The 2015 winners of the IHEA-USA 2nd Annual photo contest were recently announced, but what were the judges looking for in a winning photo? Well, the image must represent hunter education training, hunting and shooting safety and responsible hunting and firearm use. Additionally, and just as importantly, the photograph must be visually captivating and cause a sense of desire from the viewer to get up, get out and get in touch with nature.
Twenty-eight photographers submitted 333 images of big-game hunting, turkey hunting, hunters trekking through brush and marsh, parents and their young sportsmen, moments of pure joy after tagging a buck, and everything else that comes with the sport. The winners of the IHEA-USA photo contest received generously donated gift cards to Bass Pro Shops, a strong supporter of hunter education.
1st place: Photo by Michael Conti.
The first-place photograph shows a father, son and daughter heading home from a successful duck hunt. Their pleased and tired looks show that the day was long but with great reward. The picture was taken by Michael Conti, who was photographing for the Louisiana Houma Courier newspaper at the time. Conti donated his first-place award to their local wildlife officer and kids.
2nd place: Photo by Bob Humphrey.
Second place was awarded to Bob Humphrey, a repeat winner from the 2014 IHEA-USA contest. Bob captured a meaningful moment between a father and his son following a prosperous turkey hunt. Humphrey is an outdoor writer and photographer, a registered Maine guide and is a certified wildlife biologist. We’re not sure when he goes indoors but we know he does—if only to develop beautiful pictures.
3rd place: Photo by John Annoni
The third-place photograph is a bit different than the rest. It depicts a close-up of a one-on-one shooting instruction with a new shooter, and lacks any obvious hunting themes. The photo was taken by John Annoni, founder and CEO of Camp Compass Academy and www.twomillionbullets.org, two organizations that focus on introducing inner-city kids to the outdoors and, if they’re interested, to some shotgun fun.
In addition to the three winners, the judges awarded an Honorable Mention and selected a Judge’s Choice image.
Honorable Mention: Photo by Marlowe Wilson.
The Honorable Mention was awarded to Marlowe Wilson, a conservation officer in Fremont County, Iowa. Wilson photographed two waterfowl hunters and their patient yellow lab in prime riparian habitat waiting for the next flight of ducks to appear. The beautiful colors of the tranquil landscape capture the eye, and you can easily sense the calm and anticipatory demeanor of the slightly hidden hunters; it’s definitely a worthy mention.
Judge's Choice: Photo by Tori Pintar.
The Judge’s Choice award went to Tori Pintar, a wedding photographer. Pintar is based in Big Sky, Montana, where a love of the outdoors is a guarantee. Her colorful picture shows a hunter moving into an evergreen forest, hoping to bring back a trophy and meals.
Many of the winners had a lot to say about hunting and how it’s been a positive part of their lives and how outdoor education is crucial to the beloved tradition.
“First as a student and later as a volunteer instructor I’ve witnessed first-hand just how important hunter education programs are in preserving the future of our sport….The need for and value of these programs will only increase as adults increasingly look for ways to become more self-sufficient in procuring their own natural, organic food through hunting,” said second-place winner Bob Humphrey.
“Its clear hunter education is the tool everyone needs to use to move outdoor heritage forward,” said third-place winner and CEO of Camp Compass John Annoni. “Our whole system at Camp Compass is built on education. We were an obvious fit for this contest. Educating youth about hunting comes very natural to our team of educators. Pictures prove the work is being done and we are tremendously proud that IHEA-USA has chosen an urban-based hunting program to be used as a visual model. Education creates progress and that progress is what is needed for future generations of hunters."
Wilson commented on the honorable mention, "What an honor! I think Hunter Education is of the utmost importance to continue our hunting heritage and striving to put safe, conscientious, ethical and respectful new hunters in the field."
Pintar, the Judges’ Choice award winner, said, "I was invited by [a friend] to go along on my first hunt in Idaho, which was a backcountry hunt in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness for elk…I liked that he had this panel from Orange Aglow attached to his backpack because it seemed like being safe from all directions was a smart move. Also, from the photography perspective, it added a nice color contrast with the pretty fall leaves!"
And as happy as IHEA-USA was to hear from the winners, they we’re much more delighted for their participation, and everyone’s participation in the photo contest.
"IHEA-USA is grateful to all the photographers who were willing to support hunter education and share their skills in the 2nd Annual IHEA-USA Photo Contest. These images will definitely help us communicate better, both visually and emotionally. And, as always, we are very grateful for the ongoing support from Bass Pro Shops," said John McKay, interim IHEA-USA Executive Director.
Visit IHEA-USA.org to learn more about the organization, find out how to become a member and keep an eye out for next year’s 3rd Annual IHEA-USA photo contest!