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Teachers and students eligible to win great outdoor prizes

Tucked away in elementary schools and high schools all across Oklahoma are knowledgeable teachers and talented students who are keenly aware of the importance of our stateís outdoor heritage.

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) and Oklahoma Station Chapter Safari Club International (OSCSCI) are looking to reward the top students and teacher through a youth writing contest and a conservation education leadership scholarship for teachers.

"We have some great teachers and students across the state, and this contest is designed to recognize those who excel," said David Warren, information and education chief for the Wildlife Department. "Oklahoma has a rich hunting heritage and the theme of the contest is Hunting: Sharing the Heritage."

Students aged 11-17 are eligible to enter the competition, added Warren. Two (one boy and one girl) winning essays will be selected in an 11-14-age category, and two (one boy and one girl) winners will also be selected from youth aged 15-17.

Students in the 11-14 age category are competing for an all expense paid trip to the Apprentice Hunter Program at the YO Ranch in Mountain Home Texas. The Safari Club Internationalís Apprentice Huntersí Program is a unique, hands-on experience which covers a wide range of topics including; the history of hunting, the ethical basis of modern sport hunting, wildlife management, field identification, and wild game cooking. There are three sessions, each one-week long, during the summer of 2004. The Oklahoma Station Chapter Safari Club International will provide travel reimbursements to attend the weeklong course.

Winners in the 15-17-age category will receive an all-expense-paid guided antelope hunt in New Mexico. Winners in this category must comply with all requirements of New Mexico game laws for the 2004 hunting season. Funding for the trips is provided by the Oklahoma Station Chapter Safari Club International.

The four statewide winners and their legal guardians will be invited to Oklahoma City to attend an awards ceremony in March. In addition, the top 25 essay entrants will receive a one-year youth membership to Safari Club International. The winning student essays will be published in the OSCSCI newsletter Safari Trails. Publication qualifies the winning entries for the National Youth Writing Contest sponsored by the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Several past winners have come from Oklahoma.

Students arenít the only ones eligible to win. A conservation education scholarship is also available for educators. One teacher will be awarded an all-expenses-paid scholarship for an eight-day conservation education school at Safari Club Internationalís American Wilderness Leadership School (AWLS) at Granite Ranch near Jackson, Wyoming.

The AWLS program is conducted during the summer and presents an outdoor program for educators, which concentrates on natural resource management. Participants learn about stream ecology, map and compass, language arts and creative writing in an outdoor setting, fly tying, shooting sports, wildlife management, the Yellowstone ecosystem, camping, white-water rafting, educational resources and how to implement outdoor education ideas. Lodging, meals and training materials will be provided by Oklahoma Station Chapter Safari Club International. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation will cover transportation to Jackson, Wyoming.

Both the essay contest rules and scholarship applications are available from the Department's Web site www.wildlifedepartment.com/out_ed.htm.  Essays and applications must be postmarked no later than Nov. 14, 2003 or delivered by 5:00 p.m. Nov. 14, 2003 in person to the Department of Wildlifeís Jenks Office at 201 Aquarium Drive, in Jenks. Address entries to: Essay Contest, Education Section Supervisor, ODWC Jenks Office, PO Box 1201, Jenks, OK 74037.

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