms and ammunition. An excise tax is simply a tax you pay when you buy certain goods. When you buy firearms, ammunition, or archery equipment you pay an 11 percent tax. When you buy handguns, you pay a 10 percent tax.

As a result of the dramatic decline of wildlife in the early 1900's, the act intended to create funding for the restoration and improvement of wildlife habitat. It's a testament to just how bad things had gotten.

The revenue generated from these taxes is kept in a Wildlife Restoration Fund. The Department of Interior then distributes this money to state wildlife agencies under certain criteria. States must guarantee that license fees paid by hunters are not diverted for non-fish and game purposes.

Projects that qualify can receive federal funding for up to 75 percent of their costs, while the state is responsible for the remaining 25 percent ($3 of federal funds to $1 of state funds). Billions of dollars have passed through the Wildlife Restoration Fund, providing support for conservation, research, and hunter education across the U.S. The next time you hunt, you're seeing these taxes at work.

The third fund is due to the Dingell-Johnson Act, officially known as the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act, in 1950. It's the counterpart to the Pittman-Robertson Act for the restoration and conservation of fisheries.

Like the Pittman-Robertson Act, the Dingell-Johnson Act collects revenue from an excise tax on the sale of fishing rods, reels, lures, and artificial baits. The Department of Interior collects these funds. It's held in the Wildlife Restoration Fund and then distributed to the states.

The last two funds are distributed back to the states according to the number of hunting and fishing licenses sold. So the number of folks that choose to participate in those activities and purchase products to do so, foot the bill to ensure we have those things to do in the future.

There are a few more revenue sources so the LDWF is pretty much self-sustaining. So much so that our state legislature has taken the opportunity numerous times to rob money from the department to fund shortfalls in the state budget. That boils my blood and should boil yours as well.

Some of the budget goes to providing the public with activities at no cost. One is the National Hunting and Fishing Day. The NHFD is a national event celebrated by all 50 states on the fourth Saturday in September.  It was created in 1972 when Congress passed two bills establishing a specific day to celebrate the conservation contributions of our nation's hunters and anglers.

Forty years later, the events are still going strong. LDWF introduced its first NHFD event in 1982 at the Monroe district office. In the following years, three more locations were developed in Baton Rouge, Minden, and Woodworth. Today, more than 10,000 people statewide attend the celebrations, creating the largest public event for the department.

All four events are free. The number and types of exhibits vary at each location, but all include exhibits on management programs, shooting and fishing demonstrations, exhibits from local chapters of Ducks Unlimited, Safari Club and CCA, and supporting businesses from the local communities.

Attendees have the chance to try their skills at the shooting ranges, fishing ponds, and boating activities, as well as learn about wildlife with live animals. This year's event will take place on September 28 at the Waddill Outdoor Education Center at 4142 North Flannery Road, Baton Rouge, LA 70814 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information about this national event, visit or call 225-765-2927.

One of the other responsibilities of the LDWF is to investigate boating accidents on our waterways. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Enforcement Division is investigating a single vessel double fatality that occurred in East Baton Rouge Parish on September 5. They are currently investigating a boating incident that claimed the life of one of our own, Dustin Gore,  29, of St. Amant, along with Trent Kelly, 27, of Baton Rouge.

The agency was notified by a 23-year-old survivor of the boating incident around 5:30 p.m. on September 5. According to the woman they crashed into a tree that was in the Upper Amite River about three or four miles north of Bayou Manchac.

A Good Samaritan was able to get the woman to the Carew Harris Boat Launch where she was then transported to the Our Lady of the Lake Hospital in Baton Rouge to be treated for non-life threatening injuries.

When agents arrived to the scene they found a submerged 16-foot aluminum vessel with a 75 horsepower engine wrecked amongst a downed tree in the water. Agents found the deceased bodies of Gore and Kelly near the wrecked boat and transported them back to the boat launch. 

These folks work hard to accomplish all that they do, so kudos to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. These things happen so fast. So until next time, remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. Be safe in the outdoors and may God truly bless you!

Lyle Johnson is a free-lance writer, co-host of Ascension Outdoors TV and Curator of the Louisiana State Fish Records. He can be contacted at

Outdoor Calendar

EASL Monthly Meeting: 3rd Monday every month, East Ascension Sportsman's League meeting held at Gonzales Fire Dept on Orice Roth Rd. starting at 7 p.m. A meal served and special speaker will be in attendance.

Anything Outdoors Fall Fest:September 14 at 9 a.m. located at the KC hall 43472 Black Bayou Rd. Fundraiser for Anything Outdoor Helping Kids with food, fun, Jambalaya and rib cook off, silent auction and bands starting at 11 a.m. $5.00 entry fee. Get all the info at

National Hunting & Fishing Day: September 28 at Waddill Outdoor Education Center at 4142 North Flannery Rd Baton Rouge, LA 70814 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information about this national event, visit or call 225-765-2927.

Clean Out Your Freezer Day: Sept. 15 —1-4 p.m., at Cabela's in Gonzales; other locations throughout Capital City area. Hunters for the Hungry project. Website:

CCA Ascension Chapter Banquet: Sept. 19 —5:30 p.m., Lamar Dixon Expo Center, South St. Landry Rd., Gonzales. Tickets $74, $35 spouses, $25 youths, $650 tables. Call Nolan Reynerson 225-952-9200.

Ducks Unlimited East Ascension Banquet: Sept. 26 at 5:30 p.m. - 10:00 p.m. at the Gonzales Civic Center, 219 S. Irma Blvd. $60 in advance /$75 at the door, Couple: $100 in advance / $115 at the door, Greenwing/Youth: $25 in advance /$30 at the door, Sponsor: $285 in advance / $325 at the door. Call Paul Matherne at 504-481-0878, or Alden Gautreau at 225-235-1062.

Need an event publicized? Contact Lyle at