Four Oklahoma Youth Win Outdoor Getaways Through Writing Contest

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Four Oklahoma Youth Win Outdoor Getaways Through Writing ContestYouth from Vinita, Collinsville, Edmond and Leedey have been awarded outdoor getaways for winning an outdoor writing contest designed to help youth share their hunting heritage.

Contestants in the annual youth writing contest — sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International — chose between two different topics and submitted entries to not only share their interest in the outdoors, but also to compete for a chance at a unique outdoor trip. Topic choices included “Hunting: Sharing the Heritage” or “What I like about Archery in the Schools and Bowhunting.”

Winners in the age 11-14 category receive a scholarship to the YO Ranch Apprentice Hunter Program in Texas. They were Gibbon Simmons of Vinita and Raini Stiles of Collinsville. Winners in the age 15-17 category will receive an all-expenses-paid antelope hunt in New Mexico. They were Steven Maichak of Edmond and Randi Woodard of Leedey.

“We received entries from students across the state, and as usual there were a number of really good essays that made the selection difficult,” said Colin Berg, education supervisor for the Wildlife Department. “It is always interesting to read about how the next generation values their hunting heritage.”

The scholarship to the YO Ranch Apprentice Hunter Program and expenses for the antelope hunts are covered by the Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International with funds raised at the Chapter’s annual banquet.

The youth writing competition is designed to promote America’s hunting heritage among Oklahoma’s youth. It provides them an opportunity to express the importance of hunting in their lives and to affirm their commitment to carrying on the hunting tradition. Students use the essays or short stories to relive memorable hunts, to explain why hunting is important to them and to recognize mentors who have influenced them to grow as hunters.

The contest winners will be eligible for entry in the Norm Strung Outdoor Writers Association National Youth Essay Contest, whose winners are awarded cash prizes and scholarships.

Students are not the only winners, however. Two educators have been awarded all-expense-paid scholarships to attend an eight-day conservation education school at Safari Club International’s American Wilderness Leadership School (AWLS) at Granite Ranch near Jackson, Wyoming. They are Josh Gwartney, who teaches and coaches at Catoosa High School, and Frank Blair, who teaches at the Owasso 8th Grade Center. The AWLS program is conducted during the summer and presents an outdoor program for educators that concentrates on natural resource management. Participants learn about stream ecology, map and compass usage, fly tying, shooting sports, wildlife management, the Yellowstone ecosystem, camping, white-water rafting, educational resources, how to implement outdoor education ideas and language arts and creative writing in an outdoor setting.

The Wildlife Department and the Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International will submit the winning essays to the National Youth Writing Contest held annually by the Outdoor Writers Association of America.