Ashley Ringler, Clark, Wyo., won 1st place award for the following essay on “Wyoming’s Wildlife–Our Legacy.”

Left to right: Gov. Dave Freudenthal, Ashley Ringler, and John Emmerich, assistant director, Wyoming Game & Fish Dept.

At the 2010 Wyoming Hunting and Fishing Heritage Exposition, Ashley Ringler, Clark, Wyo., won 1st place award for the following essay on “Wyoming’s Wildlife–Our Legacy.”

Wild Legacy

Teeth chattering, I reluctantly roll out of my bed roll and shiver into my jeans. Before I leave the shelter of the tent, I check to make sure I have a big enough stash of Toasty Toes to get me through the day. I crawl out from under the flap and take a deep breath of wood smoke while savoring the light of the moon on the snow. I trudge towards the cook tent to meet my Dad for a cup of his famous cowboy coffee, before we saddle the horses and set off up the trail to hopefully harvest the “bull of the year.”

Some kids consider quality time with their Dad to be watching a football game on T.V. Some kids and their dads like to play Guitar Hero or have a tennis tournament on the Wii. But for me, going elk hunting in the fall is the ideal way to enjoy both my Dad and the wildlife Wyoming has to offer.

Have you ever marveled at the sound of a bull elk bugling in the stillness of a mountain meadow? Have you ever felt the exhilaration of pulling a rainbow trout out of a sparkling stream? Have you ever marveled at the sound of two ram’s skulls colliding with a heavy thud that echoes down the canyon? Have you ever studied the intricate creation of an Indian paintbrush in bloom? Well, I have. And being a part of this great vastness has shaped my life and made me the person I am today.

We in Wyoming are blessed to have access to nature and all that it has to offer. Wyoming outdoor heritage means more than an occasional walk along the fringes of the woods. It is about centering your life on making opportunities to enjoy the wildlife in our state. Just as importantly, it means making a commitment to protect it in any way I can. So that some day when I am riding across a high mountain pass with my daughter, she can look down and watch a hawk circling, and understand it is now her legacy to enjoy and protect.

My Dad has been a key factor in helping me take advantage of the beauty that lies in the wildlife around us. The wildlife we have in our state is something that many of us hold dear. Without it, what would we do for recreation? How would we connect with family members? Most importantly, who would we be? As a whole, it is the wildlife legacy that has shaped me and will continue to form my interests and values that I hope to pass on to future generations.

Ashley Ringer, Powell High School