Seven young writers and photographers from across the state were honored Saturday night during the annual awards banquet, the highlight of the annual Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association’s conference held this year in Gonzales.
Four more youngsters, two boys and two girls each, were honored for their exploits on the state’s waters, fields and forests in the annual Youth Hunter and Youth Fisherman contests.
Most among the seven in the 26th annual Youth Journalism Contest were previous winners. Louisiana’s members of Safari Club International sponsor YJC.
James Corley Sanders, a 13-year-old Jena High student, won the Essay category for his story about an unusual squirrel hunt with his grandfather. “Did You See That” detailed the preparations for a hunt in the bottomlands in central Louisiana, a hunt that ended with what he described as the “biggest, fattest, red fox squirrel” he’d ever seen.
What happened later was the squirrel wound up, as Sanders wrote, “ with its head stuck in the hole and the rest of his body was hanging down the tree,” a scene that brought both grandson and grandpa laughing to the point of tears.
Natchitoches 15-year-old William Morrison’s “The Plan,” judged second in Essay, struck a cord with most outdoorsman. It documented laying out a course of action to fish the pond on family land, a plan that soon broke down because of what he called “sequences,” things like getting two vehicles stuck in mudholes and troubles with a trolling motor.
The 2017 winner, Reese Blakeney, a 17-year-old from Leesville, took third place in Essay with “What Can Happen in a Few Seconds,” a near 700-word account of a kayak adventure into the “skinny” waters of Toledo Bend. The heart-stopping trip produced a lunker bass, a fish weighing 9 pounds, 12 ounces. Blakeney released the fish, just a day after coming up short in a kayak tournament on his beloved reservoir.
All three young men were previous YJC winners, and Blakeney’s 2017 winning entry about a squirrel hunt was a winner in the Outdoor Writers Association of America’s national contest.
Sanders and Morrison weren’t finished: both were honored in the age-group Photography category.
Ben Wroten, a 10-year-old of Denham Springs, won Junior Photography for his image he titled “The Flyover.”
St. Aloysius Catholic 9-year-old Hope Lemoine followed in second place with “golden Glory,” a colored image of a flower.
And, Sanders’ photo of an alligator half-in and half-out the water, “Come on in … the Water’s Fine,” finished third.
Zachary High School 14-year-old Janae D'Arensbourg won in Senior Photography with the image titled “King of Lake Martin,” a photo judges said was “clearly the best of the more than 20 photos submitted by the young photogs.”
Morrison’s “The Great White Hunter,” was judged second, and Nathan Boe, a senior at Parkview Baptist, had his photo “My Dog Jax” set in third place. Boe’s attention to detail of his retriever holding a retriever duck, set the three in this category above the rest of the submissions.
Shreveport’s Byrd High School produced the two winners in LOWA’s third Youth Angler of the Year Essay Contest, which, obviously, demanded writing, but also a photo covering a memorable fishing adventure. CCA Louisiana is the sponsor of two lifetime fishing licenses for the winners.
Mackenzie Reeves was judged the female winner for her entry about a trip with her father. Pat Reynolds is male winner after writing about a day which produced his biggest-ever bass.
Lydia Capritto, a 15-year-old girl from St. Martinville, and Cameron Dauzat, a 12-year-old boy from Effie, were applauded for taking the top places in the annual Youth Hunter of the Year Program, a joint effort by the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the Louisiana Wildlife Federation and the LOWA.
Dauzat’s story of an afternoon hunt in early December, 2017, with his father, David, on the Dewey Wills Wildlife Management Area made his entry all the better for taking game, a small buck in his story, from public lands.
Capritto, too, made her claim to the program’s top spot after taking a giant turkey — 21 pounds, 12-inch beard and 1.25-inch spurs — on a youth lottery hunt mid-March 2017 in the Atchafalaya Basin.
The program is funded by donations from the South Louisiana Branch-Quality Deer Management Association, Delta Waterfowl’s Baton Rouge Chapter, attorney Andrew Harrison, the National Wild Turkey Federation’s Louisiana Chapter, the LWF and Bowie Outfitters in Baton Rouge.
All winning photos and essays will be posted on the LOWA’s website: laoutdoorwriters.com.