Norm Strung Youth Writing Contest Winners


Norm Strung Contest SponsorsAbout the contest… 

Part of OWAA’s mission is to foster the next generation of outdoors communicators, and the 2008 Norm Strung Youth Writing Committee recently awarded prizes totaling $1,600, sponsored by Safari Club International, Izaak Walton League of America and Delta Waterfowl. The annual contest has categories for poetry and prose in two divisions: junior (grades 6-8) and senior (grades 9-12), and entries must be outdoors oriented and previously published in a newsletter, newspaper, magazine, literary collection, or other publication. Junior and senior poetry and prose first-place winners received $200; second-place winners received $125; and third-place winners received $75. A list of this year’s winners is published at Congratulations to the contest winners, and thank you contest sponsors! 



Spokane, Wash. 
It had been snowing all day. The friendly kind of snow. The kind that floats out of nearly blue sky with plush fluffy flakes that, no matter how fast you fly down that hill, never sting your face. You can see each individual sparkling particle as it sways on the breeze and joins the many others coating the shimmering ground; so bright it hurts your eyes. 
Twinkling ice clings to the branches of the large, exquisitely scented cedar trees, a stark contrast to the Crayola marker green of the needles. 
I sit on the chair lift, coming back up toward the lodge from my last run. 
“Are you tired?” 
I shake my head, chewing my neck warmer, and fidget in the chair. This is my last run. I have to go back in after this to the warm kid center that smells of hot chocolate, Crayons and diaper wipes. Then back to the car where I will endure a two-hour drive that to me feels like 10. 
My instructor told me no more skiing after this run. I sat quietly and worked on eating my neck warmer. I was thinking. 
At the age of 4, I knew just about everything I needed to tell people how I was feeling. I could tell her, “I want to stay out.” I could scream it; I could bawl, pout and howl, but to convince her of it, that would be too intricate, too complicated even for me. 
“I’m not tired.” I told her. 
She smiled all white sparkly teeth and sugary eyes, “But you’re frigid cold aren’t you?” 
I didn’t respond. I didn’t know that word, and I didn’t want to be wrong. I needed to explain to her that I needed one more run, just one; to enjoy the exhilarating cold that blasted my face when I went shooting down the slope, the mischievous delight that filled me when I did a hockey slide and sprayed the shimmering flakes into the air. 
I searched for the words that would explain the small tremor of fear that caused my heart to race when I took a tumble and the magnificence of just barely avoiding the crash; describe to her the swift elegant mobility that resulted from having skis on your feet; explain to her the vivacious deliciously fulfilled emotions that filled me when skiing. 
I took a deep breath and said, “The snow is pwetty. I like it.” 
“Yes it is. I like the snow, too.” 
Not the response I was hoping for. Perhaps a more direct approach would do it? 
“I want to ski mowe.” 
“Nope. You cannot go down again.” 
My lip went out as far as I could make it go, but she ignored me. 
I watched a mom duck-walk back up the hill to retrieve a fallen hat for her little boy who sat eating snow a few yards below. 
Just one more run. 
I glanced up at the top of the hill and then at the bottom. 
Just one more chair lift ride. 
I pulled my glove off my hand and inspected it, glancing back to the mother with the hat. 
One more. 
I tossed my glove over the back of the chairlift and watched it sail to the ground. 
My instructor stared at me, stuck between confusion and exasperation. “Why did you do that? Now you have to go back down and get it!”she told me with a groan. 
I didn’t speak and she raised her eyebrows at me. 
I looked back at it. My smile was so big the wind whistled through the gap in my teeth. 
SENIOR PROSE, Second Place

Ten Yards,10 Points

St. Paul, Minn. 
The November morning was chilly. It was the day after the Minnesota deer opener. Many bucks had been taken the previous day, and many more would be taken still. But this is the story of one buck, one old brute. 
There I was, sitting in a portable tree-stand, with no idea of the approaching presence. 
The sun peeked its head over the horizon, but I felt no warm touch on my back. The woods were not coming alive as usual, but something was stirring. I looked around the trees for any sign of a deer. Then something caught my vision. 
My eyes strained to see what the approaching animal could possibly be. My heart skipped a beat as it started to emerge, and all my hopes of getting a deer rested upon that moment. Then the figure of not a deer, but a turkey emerged. My heart sank. 
During the spring, that would be a welcome sight, but today it was a heartbreaker. One bird turned into several, and I watched as a whole flock of turkeys walked and pecked through the woods. It was certainly odd that the birds made no sound, no yelp or even a cluck. They were aware of something else there in those woods. I snuggled back into my seat and did a quick check over my shoulder. 
Then there, not 10 yards behind me stood a massive buck. I was totally taken off guard, and I didn’t even have time to start shaking, as I usually would. His eyes glared into mine. I could see his breath escaping his nostrils and turning white in the chill, and my breath giving off the same smoke. I knew I couldn’t move, or the game would be up. The wise words of my uncle suddenly rang through my head; don’t look them in the eyes. I quickly glanced away, and it seemed like an eternity, as he stood unmoving. 
Then slowly I heard the crunch of leaves as he crept towards my right. I turned my body and my gun to the other side of the tree, and he suddenly looked up at me with those piercing black eyes. His head jerked up more as he strained to make out what I was. 
Then a thought struck me: For all of his strength and glory, he’s just as afraid as I am. He slowly turned his massive head and trotted down the ravine. It’s over, I thought. But it wasn’t. 
Instead of running straight over the hill, out of sight, and away from my chance at a trophy, he slowed down and walked up the hill. I raised my 20 gauge and put the crosshairs of my scope behind his shoulder. I made one desperation grunt, hoping to stop him. Sure enough he stopped and looked back. A resounding bang shattered the silence, and the buck turned and ran over the hill. There I sat, trembling in my stand. 
I waited in my tree for a half hour, as is the recommended length of time. It seems fairly reasonable, but when contemplating the shot you’ve made on the buck-of-a-lifetime, it’s horrible. When the grueling half-hour was up, I climbed down from my stand, to search for blood. I walked over to where I thought the buck was standing, but the forest floor was not saturated with red liquid. In fact, there was no blood. 
I went back to the stand to try and pinpoint the position again. He was just to the right of the deadfall, I thought. So I went back to that spot, but there was still no blood. I stood there wondering why God had allowed such a magnificent animal to come by, only to have my shot fail. 
Then Paul, a family friend and person whose treestand I was sitting in, came over from his stand to help me look for blood. I told him where I thought the deer had been standing. We searched a little more, and then Paul said, “Let’s both walk along these trails on top of the ridge, and see what we can find.”
So we both started to walk. I had a feeling that our efforts would be futile, but I really hoped that somehow, my bullet had found its mark. I tried to tell myself that the buck wasn’t very big, and that it really wouldn’t be a big deal to have missed. But I knew in my heart that these were not true. 
Nevertheless, I scanned the forest floor with the same vigor I had earlier, and all of a sudden I saw it: one drop of blood. At that moment I could not believe my eyes. We looked down the hill and saw where the buck had been standing when I shot. The amount of blood was incredible. Paul said that it looked like a murder had been committed. 
I thanked God for having guided my shot, and started following the blood trail. It was fairly easy to follow, but then slowly the amount of blood started to dwindle. I was worried that we might lose it, but Paul assured me that I had hit lung. 
Just when the blood disappeared, I looked down the hill, and lo and behold, there was the animal. I could not believe it. I was so ecstatic that I almost tumbled down the hill like the buck had.
When I got to the deer, I counted its points, 10 altogether. One of the points had part of the tine broken off, proving that this buck had been in battles. I knew that this was a deer worthy of a head mount. I field dressed it, and as we were dragging the deer back to the car, I’ll never forget what Paul said.
“Take in this moment, Joe, because for the rest of your life, you’ll never forget it!”

Phoenix Tree 

Frewsburg, N.Y. 
Mother Nature’s leaved creations Are not so unlike the legendary 
phoenix; Always different, born anew, With the changing of each 
In springtime you can clearly see The buds, like new-grown 
feathers. A new life born unto the earth After the cold death of winter. 
In summer, the earth-child Has grown into its prime. Its branches green and 
spreading As it reaches toward the heavens. 
As fall comes round, the once-proud leaves Turn quick from green to golden embers. As frost kisses the living branches, The trees burn bright to ward away the cold. 
Finally winter comes, bringing 
with it The death of all things But the skeletons of the trees 
stand sentry, Waiting for spring to rise again. 

End of the Rainbow

Spokane, Wash.
As my father and I waded through the Clark Fork River, I was overwhelmed by the beauty surrounding us. The water glistened in the late afternoon sun; trees swayed in the gentle autumn breeze. 
The trip we had planned for months was coming to an end. Despite our careful preparation and diligent efforts, our fishing endeavor had proven entirely unsuccessful. We were running out of time to return home with at least a little pride. 
One only had to look into my father’s eyes to understand the severity of the situation. His determination transcended simple stubbornness and desire. Shadows stretched across the river as the sun sank lower.
Our guide asked if we wanted to call it a day. 
Neither of us even looked at him. We were not leaving until our trip proved successful. 
My father snapped the rod back and forth with the grace of a seasoned fisherman. I awkwardly emulated his actions. His patience and determination were rewarded when a jolt nearly knocked him off his feet. For at least 20 minutes he battled the fish, steering it about the river, strategically giving off line, then reeling it in.
It was evident this wasn’t just some fish, but an experienced elder whose determination matched that of my father’s. 
With labored effort Dad pressed on. The sun sank completely behind the trees that lined the banks. Except for the occasional shout of encouragement, I was useless. Finally, it appeared that my father had the upper hand as he retrieved line at an encouraging pace. With the glory of pride a mere 10 feet away, the fish suddenly changed directions, charged my father and leaped into the air.
Time seemed to stand still. The fish was massive, scarred by time. Looking at him I knew my dad could not win. My father – patient, determined, an excellent fisherman – was simply incapable of victory. 
The fish looked my dad in the eyes, spit the fly in his face and was on his way. 
Dad could only smile as we headed for the shore.
October’s Splendid Show
Warren, Pa.
Leaves of beautiful colors in varying hues,
made all the more brilliant against a backdrop of blue.
Up kicks a breeze causing some to take a flight,
some fall noisily, while others are slight.
Wild cherries hit the ground with what seems like a roar.
Chickadees and titmice flit through the trees,
some so close, you can feel the breeze.
One brave chickadee stops nearby with head askew,
uncertain of what you are, but knows that you’re new.
Crows nuthatches, and an occasional hawk,
bluejays pass through with their annoying squawk.
Chipmunks chase back and forth with a scurry,
squirrels search for food in less of a hurry.
A skunk wanders by in what seems no direction at all,
a gray fox passes through not a sound made by its footfalls.
Though darkness arrives having seen no deer,
you surely believe they had to be near.
You descend from the tree with gear in tow,
again having been privileged to a wonderful show.
Third Place

Winter’s Song

Lima, Ohio
I have a story to tell my dear,
That winter whispered in my ear
The cold wind kissed my cheek
The snow’s dances begin to speak
Of winter’s elegant dance
That gives people a chance
To lay around and relax
While the children make snow tracks
Looking at the snowflake’s design
It is so very divine
Even if it lands in your hair
The snow is just as fair
This is where my story comes to an end
In the wonderful winter wonderland

Nature’s Wonders

New London, Wis.
Picture a hunt enveloped in a cold, nipping wind. A think layer of crusty snow covers a softer, more powdery snow underneath. Snowflakes ride on subtle breezes. That’s the way the weather is supposed to behave. Now imagine the opposite. It is so sweltering that one layer of clothes is more than plenty. Refreshing breezes are the only factor that gives hope to the persistent people outdoors. This was the way the weather actually behaved on Oct. 6-7, during the youth gun hunt. 
My dad and I had a very simple schedule for late afternoon both of the days: hunt. If need be, get up early in the morning to catch deer on their way back to the bedding grounds for the day. Homework would have already been done by Saturday morning, so I had the rest of the day to focus on hunting. Little did I know that I would remember this hunt for the rest of my life. 
Temperatures climbed to above 80 degrees, reaching record highs. This was more shorts-and-T-shirt weather than layering-with-heavy-clothes weather. I didn’t have any hunting shorts or T-shirts, so I just had to throw on long pants and a long-sleeved T-shirt and make due with that. Good thing there was a breeze. Our checklist for getting ready had all of the necessities to go hunting – shotgun, shells that fit the gun, gun case, licenses and tags, binoculars, magazines for my dad to read, my crocheting bag, and candy bars. After packing all of the gear, we were off to Grandpa’s.
Once we were in our palace of a gun stand, I pulled the cuffs of my pants over my sweating knees and began to crochet. Dad looked at magazines and periodically checked the shooting lanes for deer. We have a bird feeder that hangs off the stand. Chickadees and nuthatches swarmed to steal the savory sunflower seeds. Occasionally, my dad and I heard a tap, tap, tap on the stand where a nuthatch stored a seed for harder times. Little squabbles betweenchickadees provided us with comic relief. About an hour before shooting time was over, Dad spotted a deer in a shooting lane. 
“Anna,” he whispered quickly, “there’s a deer in the shooting lane.” 
We both snatched our binoculars and glassed to see what it was. Dad had a more powerful set of binoculars, so he saw what it was first. 
“It’s a nub.” 
Sure enough, two velvet bumps between the ears classified it as a nubby or, more accurately speaking, a buck born in the spring of this year. In one more year, he would have a nice little set of antlers and not be confused with a doe. 
“Keep and eye out. He might have its mom following him,” Dad whispered. Dad’s right, I thought. I better put my crocheting away before the deer start moving. 
The nub wandered around for a little while longer, munching here and there. Without warning, he ran as fast as his little legs could carry him in a sort of loop to the other shooting lane, dashed down it, and crashed into the creek with a loud “SPLASH!” I peered behind the curtain a few seconds later to find him lying down the creek, with water making ripples showing that he had just lay down. Raising an eyebrow, I turned to Dad for a logical answer. By the look on my dad’s face, he had no idea either. 
After a few minutes, we heard some noises coming from the creek. Splash! Sploosh! Sploosh! Splash! Splash! I peered behind the curtain again. The nub was now acting tough and charging – defending what was rightly his. His opponent was that weird nub in the water, that did whatever he did, named “Reflection.” 
Does came out at the end of the shooting lane and they were looking behind him. Another deer was coming! It was getting later and later. When we were just starting to pack up, Dad glanced at the clearing. There stood a nice 2 ½-year old, 10-point buck for me. The outline was a little vague, but I could still see it. Heart pounding, I looked at my watch. Too late – it was now five minutes after legal shooting time. Sadly, we ended our day’s hunt. After seeing that buck, I was determined to get up early in the morning to try and get him. 
Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. Dad and I were walking in sync down the tracks to get to a special place. Our plan was to walk down the tracks a ways, cut into the woods, and walk to the place where a previously scouted buck supposedly cuts in to go to the bedding grounds. This seemed so simple to say, so difficult to do! It was dark enough where you couldn’t see a branch that you might trip over, but you could just barely see the outlines of the trees farther away.
A flock of turkeys flew down from their perches, making a lot of weird noises and startled both of us. Now I know what it means to have your heart in your throat! Once it was light enough to actually see something, I watched the leaves rain off the trees. Rows and rows of trees constantly shed their leaves in the wind, showering the ground with a never-ending supply. I couldn’t take my eyes away from the rain of yellow, red, and green. 
Although we didn’t harvest anything, Dad and I sure had a lot of fun hunting together. We love to be together in the outdoors, and never get bored watching nature. The experiences that we share will always be engraved in my mind. I’ve successfully harvested game on some hunts, but that is not only what makes my time outdoors memorable. A hunt just has to stand out from all the rest. And this one really did!
JUNIOR PROSE, Second Place
Breathe, Sight Picture, Squeeze
Bowanda, N.Y.
It was a brisk Saturday morning on the fifth of May this past year. I was enjoying my second spring turkey season and was eager to get some action with my new gun I had received from my grandpa for my birthday that year. I had spent many hours with him at our cabin practicing diligently, replacing target after target until I felt confident that I was locked on. My grandpa would tell me before every shot I took, “Breathe, sight picture, squeeze. Do that and you’ll be fine.” 
So we set out for some land that one of my grandfather’s friends owned in hopes to see some toms. I had been out very few times and was still new to the whole experience. I set up about 40 yards up the side of one of two hills that came together at the bottom where a small brook trickles slowly. My grandpa, another 20 yards up the hill, was calling with an array of push and box calls. We were set and ready to go. 
A glimmer shown off the shiny barrel of my new gun as the sun peeked over the horizon. Birds of all different kinds chirped as they woke and chased each other through the air to stretch their wings. Through the mask I could see several squirrels climbing a tree near me. The beauty of nature struck me dumb. I had been here before, but had never taken the time to take it all in. Even if I didn’t get a turkey, it was all worth it now.
Then, just as I adjusted my grip on my gun, it happened. From the distance, a faint, yet definitive gobble rang out. I turned to look at my grandpa who was preparing to call back with his favorite box call. That meant it was time to get serious. He waited for a minute and then returned the birds call. Several minutes passed and I thought that we had lost him. All of a sudden, there it was again, this time louder than before. I became excited, but stayed calm under the pressure. 
Forty-five minutes passed as an epic battle of call and response between the bird and my grandpa’s hands commenced. His gobbles sounded through the woods like a lion’s roar through the jungle. I made a few last adjustments and knew that he couldn’t be too far now. My blood rushed through my body at the speed of sound and I could feel my pulse in my neck, pounding faster than ever before. I managed to be scared, but happy, and nervous, but calm all at the same time. I didn’t know such a rush of emotions existed. 
Then, everything went into slow motion. I couldn’t tell you what I was thinking about during the next minute and a half. I just remember watching his head pop up over the top of the hill as he let out the loudest gobble I had ever heard. Everything I had done so far ran through my head. The sunrise, the birds and squirrels, hearing his first gobble and now hearing this one, it all came back to me. He slowly walked down the hill listening to the deafening silence of the forest during that moment. He crossed over a log and then the brook that once divided my target and myself. 
He reached the bottom where the two hills met. I noticed that I was in such awe that I had forgotten to put my gun up. He went behind a thin tree and I quickly raised my gun to my shoulder. I took a deep breath, locked on to my sight picture, and just as he looked up, squeezed ever so slowly. The butt of the gun kicked into my shoulder as I watched him drop to the ground, 35 yards down the hill. I let out a sigh of relief as my grandpa congratulated me on a job well done. We tagged it and got ready to leave. 
As I walked away I looked back over my shoulder to take one last look at the beautiful scenery behind me, and I heard my grandpa say from up ahead, “So did you remember to breathe, sight picture, squeeze?”

Summer is the Time for Camping!

Wadsworth, Ohio
This is how I live:
Shower on Mondays (these are the tired days)
Whitewater rafting on Tuesdays (level 5!)
Creeking on Wednesdays (hose off at the end)
Scuba diving on Thursdays (in the quarry)
Hiking on Fridays (up the Appalachian)
Mountain biking on Saturdays (down the Appalachian)
Canoeing on Sundays (14 miles)
And this is how I feel:
The sun shines through me and the grass ripples like an ocean,
The trees that pass by are pine and emotion,
The hills have secrets and keep them well,
Like pride in a heart that nature swells,
There is no plane to pass through these clouds,
No human shall ever be its shroud,
I will climb to the top and share it with you,
The beauty in the mountains and the moments so few.
Fish and hike and run and play,
In the heart of nature, I will always stay,
I wish to myself I had no other way.
Take off your shoes and smell the earth,
No more standing beside the warm hearth,
It’s Klondike time! Camping on the coldest day!
Oh, I wish I could stay forever, not just for today.
When you’re camping with us,
There’s no time to fuss.
Put on your jacket and get out of bed!
Let’s go rock climbing. Mind your head.
Jump out of your raft and swim in the rapids,
There’s no time for missing out on these (you won’tndrown if you bend your knees)
Listen to the creek; it speaks to you and me
It says: “From the city you will flee!”
The fairest beauty you’ll ever see,
Is living here alongside me.
But, I must leave and I must worry,
Why oh why in such a hurry?
My memories of this plane are getting old and blurry,
But now I’ve memories anew; for I have seen with you
The beauty in the mountains and the moments so few.
Shenandoah, my friend, I must delay,
For my heart is begging me to stay,Even as my mind says nay,
To this wonderful blooming day.
Shenandoah, I will dive down into your river,
Deeper, deeper until I feel a shiver.
Breathing slowly underwater, 15 feet under,
I am so happy, I worry not about blunder.
I am in my element and it is in me,
I will catch that fish, you’ll see!
Then the bell rings, my friend, and that’s my cue,
To forget everything and go camping with you,
To see the beauty in the mountains and the moments so few. 


The Perfect Day

New Hope, Pa.
Dad and I sit in a treestand, cold, but excited.
In the distance, a movement attracts my attention.
I squint my eyes and see a feeding buck,
Six points crown his head as his muscles ripple.
I raise my gun and look through the scope,
My mouth is dry, my heart is pounding.
I see his front leg and position my gun.
I take a shot and see the powdery smoke.
I pump the forestock and breathe in fall air.
Dad and I wait for an endless half-hour.
We walk to the place where I shot at the deer.
I spy some crimson blood; Dad sees it, too.
We follow the bright red trail going eastward.
Leaves crunch as we walk along and see a tuft of fur.
I approach slowly with my gun loaded and ready.
The deer is there; he’s lying dead on his side.
I’m excited and elated; so is Dad.
We give each other a warm hug and I say:
“This has been the perfect day.”
Dad slits through the fur and mist rises in the air.
Shooting a deer was exciting,
But being with my Dad was even better.

The First Grouse Hunt of The Year

Christaia Houser
Esco, Minn.
Hear the wind in the trees
See the rustling leaves
Watch your dog frisk here
and there
Feel excited and good
You’re out in the woods
It’s the first grouse hunt of the year
Strike off through the brush
Send your dog out to flush
Wait in silence for a beating of wings
There it is! Lift your gun
Take a shot, you got one!
You’re so happy you’d like to sing
There’s a bang! Two more times
Oh dear it’s five chimes
Better head for the house before dark
It’s been fun out alone
Three grouse to bring home
Your shotgun has found its mark
Hear the wind in the trees
See the rustling leaves
Watch your dog plodding by your side
Three grouse in your bag
You’re starting to drag
Homeward bound where your bed you’ll ride

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