LENOX

Some high school principals and teachers are struggling to get kids to write -- kids for whom reading and writing is of little interest; but outdoor skills are. For those kids who would rather be outdoors tramping through the woods than writing, The New England Outdoor Writer Association may have the answer.

NEOWA is offering young people in our region the chance to be recognized for their writing in its Youth Outdoor Writing Contest. According to NEOWA Secretary Ellie Horwitz, the contest was held for the first time in 2013 and was very successful in motivating students to learn, explore, and write about the many aspects of the great outdoors.

The two young women who won last year's contest are described by their teachers as having "blossomed" in both their confidence and continued motivation to write. It was also found that the contest was a perfect opportunity for teachers and parents to connect with young people about the wonders and benefits of the outdoors.

Here are the particulars:

1. The contest is open to schools in New England, and student entries must be submitted by school personnel. Individual students wishing to participate should contact a teacher or principal in their school in order to enter.

2. Submissions from students in grades 6-8 will be entered in the Junior Division; grades 9-12 will be entered in the Senior Division. Junior and Senior State Level winners will each receive $125; two New England-wide winners from the Junior and Senior levels will each receive an additional $150.

3. The written entries must be an outdoor-oriented topic and can include: hunting, fishing, boating, archery, shooting, field trials, sporting dogs, camping, woodcraft, skin diving, scuba diving, hiking, rock climbing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, wildlife watching, natural history, conservation, ecology, and similar activities that add to the knowledge and enjoyment of nature and natural resources.

4. The written work should not exceed 500 words. Student work may be edited by the student prior to entering.

5. Teachers may have students write specifically for the contest or may use work submitted by the student as part of an assignment within the normal curriculum.

6. Teachers, principals, or other school administrators are encouraged to conduct a school-wide contest in order to gather entries. School personnel may create a committee to assist with the judging. Each school may select one school winner from each division -- one from the Junior and one from the Senior division -- to submit to the NEOWA state chairperson. Each school can acknowledge its own winners at an award assembly or other recognition program.

The deadline for contest entries is February 15, 2014. Entries must be submitted in digital format via email to their NEOWA state chairperson. In Massachusetts, the chairman is Mike Roche at mikeroche3@msn.com.

Additional information can also be found on NEOWA's website: http://www.neowa.org/youthwritingcontest.html. Outdoor writer Dave Willette of North Adams and I are both members of NEOWA and will be happy to assist in any way we can.

NEOWA is made up of dedicated outdoor writers concerned about natural resources, conservation and our outdoor heritage. It is the oldest regional outdoor writers organization in America and is a nonprofit, professional and educational organization.

Incidentally, local outdoorsmen and women may recall Horwitz. Before retiring from MassWildlife she was Chief of Information and Education and ran the Becoming an Outdoorswoman program here in the Berkshires for many years.

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The 2014 hunting, sporting, fishing, and trapping licenses should be available for sale at all license vendor locations, MassWildlife District offices, the West Boylston Field Headquarters, and on the internet at MassFishHunt.org. Anyone 15 or older needs a license in order to fish in freshwater or to hunt. Be careful: It is possible to purchase either a 2013 or a 2014 license this December. Be sure to select the correct year when buying a license.

Minors 15-17 years of age may not purchase hunting or sporting licensees online, and must have certain documentation in their possession when making their license purchase at a MassWildlife District office or other license vendor location. Freshwater fishing licenses for minors aged 15-17 are free and can be obtained online.

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Dave's Sporting Goods in Pittsfield is having its Coyote Derby again this year. It will run until the end of coyote hunting season (March 8, 2014). The entrance fee is $10, and prizes will be awarded to the person who bags the most coyotes, the largest coyote and a random draw.

It is legal to hunt coyotes during the shotgun deer hunting season, but special regulations apply while hunting them: Hunting hours begin 1/2 hour before sunrise and end 1/2 hour after sunset; manual or electronic calls and dogs are prohibited, as are rifles and handguns; shotguns and muzzleloaders are permitted; and hunters must wear a minimum of 500 square inches of hunter orange on their head, chest and back. Check the abstracts for more information.

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MassWildlife reminds us that during the shotgun deer hunting season, which runs until Dec. 14, deer hunters must bring their tagged deer to a check station within 48 hours of harvest. Hunters cannot check deer online during this time period.

The information collected at the check stations provides valuable and needed information for the deer management program. Hunters trying to check a deer online will see a message that says "Sorry, there are no Harvest Reports available to you in this category."

As in past years, deer must be brought to a check station before processing it for the freezer or taxidermy. For a list of deer check stations, go to http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dfg/dfw/hunting-fishing-wildlife-watching/hunting/checkstation-map.html.

To reach Gene Chague:
Berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com,
or (413) 637-1818.