Naturally Speaking

Two Days of Blue Knob Fog
PA Outdoor Writer’s Association
I have been a member of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association for over ten years and I’ve referred to that organization several times in my Daily Herald columns. Two weekends ago, while attending our spring conference, it dawned on me that readers would probably be curious about the organization and what goes on at one of our conferences.
The Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association is a professional organization of full and part-time writers, photographers, artists and broadcasters. Current active membership stands at 235, with an additional 139 supporting members. It’s the largest state organization of its type. My membership, which began in 1989, has always been a positive experience.
Each spring, POWA publishes a membership directory that greatly facilitates contacts within the organization. A newsletter, “PowWow,” is mailed every other month and two conferences, spring and fall, are held each year. The May conference was held at the Blue Knob All Seasons Resort and the nearby Majestic World Lodge, and the fall conference is scheduled for Grantville, PA.
As with most organizations, POWA has officers and a board of directors, as well as a paid executive director. We also have a strict code of ethics and an ethics committee to deal with complaints and possible infractions. Considering the nature of our organization, this code is quite important. For example, any member who knowingly violates any game or fish law may be expelled from the association.
Conferences are always fun and educational, as well as a great time for sharing with other members. I attend as many as my schedule will allow.
Guided hunts, fishing trips, and other adventures are usually scheduled for a conference Friday. Seminars and breakouts, a chance for supporting members to show new products, are planned for Saturday, as well as an evening banquet. Seminars center on craft improvement or they provide members with story ideas and photo opportunities.
I was really looking forward to the setting for this conference, but instead of beautiful Blue Knob vistas and a chance to photograph elk in velvet, we got fog, fog and more fog — and this was surely the fog that originated the saying “thick as pea soup!” It was so bad that the firearm shoot was canceled because we couldn’t safely see the targets and what was behind.
The seminars were top-notch. Author Evan Nappen, an attorney specializing in gun laws, got the morning off to a positive start with his report on New Jersey’s gun laws and a comparison with Pennsylvania’s. Nappen was an interesting and entertaining speaker. He shared more information as we ate dinner together that evening. Interacting with him sure made all of us appreciate our second amendment rights and, yes, you’ll be reading more about Nappen in a future column.
Fellow member, writer, wildlife artist and illustrator Bob Sopchik was very helpful with his seminar, “Writing Visually.” CDT readers may recognize Sopchik from his regular column in Pennsylvania Game News.
Husband and wife nature photography team Joe and Mary Ann McDonald informed members with “Successful Photography from Shutter Release to Marketing” and shared many of their beautiful African wildlife photos. The MacDonalds lead photo safaris all over the world and have popular columns in Outdoor Photographer and Keystone Outdoors magazines.
Lunch and breakout was held at the nearby Majestic World Lodge, an elk ranch, hunting lodge and retreat. After lunch, Bedford County Deputy Wildlife Conservation Officers processed and tagged a cub bear (born January, 2002) while we took photos and asked questions. Then it was time to meet with sponsoring members. Approximately 30 were on hand, and I had a good opportunity to talk with many manufacturers, publishers and representatives of organizations.
The Horten Manufacturing Company had crossbows for us to shoot, and a number of other members displayed and demonstrated new products. A representative from Cabela’s, a staple in the world of hunting and fishing, was on hand to advertise their new store that is scheduled to open in the Harrisburg area this fall. State Representative Gary Haluska (D – Cambria County) was also on hand to discuss any legislative issue that might affect the outdoor sports.
As writers began to filter back to their rooms to get ready for the banquet, I took the opportunity to attempt to photograph some of Majestic’s beautiful elk. The processed slides produced ghostly images of elk as they appeared and disappeared into the fog.
The banquet provided a chance to honor members and share fellowship. It ended, as always, with the great collection of outdoor items to be raffled. The money donated this year raised over $4000 –helping to run the organization and refresh our scholarship fund.
There you have it, an inside look at an outdoor writers’ conference. Once again, my membership in POWA provided writing and photography improvement advice, a number of column ideas, as well as important contacts with other writers, editors and publishers. As luck would have it, I made out pretty well at the raffle, too.
Mark Nale can be reached at