MORGAN CITY — Eleven young writers and photographers from across Louisiana joined the boys and girls winners in the Youth Hunter and Youth Angler programs in a celebration of the state’s school-age outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen Saturday night at the awards banquet headlining the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association’s annual conference.

The 11 boys and girls were judged winners in the 2015 Youth Journalism Contest. Several among the students, who range in age from 9 to 14, have climbed the ladder after one or more years of entering essays and, or in some cases, photographs in the YJC, which has categories in Senior Essay, Junior Essay and Photography.

First-place winners Reese Blakeney, 14, of Leesville, in Senior Essay; James Corley Sanders, 10, of Trout, in Junior Essay; and, Ava Lemoine, 10, of Baton Rouge, in Photography have held places in past YJC judging.

Blakeney, a student at Blue Pine Academy, placed third in the 2014 Junior Essay Division, while Sanders was a winner in the last year’s Junior Essay and pulled a second place in Photography. Lemoine was 2014’s Photography Division winner after finishing third in 2013 and fourth in 2012.

Sanders also placed third in Photography. Another double winner was Trey Spears, 13, who was second in Junior Essay and fourth in Photography.

All youngsters received cash awards and certificates for their accomplishments. The YJC is sponsored by Louisiana members of Safari Club International, the LOWA and The Advocate.

The complete list of winners, their ages, story/photo title, school and hometown included:

  • In Senior Essay, first place, Reese Blakeney, 14, “The One that Got Away,” Blue Pine Academy, Leesville; and, second place: Bradford Morrison, 14, “Infamous Geocaching,” Christian Scholars at Home, Natchitoches;
  • In Junior Essay, first place, James Corley Sanders, 10, “A New Recipe,” Jena Junior High (Jena), Trout; second place: Trey Spears, 13, “The Last Hunt,” Sacred Heart of Jesus School, Baton Rouge; third place: Joseph “Scooter” Hayes, 11, “Scooter’s First Buck,” Avoyelles Public Charter School, Mansura; and, fourth place, Laura Purgerson, 9, “My Friend Waffles,” Our Lady of Mercy School, Baton Rouge.
  • In Photography, first place, Ava Lemoine, 10, “Grand Isle Crabs,” St. Aloysius School, Baton Rouge; second place, Robby Ferrante, 15, “Dragonfly,” St. Paul’s (Covington), Mandevillle; third place, James Corley Sanders, 10, “The Bayou,” Jena Junior High (Jena), Trout; fourth place, Trey Spears, 13, “Among the Cypresses,” Sacred Heart of Jesus School, Baton Rouge; fifth place, Julia Bauer, 9, “In the Nest,” St. Aloysius School, Baton Rouge.

The complete essays and photographs can be found on the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association’s website:

Blakeney’s “The One that Got Away” drew a judge’s praise for drawing the reader into the story. Another judge singled out this paragraph: “We had everything packed and ready to go, when I caught my grandfather smiling with a sly twinkle in his eye. “I left my coffee mug in the deer stand. Grab your rifle and come help me find it.” I smiled and laughed as I realized what he was doing. Stalling. He wanted to go back out in the woods with me one more time. I was overjoyed.”

Sanders’ “A New Recipe” left one judge, a school teacher, with the impression that he was reading someone far older than 10 from the following segment of his essay: “The kill is supposed to be the thrill but that squirrel gave me such a big laugh I just could not kill him. Perhaps that little squirrel had given me something better that an ingredient for a tasty stew, he had made Grandpa and I really laugh. Our stew would just have to be a little smaller.

“When we got home, we shared our story with Grandma. She said less squirrel, more carrots and potatoes. A good story to share is always better than a meatier stew.”

Youth hunters, anglers

The winners are a pair of 12-year-olds, Lakeland’s Mya Gravois, is the 2014 Female Youth Hunter of the year after taking a giant alligator, and William Morrison of Natchitoches the 2014 Male Youth Hunter, committee chairman David Moreland said.

The first Youth Anglers of the Year went to Lafayette 7-year-old Beatrice Long, a second- grader at Cathedral Carmel School, while the boys winner is 12-year-old Sean Turner, a home-schooled youngster from Prarieiville.