Four Oklahoma Youth Win Outdoor Getaways

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Youth from Muskogee, Owasso, Henryetta and Coweta 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 15-17 category will receive an all-expenses-paid antelope hunt in New Mexico. They were Timothy Allison of Muskogee and Hannah Stinson of Owasso. Winners in the age 11-14 category receive a scholarship to the YO Ranch Apprentice Hunter Program in Texas. They were Carson LaValley of Henryetta and Alexis Marmion of Coweta.

"I enjoy the chance to review each and every essay submitted," said Colin Berg, education supervisor for the Wildlife Department. "We always have some great stories. Oklahoma's hunting heritage is strong and these essays show that hunting is still a vital part of our culture."

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. Last year, two Oklahoma students' essays placed at the national level.

Students are not the only winners, however. Colby Cagle, 8th-12th-grade agricultural education instructor at Bethel Schools, has been awarded an all-expense-paid scholarship to attend an eight-day conservation education school at Safari Club International's American Wilderness Leadership School (AWLS) at Granite Ranch near Jackson, Wyoming. Cagle also is an Oklahoma Archery in the Schools instructor. 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.

"Each year we find that Oklahoma students step forward and reach new pinnacles of success not only through their writings and sharing of their experiences through prose, but in establishing lifelong relationships with others they meet and become acquainted with through this writing adventure," said Sam Munhollon with the Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International. "One of the more exciting developments has been the interest not only in the essay contest but wildlife management and appreciation of the outdoors by those students being home-schooled as well as those who attend more traditional schooling venues. We are very proud of the Oklahoma youth and look forward to sharing their experiences and accomplishments now and in the future."

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.