October 04, 2011

DNR selects Manchin for Sportsperson of the Year | The Beckley Register-Herald

You aren’t apt to see his picture on the cover of Sports Illustrated, but at least in West Virginia, freshman Sen. Joe Manchin is the Sportsperson of the Year in his native state.

Manchin began hunting and fishing as a youngster, and even with his more pressing Capitol Hill duties, the senator still finds time to enjoy both outings.

In a few weeks, he hopes to join Jim Justice, owner of The Greenbrier, and possibly basketball legend Jerry West, on a turkey hunt.

His outdoorsman award came during the annual West Virginia Celebration of National Hunting and Fishing Day at Stonewall Resort State Park in Lewis County.

“That was something,” Manchin, DW.Va., said Monday of the two-day event, which put a heavy emphasis on getting youngsters active in outdoor sports.

“It was just unbelievable. All the new things in hunting and fishing were there and it was all geared around hooking kids on the outdoors, teaching them archery, hunting, and how to fish.”

Manchin was chosen for the award by the state Division of Natural Resources and the West Virginia Wildlife Federation.

In his stint as governor, Manchin added some 10,000 more acres open to hunting and fishing, including 6,200 in Fayette County, along the New River Gorge, in partnership with the Nature Conservancy, according to Natural Resources Director Frank Jezioro.

Manchin also was chosen for building the first shooting ranges at Chief Logan State Park and Kumbrabow State Park, and the Clay Target Shooting Facility at Cacapon State Park.

Jezioro said the former governor approved legislation for hunting education classes in public schools as an elective; extended the archery in schools program to 248 schools; and helped the DNR acquire land on the headwaters of the Elk River, providing public access to one of the more acclaimed trout streams in the East.

Additionally, he was cited for starting the development of two of the DNR’s largest public fishing and boating access facilities, one at Fort Martin near Morgantown, and a second at Nitro, and began the annual Governors One Shot event that raised $177,000 in its first four years to aid the Hunters Helping the Hungry program.

"Since his election to the U.S. Senate, Joe has continued to serve the interests of the state’s and the nation’s hunters, anglers and trappers as a member of the Congressional Sportsman’s Caucus,” Jezioro said.

“He recently signed on to a bill that would make hunting a priority on federally owned lands, opening additional opportunities for outdoors sportsmen and women.”

Manchin uses a box call to turkey hunt and fondly recalled his lone successful hunt, when he bagged a bird some 4,000 feet up a mountain along the Grant-Pendleton county line.

“I still have the feathers in a vase,” he said.

“I’m looking forward to going turkey hunting. I just enjoy being out. It’s the most challenging of all. If you blow your nose, you lose. I love it.”

Not a fall passes that he doesn’t get in his time in another popular outdoor venture in West Virginia — the annual bucks season for deer. Since he first enjoyed the hunt, Manchin figures he has taken four or five deer.

“I really love the camaraderie of the hunt,” he said. “ If you don’t bag your animal for dinner, you still go out and watch them run around, anyway.”

In warmer months, Manchin can be spotted along favorite trout streams, plying his skills with dry and wet flies.

“Put me on a stream,” he said.  

"I’ll meet you a certain time and let me walk the stream. Fly fishing takes a little bit more patience, one thing I haven’t had a lot of. I’m trying to acquire more of that skill.”

By:  Mannix Porterfield