The Story of an Organization and a Profession

Outdoor Writers Association of America® was organized in 1927 by a small group of writers attending the lzaak Walton League convention in Chicago. It subsequently was incorporated as a nonprofit educational and professional organization and maintains national headquarters in Missoula, Montana.

From the outset, OWAA has had four major objectives of equal importance:

  1. Acquaintanceship and communication between writers in the outdoor field, with exchange of ideas, experiences and information.
  2. Promotional and educational work to expand outdoor coverage in the nation’s media.
  3. Focusing public attention on the field of conservation.
  4. Craft improvement of its individual members.

Of the 19 original members, all were basically “writers” in a strict sense of the word — textual writers for newspapers and magazines and book publishers. Radio was in its infancy, television was unborn and photographers still used flash powder. Major emphases were on fishing, hunting and protection of the resources that made those activities possible.

Changes in the succeeding years have been both evolutionary and revolutionary. No longer is the printed word the dominant factor. Illustrative art and photography, radio, television and video outdoor programs and the lecturer’s platform are represented substantially in today’s OWAA membership.

And, in subject matter, the expansion has been broadened as developments brought more people and more activities into the scene. Concern over the environment has projected the outdoor writer into the forefront as one qualified to create an awareness on the part of the public of the need for the wise use of the outdoors. Conservation, hunting, fishing and camping remain basic, along with their allied skills and studies dealing with the enjoyment and conservation of the resources making up the vast outdoors. Among OWAA’s members are specialists in most areas; for example, firearms, recreational vehicles, tackle, boating, archery, dog training and handling, camping, hiking, backpacking, travel, wildlife and fisheries, nature studies, soils, water and forestry.

OWAA publishes Outdoors Unlimited® (bimonthly), a membership directory (annual) and other irregular publications including the Outdoor Reference Manual (2006) and the Freelancers Guide to Business Practices (2009). OWAA maintains the website The association conducts media and other surveys on behalf of its members, maintains a university scholarship program for students with outdoor writing career aspirations and holds an annual conference with workshops and clinics aimed at giving members added skills in their specific media. Also, OWAA takes an active part in national conservation affairs through committee work.

“America’s Great Outdoors” was sponsored by OWAA and edited by James Bashline and Dan Saults, with George Harrison as art director. It is a tribute to the outdoor writers, artists and photographers throughout the history of our country, portraying America’s animals, landscapes and American Indians during the 200 years of the United States. It is a book of art, history, sport, nostalgia and the story of man’s use of land and wildlife from 1776 to 1976.

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