Oklahoma youth are getting a chance this year to share their outdoor heritage to competing for an all-expense-paid outdoor getaway.

According to Colin Berg, education supervisor for the Wildlife Department, the essay contest is an ideal way for youth to show their love for the outdoors and, in the process, possibly win a vacation in the great outdoors.

“The tradition of hunting runs deep in Oklahoma,” said Berg. “Each year, when I review the youth essay submissions, I’m reminded about how important it is to pass along our heritage of hunting.”

To participate, students must be 11-17 years of age and currently enrolled in any Oklahoma school or home school. Students also must use the theme of “Hunting: Sharing the Heritage” or “Archery: What I like about Archery in the Schools and Bowhunting” or the concept of the theme to develop a descriptive essay or short story. Winners of the previous year’s contest are not eligible. Applicants must have successfully completed an Oklahoma Hunter Education course by the entry deadline, which is Nov. 18, 2011. There are two age categories — 11-14 and 15-17.

Winners in the 15-17 age category (one boy and one girl) will receive a guided antelope hunt in New Mexico, and winners in the 11-14 age category are competing for a scholarship within the Apprentice Hunter Program at the YO Ranch in Mountain Home, Texas. Safari Club International’s Apprentice Hunter Program is a unique, hands-on course designed for girls and boys aged 11-14. The program covers topics such as the history of hunting, the ethical basis of modern sport hunting, wildlife management, field identification, tracking and interpreting sign, game cooking and the SCI Sportsmen Against Hunger Program. There are three sessions — each one week long — during the summer of 2012.

“If you don’t enter, you can’t win,” Berg said.

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 Oklahoma State Chapter will reimburse trip travel expenses to New Mexico and Texas up to $500 per essay contest winner. The winning student essays will be published in the OSCSCI newsletter, “Safari Trails.” Publication qualifies the winning entries for the Outdoor Writers Association of America Youth Writing Contest. Several past national winners have come from Oklahoma. Essays may also be printed in Outdoor Oklahoma magazine.

“We have had past winners from all across the state,” Berg said. “Public school, private school and home school students can all enter.”

Two educators also will be awarded all-expenses-paid scholarships for an eight-day conservation education school at Safari Club International’s 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 that 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.

Both the essay contest rules and teacher scholarship applications are available from the Department’s Web site at http://www.wildlifedepartment.com/writingcomp.htm.

Essays and applications must be postmarked no later than Nov. 18, 2011, or delivered by Nov. 18 in person to the Department of Wildlife’s Jenks Office at 201 Aquarium Drive, Jenks. Address entries to: Essay Contest, Attn: Education Section Supervisor, ODWC Jenks Office, P.O. Box 1201, Jenks, OK 74037. Fax entries will not be accepted.

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