Excellence In Craft

The EIC Award recognizes excellence within various categories of outdoor related communications and has been held continuously since 1945. Member entries for the competition are anonymously judged by members of other Outdoor Writers Associations.

LOWA membership includes newspaper and magazine writers, editors, columnists, photographers, radio and television broadcast journalists, wildlife artists, internet journalists, book authors, videographers and public relations specialists. The recent contest saw 17 members compete, in six different categories, with 61 various entries being presented to the judges for consideration!

LOWA would like to thank the following EIC sponsors for their continued support of the contest: The National Wild Turkey Federation, Louisiana Sportsman Magazine, the Louisiana Wildlife & Fisheries Foundation, the Louisiana Association of Professional Biologists and the Louisiana Charter Boat Association.

Magazine Short Feature (less than 1000 words)
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Magazine Regular Feature (greater than 1000 words)
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Newspaper
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Broadcast (Radio or Television, any length)
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Electronic
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Photo
1st – Donna Bush – Catch Of The Day
2nd – Donna Bush – Mothers Love
3rd – John Flores – Ducks

Magazine Short Feature (less than 1000 words)
1st – Chris Holmes: October Means Prime Kayak Time
2nd – Chris Holmes: Exotic ‘Yak Trips
3rd – Terry Jones: The Great Deer Comeback in Louisiana

Magazine Regular Feature (greater than 1000 words)
1st – Wendy Billiot: Big Sky Ranch
2nd – Steve McNemar: A Right of Passage
3rd – John Flores: Hunting with the Carver

Newspaper
1st – Chris Holmes: The Traveling Sportsman
2nd – Lyle Johnson: The Lowly Goo
3rd – Glynn Harris: A Giant of a Man Has Fallen

Broadcast (Radio or Television, any length)
1st – Don Dubuc, Martha Spencer, Chris LeCoq: Wild About Hogs
2nd – Chris LeCoq: In Times of Disaster, Search for Opportunity
3rd – Gary Rispone: Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo 2017

Electronic
1st – Kinny Haddox: A Long-Standing Friend
2nd – Chris LeCoq: Monster Missouri Bucks
3rd – Wendy Billiot: Swamp Things, The Wild Side of Maurepas Swamp

Photo
1st – Chris Holmes: Jumping Sailfish
2nd – Chris Holmes: Lava Hike
3rd – John Flores: The Color of Spring

Magazine Short Feature (less than 1000 words)

1st – John Flores: Jack

2nd – Terry Jones: The Wild Girl of Catahoula

3rd – Goosie Guice: The Hunting Camp

Magazine Regular Feature (greater than 1000 words)

1st – John Flores: Senior Day

2nd – Kinny Haddox: Arresting Approach

3rd – Kinny Haddox: Where’s Waldo?

Newspaper

1st – Chris Holmes: Gobble Gobble

2nd – Keith Lusher: A Kid Again

3rd – Terry Jones

Broadcast (Radio or Television, of any length)

1st – Chris LeCoq, Gary Rispone: Paradise Louisiana, Louisiana Coastal Master Plan

2nd – Chris LeCoq, Don Dubuc: Paradise Louisiana – Alaska Cajun Invasion 2016

3rd – Don Dubuc: Don’s Turkey Bit

Electronic

1st – Don Dubuc: The Saint Hokie Turkey

2nd – Kinny Haddox: One Writer’s Best Bassmaster Classic Memory

3rd – John Flores: Platte Bayou Rookeries Are Things That Matter

Photo

1st – Donna Bush: Bear Eating Salmon

2nd – John Manion: Teal Preseason

3rd – John Flores: Close Encounter of the Bird Kind

Magazine Short Feature (less than 1000 words)

1st – Wendy Billiot: Muscadine – Fruit of the Vine

2nd – John Flores: Rabbit and Squirrel Hunting Basics – 101 and 103

3rd – Terry Jones: The Chase Hunters

Magazine Regular Feature (greater than 1000 words)

1st John Flores Making Good on a Childhood Memory

2nd Terry Jones The Other Rut

3rd John Flores Jewel of the Flyway

Newspaper

1st Keith Lusher A Lesson Learned

2nd Chris Holmes Catfish Everdeen

3rd Wendy Billiot For the Birds

Broadcast (Radio or Television, of any length)

1st – Chris LeCoq: Paradise Louisiana – Reflections on the 10 Year Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

2nd – Don Dubuc, Wendy Billiot, Lyle Johnson: Hunt Fish Talk 08-15-15

3rd – Don Dubuc, Wendy Billiot, Lyle Johnson: Hunt Fish Talk 12-19-15

Electronic

1s – Wendy Billiot: Farm Alligator Returns

2nd – Wendy Billiot: Vibrio

3rd – John Flores: Youth Hunter Makes Most of Final Chance for Spring Turkey

Book

1st – Wendy Billiot: Regret the Egret

2nd – Ben Dupree: A Dying Way of Life

3rd – Ben Dupree – A Bit of Smoke

Photo

1st – Donna Bush: Catch of the Day

2nd – John Flores: It Pays to Have A Good Friend

3rd – Chris Holmes: Mississippi Cat Yakin’

Fish Of The Year Award

The top Angler in the Rod & Reel Division is Drew Michael Dubuc of Metairie. Dubuc caught a 33.90 lb. Striped Bass in Lake Catherine that ranks in 6th place in the state record book!

In the Fly Fishing Division, Charles Miller of New Orleans took home the award. Miller was presented the award for his feat of landing a 3.98 lb. White Bass caught in the Pearl River – and currently qualifies for a new state record.

An Honorable Mention was awarded in the Rod & Reel Division. Brian Neil from Metairie landed a whopping 213.5 lb. Big Eye Tuna caught at the Mississippi Canyon and is currently ranked in 1st place in the state record book.

An Honorable Mention was also awarded in the Fly Fishing Division for Dustin Semar of Lake Charles who reeled in a 6.66 lb. Bowfin in Cameron Prairie NWR, a new state record.

The winner of the Rod & Reel Division is Chris Legrand of Slidell, Louisiana. Legrand’s 140.00 pound Greater Amberjack was caught on the Horseshoe Lump out of Venice Louisiana, and is the new 1st Place record.

The winner of the Fly Fishing Division was Michael Clark of Hanahan, South Carolina. Clark won the Fly division for his feat of landing a 9.66 lb. Sheepshead caught at the MRGO. Clark’s fish is also a new 1st place record.

Two anglers were recognized in the Rod & Reel Division; Timothy Delaney of Dry Prong, Louisiana for a 1.83 pound Bluegill caught in Iatt Lake – a new state record. Kyle Boyd of Magnolia, Texas, received an Honorable Mention award for his 239 pound Yellowfin Tuna caught out of Grand Isle. Delaney attended the Awards Banquet and told the story of his award-winning catch.

In the Fly Fishing Division, Pete Cooper Jr. of Broussard, Louisiana, was awarded for his feat of landing a 3.79 pound Flounder – caught at Rockefeller Refuge. Cooper, a former member of LOWA and active fly fisherman, unfortunately passed away earlier in 2016; his plaque was sent to his family.

Two anglers were recognized in the Rod & Reel DivisionTim Champagne of Lafayette along with David Prevost of Schriever. Champagne’s 18.63 pound Gray Snapper (Mangrove) caught in Ship Shoal is not only a new state record but also qualified for a new IGFA World Record. Prevost’s 246.63 Tarpon caught in the West Delta also qualified for a new state record. Both Anglers will receive the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association 2015 Fish of the Year Award.

In the Fly Fishing Division, Victor Tedesco of Houma, Louisiana was presented the award for his feat of landing a new 1st place, 46.04 pound Alligator Gar caught off FiFi Island, near Grand Isle.

Youth Journalism Contest

Young writers and photographers have until 5 pm, June 30, to submit entries for the Louisiana Outdoor Writers’ Association’s annual Youth Journalism Contest.

There are two writing divisions: Junior Essay is open to boys and girls ages 7-13; Senior Essay is for writers ages 14-18.

Essays must be an original, unpublished writing about a personal experience while hunting, fishing, boating, camping, hiking or other related outdoor activity.
Essays must be 300 – 1,000 words long, and must be typed, preferably with double-spaced lines.

The Photography Division includes boys and girls ages 7-18.

  • Photos must be an original, unpublished black-and-white or color photo.
  • Submitted photos must be sized 4×6 inches, 5×7 inches or 8×10 inches.
  • Submitted photos must be center-mounted on an 8×10 inches board.

Each entry must have name, age, school, home address and home telephone number attached at the top of the essay or photo. If possible, please furnish an email address.

The top three and honorable mentions in each category receive cash prizes. Winners will be honored at the annual LOWA convention banquet.

The contest is sponsored by the Louisiana Chapter of Safari Club International with support from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

Send all contest entries to:
Joe Macaluso
Advocate Outdoors
P.O. Box 588
Baton Rouge, LA 70821
ATTN: LOWA

Essay

1st – James Corley Sanders, age 13, Did You See That?

2nd – William Morrison, age 15, The Plan

3rd – Reese Blakeney, age 17, What Can Happen In A Few Seconds

Junior Photography

1st – Ben Wroten, age 10, The Flyover

2nd – Hope Lemoine, age 9, Golden Glory

3rd – James Corley Sanders, age 13, Come on in…The Water’s Fine

Senior Photography

1st – Janae D’Arensbourg, age 14, King of Lake Martin

2nd – William Morrison, age 15, The Egret

3rd – Nathan Boe, age 18, My Dog Jax

ESSAY

SENIOR PHOTOGRAPHY

1st – Robby Ferrante, age 17, Splendor In November

2nd – Bradford Morrison, age 16, Osprey Home Improvement

3rd – William Morrison, age 14, Little Bird

JUNIOR PHOTOGRAPHY

1st – Ben Wroten, age 9, In the Tall Grass

2nd – Hope Lemoine, age 8, Suppertime

3rd – James Corley Sanders, age 12, Gone Fishing

Youth Hunter Award

Youth Hunter Award

The Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association (LOWA) previously partnered with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Wildlife Division Deer Program on a program for anyone 15 years of age or younger. Participating youth received a certificate recognizing their hunting achievement and efforts to keep the hunting tradition alive in the Bayou State.

The program goal was collection of stories and photos of youth hunting activities. All hunting activities qualify including small game, waterfowl, deer, turkey, and hogs, etc. The contest required submission of a story about a hunting experience along with photographs of the hunt.

The Youth Hunter of the Year program was made possible by generous donations from South LA Branch of the Quality Deer Management Association, the Baton Rouge Chapter of Delta Waterfowl, Andrew Harrison with Harrison Law, LLC, the Louisiana Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation and Bowie Outfitters in Baton Rouge.

Lydia Capritto of St. Martinville and Cameron Dauzat of Effie were selected as the 2017 Louisiana Female and Male Youth Hunters of the Year.

Lydia Capritto, age 15, harvested a 21-pound turkey that featured a 12-inch beard and 1.25 inch spurs. She took the bird on March 18, 2017, in the Atchafalaya Basin during Louisiana’s youth turkey hunt weekend. “This was the most memorable youth weekend for me as I celebrated (the take) of a 21-pound turkey,’’ Capritto said. “This would be my last youth hunt with my father. Only four days later I turned 16, so it was bittersweet.’’

Cameron Dauzat, age 12 and from Effie, took a small buck on an afternoon hunt with his father, David, on Dec. 8, 2017, at Dewey W. Wills Wildlife Management Area in central Louisiana. What made the hunt even better, Cameron said, was that his father also harvested a deer; “We couldn’t believe it, two deer in one hunt. This was incredible and very rare. It really means a lot to me to kill a deer in the wild. But to kill two in one hunt is so special. It was worth all the time we spent scouting and sitting on the cold ground waiting for deer.’’

Kindal Tonn of Lacassine and Seth Gottardi of Slidell were selected as the 2016 Louisiana Female and Male Youth Hunters of the Year.

Kindal Tonn, age 13, harvested a spike deer while taking part in a management hunt at Bamberger Ranch in Johnson City, Texas, February 2016. Tonn used a youth .243 rifle to take the deer. She was one of 10 kids on the hunt and the only female.

“I was the only girl on the hunt that weekend,’’ Tonn said. “That made me nervous but I made the most of it.’’ Tonn was with her father, Robert, and a guide when she spotted the spike during a morning hunt. “The spike offered a clear shot and I took it,’’ Tonn said. “After what seemed like an hour – but was really about 15 minutes – we were able to go look for him. After going over one hill, through a valley, across a small creek and up another hill, we finally found him on top of that hill. It was a great weekend spent with my dad and the outdoors. And come to find out the only deer shot and recovered that weekend was killed by the only female hunter, me!’’

Seth Gottardi, age 15, was hunting with his grandfather, Rick Gottardi, in Washington Parish, spring of 2016 when he harvested a 20-pound turkey with a 9-inch beard and 1-inch spurs. He used a 12-gauge shotgun to harvest the bird.

“I’ve been my Pawpaw Rick Gottardi’s hunting buddy since I was 7 or 8 years old,’’ Seth said. “He bought me a lifetime hunting and fishing license when I was a baby. He also attended my safety training (class) with me when I was 11 and I harvested my first deer with him when I was 12.’’ Seth was using his father’s gun so he and his grandfather made sure the aim was true with target practice the day before the hunt. That night, Seth said he stayed up a bit late playing video games. So he and his grandfather didn’t get to their hunting spot until 6:45 am, but it wasn’t too late.

“The weather in the morning was clear and there were a bunch of turkey gobbling,’’ Seth said. “We set up close to a fence line where an open gate led into a field. I set up in some short trees with my decoy about 20 yards from me. Pawpaw sat about five yards behind me and started calling. The gobbler was answering his calls.’’

Seth said it wasn’t long before the turkey came into view.

“My heart was pounding so hard and my arms were heavy from holding my shotgun up,’’ Seth said. “I leveled the bead on its head and Pawpaw whispered, ‘Let him have it.’ I pulled the trigger and got him. I just harvested my first wild turkey! Pawpaw and I high fived and said a little prayer, thanking the Lord for this hunt. I absolutely love to hunt and I am thankful that I am in a family that gives me this opportunity.’’

Youth Angler Award

LOWA and Coastal Conservation Association of Louisiana have established the Youth Angler of the Year Award (YAA) for High School youth. The goal of this program is to encourage youth participation in fishing, thereby helping to keep outdoor traditions alive in the Bayou State.

The YAA secondary goal, is to encourage aspiring outdoor journalists by requiring youth to write a story about – and take photos of – their fishing trips. Young fishing enthusiasts are encouraged to carry a notepad, pen and camera (or to use their smartphones) to take notes and photographs during their fishing trips. The program sponsors will select one male and one female Youth Angler Of The Year, based on the stories received. Stories will be judged on story matter first, then spelling and grammar. Youth may only enter and win one time. All entrants must be Louisiana residents.

Winners each receive a Louisiana Lifetime Fishing License. It is our hope they will continue to enjoy the great outdoors and share their passion with friends and family, and we wish them luck in their future endeavors.

Our 2019 Female Youth Angler of the Year is 18 year old Memac Humphrey, a Senior at C. E. Byrd High School in Shreveport.

Our 2019 Male Youth Angler Of The Year is 18 year old Allan England, also a Senior at C. E. Byrd High School in Shreveport.

Twenty-four high-school youth submitted essays about a memorable fishing trip and included a photo of themselves with the fish.

This year’s Female Youth Angler of the Year is Mackenzie Reeves, a senior from C.E. Byrd High School in Shreveport, Louisiana. Mackenzie wrote about a memorable time on the water fishing with her father.  Having graduated from Byrd this past May, Mackenzie will attend college at Louisiana Tech.

This year’s Male Youth Angler of the Year is Pat Reynolds, a senior from C.E. Byrd High School in Shreveport, Louisiana. Pat wrote about a last-minute fishing trip, which resulted in the biggest bass he’s ever caught. Pat graduated from high school in May and is headed to LSU, Baton Rouge.

This year’s female winner is 15-year-old Grace Crain of Houma, LA. Grace is entering ninth grade at Vandebilt Catholic School. Her essay titled, Today I Went Catching, describes a bass fishing trip in Lake Hatch which details the trip and her excitement at “catching” bass – but also expresses her recognition of the fact that they were making lasting memories. Grace is the daughter of Shelley Crain.

The male winner of the year is 11-year-old James Sanders of Trout, LA.  James is entering seventh grade at Jena Jr. High. His essay titled, It Doesn’t Get Better Than This is about fishing for catfish in a local river with this grandfather. His essay contains vivid descriptions of his surroundings, fishing among the cypress knees and shows his appreciation for the outdoors. James is the son of Cindy Sanders.

Sponsors for this year’s Youth Angler of the Year Awards include LOWA, LDWF, the CCA, and Dr. Lauren Schwab.  Each winner received a plaque, rod and reel combo, and a lifetime fishing license.

The Bob Dennie Award

Bob Dennie was a LOWA member from 1964 until his death on September 7, 2010. His love and dedication to LOWA and it’s members is legendary.

In 2010, the LOWA Board decided to create the Bob Dennie Lifetime Achievement Award; unfortunately at that time, Bob was suffering from the final stages of skin cancer. The Bob Dennie Award is bestowed on certain LOWA members who have exhibited a lifetime of dedication to the organization, as Bob did.

The Bob Dennie Award was first bestowed on Bob himself at the Annual Conference in Houma (August 2010), shortly before his death.

Bob had many accomplishments throughout his long outdoor career including:

  • Former Chief of Information and Education, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries
  • Former Editor, Louisiana Conservationist Magazine, LDWF
  • National Correspondent for award winning radio program, “Escape to the Outdoors” – which was syndicated on 490 stations
  • Writing and Photography Credits in:
    • Outdoor Life
    • Sports Afield
    • Field & Stream
    • Southern Outdoors
    • Time-Life Books
    • Louisiana Conservationist
    • OWAA National Photo Awards
    • Photography Sweepstakes Winner, Louisiana Press Association

Bob also won several other awards:

  • Two-time winner Governor’s Award for Conservation Communication
  • 1stPlace NFL Hall of Fame-Photography
  • SEOPA Tom Rollins Award
  • Past President and Life Member of LOWA, SEOPA, OWAA
  • Member of LOWA since 1964
  • LOWA Charles Buckley Award-1996
  • Inducted into Louisiana Sportsman’s Hall of Fame in 2004

This year the Bob Dennie Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to another beloved LOWA member and legend in the outdoor writing community, Charles Frank. Charles was passionate about traveling the world in pursuit of animals to shoot, fish and photograph. A lifelong New Orleanian, Charles passed away in December of 2011 at the age of 89.

In addition to hunting and fishing, Charles was an accomplished writer and photographer. He was a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America, Southeastern Outdoor Press Association and the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association. Charles was an authority on the carving and painting of duck decoys. His work won many awards and he was one of the first three decoy artists to be designated a Louisiana Master Craftsman. Charles had an extensive decoy collection and donated about 1500 pieces to the Bluebonnet Nature Center in Baton Rouge. He also authored six books about outdoor pursuits, including three about duck decoys and the people who carve them.

Charles won many awards over the course of his long life and was still winning awards for his writing into his late 80s. He won a LOWA Excellence in Craft Award in 2009 for his book, “Anatomy of a Waterfowl”.

The Arthur Van Pelt Award

At a board meeting of the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association, some of the younger members questioned why the most prestigious award our organization gives was named for a man they had never heard of.

Annually, the Arthur Van Pelt award is given to an individual who has had a lifelong record of achievement and dedication to conservation.

Only three members – Bob Dennie, Dave Hall and Charles Frank – knew this man who, for 17 years, had written a series of tomes for The Times-Picayune under the heading All Outdoors. No one has had more of an impact on our craft and its practitioners than this gentleman, yet he has been all but forgotten.

 

At a recent board meeting of the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association, some of the younger members questioned why the most prestigious award our organization gives was named for a man they had never heard of.

Annually, the Arthur Van Pelt award is given to an individual who has had a lifelong record of achievement and dedication to conservation.

Only three members – Bob Dennie, Dave Hall and me (Charles Frank) – knew this man who for 17 years had written a series of tomes for The Times-Picayune under the heading All Outdoors. No one has had more of an impact on our craft and its practitioners than this gentleman, yet he has been all but forgotten.

Van Pelt was a child of the depression. Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1882, he grew up when postage was 2 cents and a quarter would buy a moon pie, a soft drink and a po-boy sandwich – ham and swiss, thank you … and a nickel more for “dressed.”

His early notes are hand-written in pencil on paper that is rapidly turning to yellowed dust. Many of his early efforts were unpublished, and thanks to the habits of Hall, himself a legend, many of his ramblings have been preserved.

I met Van Pelt as a youngster when I had just started shooting skeet. The South Louisiana Skeet Club was a single, muddy field in what was then a cow pasture, under the then-newly constructed Huey P. Long Bridge. I was, however, an avid reader of his columns.

I would describe him as small in stature, dynamic, balding, serious – but with a twinkle in his eye when he was amused at the lack of knowledge of some of his peers. He was blessed with a breadth of interest and knowledge that was truly astounding.

He was far ahead of his time in recognizing our vanishing coastline, the estuaries that spawned our seafood and the marshes that hosted what seemed a limitless plethora of wintering waterfowl and shore birds. He was one of the first to realize that the migration was threatened, and was among the first to see that the purple martins were visiting in smaller flocks and that the raptors were under siege.

For many years, it appears that he had only limited access to a typewriter. I would also note that he used a typewriter ribbon until it was no longer legible. Another sign of hard times. On graduating from Minnesota State College, he began his journalistic career as an outdoor writer for The Chicago Tribune. In 1913, after moving to New Orleans, he began writing a column for The Item and, later, The Times Democrat from 1914 thru 1916 (this paper was the predecessor of The Times Picayune).

He left the New Orleans paper for a position as secretary of the Houma Louisiana Chamber of Commerce for a very short time, but journalism was in his blood. He was eventually appointed sports editor of The Times Picayune, and held this post for the last 17 years of his life.

In the days when syndication was in its infancy, he sent his columns to a number of Louisiana news outlets – the articles were titled “Outdoors South”, and were published in Houma, Hammond and Colfax.

One rather interesting note was a form letter threatening various papers if they published his work without sending him his fee of $2.50 per month!

He was a man whose abiding interest in all aspects of conservation led him to track legislation in Baton Rouge and to monitor the Corps of Engineers’ efforts to dam a waterway or create a spillway that he felt might have a negative impact on the wetlands he saw being destroyed by some of these projects.

He saw before it became a “cause celeb” that pollution was a major problem. This was an era when oil exploration was running roughshod over the marshes in a burgeoning Louisiana oil and gas industry.

His observations on the migration and nesting habits of such diverse avian species as rails, song, shore and wading birds are extremely interesting. This in an era when birdwatching was more or less relegated to little old ladies in tennis shoes.

His observations encompassed any and all wild creatures – crows, turkeys, deer and raccoons all observed with the hunter’s eye and the journalist’s pen. His file of unpublished short stories is filled with colloquial gems. One vignette from his story on “The Tarpon of Bayou Go-To-Hell” is worth quoting.

His Cajun guide, Baptiste, was knocked about and thrown overboard when he hooked a big tarpon.

I’m feel lak I drink mos’ all dat bayou water an’ I find one bump on my haid lak one big orange. I feel kin’ o’ seek, too, so l jus’ set down an res’. Maybe I tak one leetle nap – I’m not sho’ no, but I wake queek w’en somet’ing mek a big splash – ‘K-swo-oo-sh’ – right by me in de bayou. I jomp up queek an’ look an’ by jinks, M’sieu, wat yo’ teenk? Again come dat beeg ‘Ka-woosh’ an op’ jump dat ole gran’mere gran’ ecaille again. She’s still raise Hell in de bayou.

Bet I don’ wan’ to ketch her no mo’ M’sieu, no, I jus’ wait ’til she come up again, den I yell at her, ‘Git away. Passe, ole gran’ ecaille, passe! Yo’ go, jus’ w’ere dat leetle bayou go, yo.

No suh, m’sieu, I don’ lak to ketch dem gran ecaille no mo’. Not in dat bayou Go To Hell anyway. It don’ soun’ so good to me, dat name. I migh get drag’ down to de en’ o’ dat bayou. Den’ where I am, me?

A howl of appreciative laughter greeted the end of Baptiste’s story. The Lady Veru rocked with merriment, but Baptiste did not join in. He was plumb serious about it all.

I am carried away on wings of nostalgia when I read, “An idle breeze from the sea wends its way across the darkening marshland. It rustled through the harsh brown grass and made little ripples on a lagoon, hidden among protecting groups of green cat-tails. Overhead, mallards headed north, going inland for their supper of rice, talking among themselves in chuckles and whispering chatter as they passed. A cypress dugout, low lying, hardly disturbing the water’s surface as it passed, skirting the edge of the wide, deep stream and entering an intercepting bayou. The paddle of her passenger, with silent, expert strokes shot the craft forward to turn into the channel, entering a reach due east and west.”

He wrote of the Houma Indians, with their blue-black hair and brown eyes, attesting in many cases to their mixed lineage. He wrote of Le Temple, Isle de Jean Charles, of Bay Negresse, Coon Road and Lac Felicity, with a depth of feeling that catches at the heart.

He wrote with compassion of the many Indigenous tribes that at one time dominated the lower Mississippi Valley, now mostly vanished in the mists of time.

He could evoke the pathos and the feeling of decaying vegetation and the fresh sweet smell of clover in the spring, of gentle fall evenings and harsh winter squalls – all while writing another column on hunting or fishing in his beloved Louisiana wetlands . Van Pelt also gave of himself to service organizations, as president and board member in the Louisiana Sportsman’s League, the Louisiana Wildlife Federation, the Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo, as secretary of the Houma Chamber of Commerce, and served several years in the State Department of Revenue.

In many of these and other hook-and-bullet groups, he was a founding member, sought for his expertise in many venues.

His birding activities were all encompassing. He recorded his astounding display of the depth of his knowledge of species. He listed dates and sightings all through the years, giving dates of first sightings and frequency of recurrence.

In 1944, he wrote, “Man armed with the wisdom attained in a few thousand years has set the whole world writhing in the throes of war. Kindness, generosity, friendship between nations has been put aside. Destruction, tragedy, and horror in a thousand forms have taken their places.”

During the war years, he reported game was plentiful but ammunition was scarce. His articles are graced with wonderful photographs, yellowed with age but recording an era that fewer and fewer were there to remember: trawlers dancing on wooden platforms to dehead drying shrimp for shipment to the Armed Forces, chairmakers – like Adolph Naquin of Lake Jean Charles who like his forebears plied a trade now vanished, Grand Isle’s stately palm trees, long vanished and replaced with moss-festooned Live Oak trees. These are the scenes he recorded indelibly on those of us who read his words. No detail of the passing scene was too mundane to be recorded.

Dugout pirogues, shrimp boats and deer hunters, snipe hunts and old men in “straw kadies” (flat-brim straw hats worn for dress) stand beside their work or pole in ditches that led from the pot holes of a pristine marsh. His work was monumental.

He wrote in 1953, “Away to the south, where the waters of all the Mississippi Valley pour out into the Gulf through a score of mouths and passes, the small geese (blues and snows) gather in myriads to feed, loaf and grow fat on marine vegetation just off-shore. The delta of the Mississippi, where the great river ends in a series of passes spread like the fingers of a giant hand, furnish ideal habitat for the whole goose tribe.”

His work deserves a book, not just a resume. His yellowed photographs need to be preserved.

Van Pelt told well the story of the great storm of Sunday, Oct. 1, 1893, which killed almost a thousand vacationers on Isle Dernière when the Grand Hotel there vanished in the swirling mists that followed this monster of all hurricanes. His description of the approach and final destruction are lyrical.

He wrote with the passion of belief that the written word should create a mental image that was lasting. Poultry shows, tales of rod and gun were mixed with observations on bird watching that make a wonderful read. He knew the people. The rich and famous, the hunter, the trapper and the fishermen – they all considered him a friend.

The woodcock’s love song and the splash of a striking bass, the tight line when a speck or red hit the bait were recorded with equal enthusiasm.

His neatly handwritten notes recorded observations on the annual migration of bird life.

Typical are his notes of April 6-7, 1942: “Mass bird migration observed in northern gulf, 60 miles off the Louisiana coast. A low, overcast sky, and slowly falling barometer, fluctuating winds – southerly shifting to northerly. Late p.m. 6 April broad winged hawk, warblers alighting on rigging, then flying off northward. At 9 p.m. hundreds of small birds flying around lights, some striking rigging and falling into water. Many reached with dip net. Ducks heard 10 to 10:30 p.m. Lights thrown upward reveal thousands of birds about 200 feet above water. Believe flight coming from Yucatan Peninsula heading for Texas and Louisiana coasts. Western and scarlet tanagers, purple martins, orchard orioles and Florida gallinule (purple gallinule), vermilion flycatchers, tree swallows, night hawk, hooded and yellow warblers, redstarts, black and white, yellow throat, Nashville, and blackpole warblers, olive sided and yellow bellied flycatchers (and all of this observed in failing light and strong winds, seas so rough that the Oregon lost 800 foot of line and anchor).”

This is a quite a foray into the nesting colonies of sea birds on the barrier islands, and the tiny nests ruby throated hummingbirds. No observation went unrecorded, always on loose pages of paper with penciled details underlined and carefully dated.

My own memory is of a more lasting tribute to this giant of all outdoor writers. It is the Van Pelt oak tree that marked the entrance to a humble trenasse that led into what was once the most outstanding bass fishing I’ve ever had in all my years of trying to land a record “green trout.”

If you take Highway 90W to Houma and bend around south to Bayou DuLarge, in about an hour and a half you’ll be in the small community of Theriot. Look closely, or you’ll surely pass it by.

About 3/4 of a mile past Theriot, you’ll reach the Falgout Canal (also poorly marked). Launch your flat boat here, and it’s about a mile to Lake DeCade. Bear slightly to the north of west, and you’ll see a gnarled old live oak that marks the entrance to the Linnus Canal.

When I was a young man, this was the way to get into Lake Penchant. We called it at that time Lake Penance because it was a brute of a trip on bad roads (now paved) and a rather long ride over choppy water to get to the Van Pelt Oak.

Van Pelt wrote about this paradise, and we caught a heck of a lot of big bass there. The Linnus brothers charged a buck to lift a plank that retained the water level of the lake.

The spring fishing was wonderful, but getting through that ditch was an experience I’ll never forget. The banks were just a foot or so away from our pirogues – we left the flat boat with the Linnus brothers – and paddling through that narrow ditch was hell.

The damned place was covered with water moccasins – big cottonmouth suckers that frequently struck at our paddles. The spring lake water was dotted with floating islands of blooming water hyacinths that by mid-summer made fishing there impossible. But oh, that spring fishing was something else! We cast flies at the striking largemouths, and it was not unusual to land several 5 and 6 pounders each morning!

My last trip there, the lake was lined with summer camps, and water skiing had taken over. Bass fishing was a long-lost memory. Only the Van Pelt Oak had stood the test of time, a lasting memorial to a great outdoor scribe.