The Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association holds an annual Youth Journalism Contest.
Open to all youths, 18 and under, the contest is designed to stimulate an interest in outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing, boating, camping, hiking, and most outdoor activities--and the ability to communicate this interest to the public.
This highly-popular contest attracts entrants from all over Louisiana and neighboring states, and is lauded by educators statewide as an effective youth literacy project.
The contest has three categories consisting of Senior Essay (14-18 YOA), Junior Essay (13 YOA and under), and Photography (18 YOA and under) and features cash prizes donated by the Louisiana Chapter of Safari Club International.
Awards are given in 1st through 4th place in each category, and the winning students will be recognized by LOWA at the annual conference banquet which is usually held yearly in August. Additionally, the winning entries will be published on the LOWA and LDWF websites, as well as in publications and on websites across the state.
Entries accepted from the beginning of each fall hunting season through May.
2013 LOWA Youth Journalism - Junior Essay Contest Winners
Kenneth “Kenny” Odinet, III
Bendel Gardens Country Day Homeschool
TROUT ON SOFT PLASTICS
The wind was coming 10 miles an hour out of the East, yet there were no whitecaps. It was one of the slowest weekends in Grand Isle I had ever fished. I was about to throw out my popping cork again when my dad said, “If you want, you can throw your soft plastics. Nothing’s biting so you might have some luck on that.” I then started throwing my chartreuse swim bait.
After about ten casts, I felt a large bump on the end of my line, my rod started to bend, so I set the hook on a nice 15-and-1/2 inch trout. When I got the trout in the boat, I told my brother, who despises artificial lures, “Don’t talk bad about my plastics, I just caught the first fish.” He then responded by saying, “Do it again.”
Soon, after a quick move to Fifi Island, and a couple of casts which yielded a 16-inch trout. My little brother was amazed. He replied, “Good job.” My grandfather then decided to switch to a plastic under a popping cork.
A couple of minutes later, my brother got a trout on a live shrimp, so we decided to stay. Shortly after my brother got his trout, he started singing to himself while sitting on the top of the boat motor. He didn’t notice, but my grandfather, my dad, and I were laughing at him.
After my brother caught his fish, I threw a couple of casts off the back of the boat and hooked my last trout of the day. Finally, after half an hour, my dad decided to pick up and go back to the camp.
This story makes me feel good about myself, because it was the first time I ever caught trout on artificial bait.
Zachary High School
FISHING ON THE PIER
We strolled out into the hot summer night in Grand Isle with our rods and boxes of tackle. It was half-past eleven, the air was sticky, and the smell of fish permeated through it. My dad and I came up on the empty spot to set our supplies down on the pier. Baiting out hooks with shrimp through the faint glow of the lamps, I was ready to cast off into the murky waters of the Gulf.
Soaring out a hundred yards or so, I vigilantly watched my cork bob up and down through my tired eyes for what seemed like hours. When I reeled in my line, there was only a fragment of a shrimp left on my hook; sleepily I dragged myself over to the shallow waters right up on the beach.
Once again I lazily dropped my hook in the water and had several of the smaller fish nibble on the already half-eaten shrimp. Many times I baited my line, for the fish were continually stealing the shrimp. As I would reel back in and cast out again, a family on the opposite side of the old pier was catching speckled trout like butterflies in a net. I squeezed into a tiny space next to a lady in a red hat, and I carefully watched my cork.
Still coming up empty handed, I decided to change my hook to an orange jig head. Because it was quite windy, I cast out without any bait and the probability of getting tangled in someone’s line. Suddenly, my luck greatly changed, as the brightly colored orange cork I had been watching all night disappeared underwater. Now wide awake, I reeled in my line as fast as I could and slammed the fish down on the pier to stop it from flipping and flopping all around. Hurriedly, I snatched a near towel to pry the scaly trout from my now empty hook, and held it high like a trophy for everyone to see the enormous fish.
With only one fish in the ice chest, and at least four hours of fishing well into the morning, my dad and I packed up our gear into the truck’s bed. At a quarter past three, we arrived back at the camp ready to shower up and go to bed. All in all, despite only catching one fish, we were fortunate it was a good fishing trip.
Copper Mill Elementary
CRABBING IN GRAND ISLE
It was hot and sunny day in Grand Isle, Louisiana. My mom said it was a good day to fish. We walked across the street from our camp to the beach. There were brown pelicans flying in formation overhead. On the dunes, the grass was high. The light brown sand was hot on our feet. There were gray, jagged pieces of driftwood scattered across the beach.
Before our three-hour trip south of the coast, my dad made crab fishing lines from some metal poles he got at work and some string. Dad waded out in the calm water midway from the big rocks to set the lines. I got some turkey necks from the ice chest. I tied them on the four white strings that dangling down into the water. My sister and I went on the beach to rest.
A few minutes later, we waded back out to the crab line. There were blue crabs biting the turkey necks. I took my little, white net with the brown wooden handle and carefully scooped the crabs into my net. I waded back to shore struggling against the tide with my first crab in the net. I put the crab in a big box my mom got on the shore. This was so much fun! Sometimes, it was disappointing when the crabs were too quick and swim away before I could catch them. By the end of the day though, we had caught plenty. I felt proud when we had a crab boil with some of our neighbors that night because I had helped to catch our meal.
Our Lady of Mercy School
CHIMNEY SWIFT BIRDS APPEAR TO BE MY NEIGHBORS
My family has an outdoor patio that has a free-standing chimney. Inside the chimney, there is a group of chimney swift birds. They have been living there for about three months. After about one month, they had babies.
I always hear the chimney swift birds chirping when I go outside on the patio. Sometimes I see one of the parents go out and hunt for food. When one of the parents comes back with the food, I think the babies fight to get the food. There are about 3 to 5 babies in that nest, so I think it would be hard to raise them because when it is feeding time the mom or dad has to take 3 to 4 trips. They have to teach the little ones how to fly and how to survive. Because of all these reasons I see it would be very hard to raise and take care of a bird.
I took my flashlight and looked up the chimney. I saw the family of birds. I think the birds were hungry because they were chirping so loud that I have to cover my ears. Their neck was stuck to the side of the chimney. I saw one of the parents fly out of the chimney.
Before I saw the parents come out to hunt for food, I have always wondered what they hunted for, but I know now. I did some research in a bird book. they eat an insect diet. Chimney swift birds fly high and quick in the sky when hunting for food.
I love to watch the chimney swift birds because they swoop when flying. I think they are wonderful creatures. I an glad they are my neighbors outside on my patio. I do hope that when my dad lights our fireplace, they will stick around in the wintertime!
2013 LOWA Youth Journalism - Senior Essay Contest Winners
Cedar Creek School
It was a cold morning, one of the those mornings when frost glittered on leaves and grass. The eastern horizon’s faint rays cast a dazzling show on the quiet, frozen swamp. The mirror-like sheen of the ice showed itself betwixt gaps in the towering cypress trees. At the base of several trees, steam rose slowly from in between brush and bracken. This steam issued forth from four men’s icy lips. They were barely visible in clothing that revealed no other colors than subdued hues of green and brown. Each of these men clutched at a shotgun whose barrels carefully stuck out of the twisted, dead vegetation. The steam and the gun barrels were the only two features distinguishable that gave a hint to the humans’ presence.
Under a particularly stunted and forlorn cypress tree, a smaller path of vapor drifted towards the cloudy, pink-streaked sky. It issued forth from a bush where concealed inside stood a young boy. The water reached to his shins, and he occasionally lifted his feet to keep the ice from encroaching around the rubber soles of his boots. Anticipation flooded the boy’s senses. This was his first time upon the flooded timber. The cold merely sharpened his straining eyes that searched the gloom hanging above him. His flushed, pink ears detected each distinct sound that invaded the surrounding stillness. His stiff hand grasped fore-end of the small shotgun until his knuckles turned white.
A sudden flurry of wing beats caused the concealed watchers to jump with a start. The boy looked up with sudden excitement. two dark bodies hurtled overhead with a whistling of feathers upon the cold, hard air. The light began to steadily increase as more black shapes sped past, twisting and diving through the tree-top network. Then the relative quietness was shattered by a high-pitched squeal, followed by many answering calls. It was not light enough for the boy to make out the crisp colors of one of the flying pairs. One was a mottled brown, while her mate shone with a grace of colors that seemed only fit for the courts of kings. Blues, reds, greens and majestic maroons formed a sphere around the flying body. The two travelers dropped from their airborne venture and began drifting down to an ice-free spot in the water. the boy lifted his firearm to his shoulder and fired a single shot. The beautiful shape began to fall with an increased speed to the ground, while the other changed direction and soared upward.
The boy had done it. He had achieved his dream at last of harvesting this majestic wood duck. It was at that point in the boy’s life that he knew his way of life would forever be a part of him. The hunting tradition on that day, ingrained itself into the now young man. He vowed that day to protect and honor this God-given right. He was forever changed after that day, and every chance he was given, he related his story to others so that they would be able to appreciate the time-honored tradition.
West Feliciana High School
A SLEEPLESS NIGHT; A MEMORABLE MORNING
I spent the whole night waiting for the special morning. I’d been looking forward to going squirrel hunting since my dad’s co-worker brought his dog down. I missed the first hunt and was determined to be up for this one. I got up at 6 a.m., and pulled on my camo shirt and jeans. Grabbing my camo booksack, filling it with a water bottle and shells, I ran out the door just as my brother came to hand me my 20 gauge.
Then, I stood out on the carport and waited with my brother, dad, cousin and another one of my dad’s co-workers. We heard a Dodge pull up on the gravel driveway and cross the cattle guards. Our dogs started barking like crazy at the big white crate in the back of the big, white truck. I was told to load up the truck, so I put in the guns and ammo.
After introductions, we all piled in the trucks and headed to the back of our property. Next thing I knew, Mr. Myron Tyler opened the crate and let out his squirrel dog, “Buster.” He was brown and white and had black striped resembling a tiger. As soon as he jumped out the back of the truck, his nose was in the air sniffing. Mr. Myron’s son, Mr. Wade, started to set up the remote to Buster’s collar. It tracked him by telling how far away he was and in what direction.
Soon we were off, headed to the woods. My dad and I knew where there were loads of squirrels from deer hunting in the woods for years. We trekked through the thick woods, leaves rustling and twigs snapping. After sliding under barbed-wire fences, jumping over small streams and crawling through creeks for what seemed like hours running after Buster, we finally heard a glorious noise. It was the sound of howling from Buster. My heart instantly started pounding.
I loaded my gun as they started circling a tree. We all looked up in search of a flash of fur.
“Got ’em!” yelled my cousin from the opposite side of the tree. then the smell of gun smoke filled the air as the squirrel dropped on the ground from fifteen feet up. It landed with a thud, and Buster skidded over as fast as his legs could carry him to throw it in the air and catch it again in his mouth.
Mr. Myron had to prove to Buster that every squirrel was dead by saying, “Dead Buster! Dead!” Then, Buster would drop the squirrel and whoever shot it would put it in his sack.
My dad nudged me as I was clicking my gun back on safety. “You have to be quick, get to where you can see as much of the tree as you can and shoot as soon as you see a squirrel.”
The next time we heard the sweet barking of Buster I got the first sight of it. I put the bead of my gun on its head, put the gun on fire, then yelled out, “Got ’em!” Then I squeezed the trigger.
I watched the squirrel falling out of the fork of the tree in slow motion. It finally hit the ground and along came Buster, snatching it up. My brother gave me a pat on the back. “Congratulations Couyon!” He’s been calling me that nickname since I was a little kid.
Mr. Wade handed me the rodent, and pointed out my bullet hole. “Right in the head, girl!”
More congratulations came from all the guys, then Mr. Myron pulled out a camera and told me to hold Buster and the squirrel. So I posed with my squirrel and the dog as he snapped a picture.
“I like taking pictures of people’s first squirrels,” Mr. Myron explained to me as I slipped the tree rat into my dad’s sack.
We went on for about four more hours, walking about three miles and shot seventeen squirrels. I put lead in about eleven of those seventeen, due to the fact some would get stuck in forks, and we’d have to blow them out. Other squirrels, we just all got so excited to see, we all shot at.
There was one fox squirrel in particular we came across as we came out the woods that everyone shot at at least twice, but it seemed like he just would not go down. But finally he came tumbling down out of the tree. My dad, Mr. Myron, Mr. Wade, my cousin Brennon, brother Matt, Mr. Brandon and I gathered around the big squirrel and admired all the shot we put in it.
The very last squirrel was a huge fox squirrel. As we were about to drive off, my brother spotted him sitting on a limb. He told my dad to stop and pulled out his gun, loaded it, and shot it out the limb.
After the hunt, all the guys spent time making fun of me for being the only girl there, but complimenting me on my shooting. Mr. Myron, Mr. Wade and Mr. Brandon left, along with Buster and a couple squirrels. We were left with about ten to skin. My brother and cousin taught me how while my dad was inside prepping to make squirrel stew.
I’ll never forget my first squirrel hunt, because it was then that I realized it is my favorite type of hunting, since it’s so much fun with lots of action and moving around.
Cedar Creek School
GIFT OF A KING
It all started in the early 1940s when I was only 8 years old. I was born to a poor family in southern Montana. We did not have much, and predominantly lived off the land. She was our provider and benefactor. She gave us all we needed and more. I have many vague, but fond memories of my father bringing home trophies to add to out stew pot.
My first excursion with him is as fresh in my mind as if it happened yesterday. We set out in the old grizzled farm truck towards the hazy mountains in the distance. They were barely visible as the golden streaks of a new day came over the horizon. It was a cold day, and I had every piece of clothing I owned wrapped around my body like a swollen Eqyptian mummy. When we arrived at the foothills, we parked and began to make our way up the growing incline. Snow was lightly falling, sparkling among the forlorn aspen groves. I remember it being like some strange ballet the snowflakes were performing with my father and I being the sole audience members. As we neared the top of a steep ridge, my trance was broken by the familiar bellow of the majestic bull elk or wapiti. It originated from deep within the valley below and continued to echo around the surrounding hills for what seemed like an eternity. My heart jumped into my throat and refused to go back down. I will never forget that first bugle of my nemesis and later friend.
We began our long descent through the crowded underbrush and families of trees. All of a sudden the land opened up before our eyes into a fair meadow with a sea of grass that flowed and rippled with the wind. Across this pasture several dark shapes were contrasted against the wall of white aspen trees. As the wary sun rose and breached the top of the opposite mountain, the herd of elk became easily distinguishable. At the front of them with towering antlers reaching towards the cloudy sky stood the most kingly of creatures that ever graced the Earth. He was clearly the creator of the beautiful music that we had recently experienced atop the ridge. He seemed to possess an aura of sage knowledge through many years spent ruling the mountaintops. The immense crown branching from his head was quite obviously his symbol of authority over the throngs of lesser creatures of which I felt a part.
My father and I stood awestruck and looked at each other in order to confirm we were not hallucinating, but when we looked back up, the mystical bull was gone along with his royal court. We searched the snow-covered forest for hours, but never found any sign of this regal animal. This was my first experience with the one who would, from that day forward, be know as “The King.”
Over the next 20 years I pursued the noble beast zealously, at first with my father, but later alone on the wind-stripped mountains. He haunted my every waking moment as well as my glorious dreams. Occasionally I would encounter him as a single antler flying through the brush or as a distant bugle that could not be mistaken for anything else but His own composition. Yet he forever eluded me, never presenting me with a shot. Other hunters learned of The King as well and traveled from far and wide to try their luck with the ghost of the forest. They all eventually returned home, travel-stained and weary with no tangible evidence of His existence. The others’ failed attempts only strengthened my resolve to go on with the chase.
The day of November 19, 1962, I set out once again towards the royal mountains on a crisp, clear day. I found a likely crest where the trees were evenly spaced and provided clean views of the steep slope below. I sat with my back to a lofty maple and soon drifted into a light sleep with The King on my mind. Some primitive instinct stirred me from my slumbers, and as I opened my bleary eyes, all I could see was a polished crown of antlers. I had to reassure myself that I was not still dreaming. He had come like a thief in the night and now stood a mere 30 yards away. His features were a thousand times personified from my first memories of Him. I could not help but stare for a few, breathless moments, but then I thought to my rifle curled in the crook of my arm. I slowly raised it to my shoulder and leveled it on his barrel chest. My finger went to the trigger, but I did not fire. My gun lowered from my shaking body, and I stared at my adversary. His magnificent head turned towards my unworthy form, and his deep, black eyes focused on mine. I felt something deep within me change. We understood each other. His eyes seemed endless al all-knowing, and I could not wrench myself from their gaze, nor did I want to. My stupor was broken as He ghosted through the undergrowth with only the tips of His crown showing.
After that day, I was forever changed. I finally understood why The King has come into my life. Through the tireless pursuit of him, I had learned patience, determination, and what it truly meant to live. I was 28 years old on that day and had a full life ahead of me, which I spent in pursuit of other game, living as my father had and his father before that, with the land to support and provide for me.
I an now and old man, and although I can feel time’s final kiss creeping towards me, I have never, and will never, forget the prince of the forest that taught me so much. Even now as the shadows lengthen and the sun drops below the mountains, I can sometimes hear the wonderful music of His timeless bugle in the distance.
FOURTH PLACE (tie)
Jesuit High School
CATCH ME SOMETHING, MISTER!
When people think of New Orleans, what do they think of? Great food, music, and Bourbon Street. Right? Well, when I think of New Orleans, I think of fishing in New Orleans’ City Park.
By far, bass fishing is my favorite type of fishing to do in City Park. I enjoy fishing for perch and the invasive Rio Grande cichlids, but I will not tell you why bass fishing is definitely my favorite type of fishing in City Park.
On Mardi Gras Day 2013, my friend and I decided to go to the park to fish instead of going to parades. Despite the ghastly weather forecast, we decided to stick it out. We left as about 7:30 that morning, hoping to catch the tail end of the morning bite. Once my friend and I got there, we caught a couple of bass on the first few casts. Then it was just a dry spell after that. We had walked the bank for a couple of hours scanning for fat female bass cruising the shallows looking for beds or for females already on beds, but we found none. We decided just to cast out into deeper water looking for some female bass that hadn’t moved up to spawn yet. I wound up catching one little male bass that was sitting on a bed right before a drop-off. Finally, my friend and I just decided to go back to our original spot to sit down and get a quick snack before getting back to fishing.
After we had finished out snack, we decided to stay in our original spot to fish, since we had caught a few bass there earlier in the morning. As we were fishing, a man was also fishing right next to us, and we talked to him very briefly about how the fish were biting. All three of us quickly got back to fishing.
The man walked across a bridge to an island no more than 40 feet away from where we were fishing. Right as he walked over to his spot on the island, my friend and I heard lots of splashing near where the man was fishing. The first thing I thought was, “That’s either some male ducks fighting over a female, or that’s a big bass.” Sure enough, the man walked out from the island and across the bridge with not just a big bass, but a GIANT bass. I was amazed at how big the bass was. The biggest bass I had ever seen caught before in City Park was about 5 pounds. I had recently heard that there were really big bass in City Park, but I would have never thought that I would see somebody catch one.
The man who caught it was shaking and extremely excited, because it was, by far, the biggest bass he had caught in his entire life. Shortly after he crossed the bridge with the catch, my friend and I took out our cell phones and were rapidly taking pictures of this monstrous bass. We later found out that the bass was a City Park record bass, and the man’s name was Kevin Schilling. The story of the catch was in an article in the local newspaper a few weeks later, and I was overjoyed to see that he mentioned my friend and me in the article. The bass weighed on a certified scale 9 pounds even.
That catch on Mardi Gras Day and the opportunity to catch a big one of my own is why I love bass fishing in City Park. Not many people think about fishing in a park when they think about New Orleans, but that is the first thing that always comes to my mind.
FOURTH PLACE (tie)
Baton Rouge High/LSU
Rod. Reel. Tackle and bait. Spring fishing trips in the Sportsman’s Paradise. On a Saturday morning just before Easter a couple of years ago, my dad and I went on a fishing trip to Old River. Even though I do not like waking up before dawn and loading everything up and in the boat, I jumped at the chance for a father-daughter day!
By the time we got to the landing and put the boat in the water, the sun was rising, and I knew it would be a great fishing trip. We took the short boat ride to our first fishing hole of the morning, and daddy caught a few sac-a-lait. I don’t usually put a line in the water, and that day was no exception. With a few novels in the boat to keep me occupied, I was happy to help if needed and to soak up some sun. My dad pulled in quite a few sac-a-lait that morning before we called it a day and headed home, but not before showing me a beautiful bald eagle perched high in its nest on a cypress tree.
It was the closest I’ve ever been to a bald eagle, and gave me a lot to reflect on on the way back home. Whether we happen to be a human or an eagle, we all just want to enjoy God’s bounty on Earth -- land or water. I’ve been back under that nest a few times since that Saturday, and each time I notice the changes.
On a recent trip to Old River, we noticed the eagle has enlarged the nest and had baby eagles. Watching the eagle’s nest grow and change with every passing spring and summer spent fishing has taught me that we have so much to learn from our surroundings – things that cannot be taught from any textbook.
2013 LOWA Youth Journalism - Photo Contest Winners
1st - Alligators in a south Louisiana swamp
Clay Kershaw, 13
Catholic High School
2nd - Snowy egret on a cypress stump
Clay Kershaw, 13
Catholic High School
3rd - Louisiana sunset
Ava Lemoine, 8
St. Aloysius Elementary
4th - Lizard on the hunt
Alex Kershaw, 10
Parkview Baptist School