"After reading this article, I feel as though I have a new family."

On Saturday night August 10 Lyle Johnson was awarded 1st place in the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Associations Excellence in Craft competition for best Newspaper Column at their annual Conference in Morgan City.

The Florida Outdoor Writers Association judged the contest, and the judge had this to say about Johnson's winning column. "After reading this article, I feel as though I have a new family. I've never been on a rabbit hunt, but I felt the thrill." Here it is in its entirety for your enjoyment:

"I know I'm probably a bit prejudiced as I've lived in Louisiana all of my nearly 66 years and most of you reading this might feel just the same. A person would be hard-pressed to find a place on the earth where our culture, that begins with family, could be topped.

This past weekend Goosie and I were invited to film a show for Ascension Outdoors TV on a rabbit hunt hosted by Trent Bourgeois and the Bourgeois family on some family property in Greensburg. Gerald "Chicot" Foret supplied the pack of rabbit dogs for the hunt, a longstanding tradition in South Louisiana.

A pretty good chance of rain was in the forecast so after a little prayer for it to hold the rain off some, the Ascension Outdoors entourage headed north to Greensburg. The small town is a few miles northwest of Amite City.

It's so country that after we got through Walker we only saw a handful of vehicles on our early morning ride. In fact when we turned on Gaylon Allen Lane the road was gravel. I knew this would be a special day when we saw the camp a couple hundred yards away.

The porch was lit up, and you could see the hunters that were already there drinking their morning coffee. There was a big pond in front of the place. It just felt like home. After introductions that included some hand shaking and even a few hugs, we loaded up and headed for the woods.

Chicot unloaded his three dogs, a red-tick beagle named Tiny with two blue-tick beagles called Becky and Shirley. Trent explained the lay of the land. The hunters stationed themselves to get a shot, should a rabbit get jumped and take off trying to outwit the dogs hot on the trail.

After everybody was in place the dogs were turned out. It probably didn't take a minute or two, and the first chase was on. The dogs jumped the rabbit and beagle music filled the air. The sound was electrifying as the pack trailed the rabbit. It tried all the tricks it knew to lose the dogs.

A shot rang out and a whoop from the shooter let everyone know the deed was done, as Ricky Hood shot a cottontail rabbit. The score was dogs and hunters 1, rabbits 0. The story on chase #2 was quite different. One of the hunters saw a rabbit cross an opening so the dogs were put on its trail.

This rabbit was a big swamp rabbit that was not as cagey as the cottontail. It took off and led the dogs on a half-mile chase and lost the dogs. The score was tied 1-1 as the rabbits caught up.

That episode took about 40 minutes so Chicot and his son Tristen rounded up the dogs and got them back to our starting place and turned them loose again. At once, the two-year-old dogs got hot on the trail of another bunny. Once again Ricky Hood was in the right place at the right time. Hunters 2, rabbits 1.

The next time the dogs jumped, it was a classic chase. Zack Gautreau got the first shot and missed. I was next to him so the rabbit passed by me. I saw its head as it jumped a little hill. I hollered to Goosie as it was heading his way. It crossed the lane where he was, but it was going too fast to get off a good shot. Tristen was next in line and took the bunny out when it hit the opening. Hunters 3, rabbits 1.

The scenario repeated itself twice more. Zack finally got his rabbit in the very same spot as his miss was. The dogs jumped for the sixth time and lost the trail so the score ended hunters 4, and rabbits 2. We called it a day and headed back to the camp.

The comradery started when we first arrived and continued after the hunt. When we returned there more vehicles and lots more "family." Seth Fontenot of The Jambalaya Shop fame was cooking up a pork & sausage jambalaya assisted by Laverne Bourgeois, over a wood fire.

We got a good look at the place for the first time, and the scene brought me back to my youth when our family gathered at grandma Hebert's in Cornerview for our family reunions. She lived to be 105 and was alive during the Civil War.

The scene at the Bourgeois place was the same. There were a couple of horses, four dogs, a lot of kids playing, and a pond where some folks were catching bass. Plenty of social activity was going on among the adults, especially around the fire where the jambalaya was cooking.

One of the young ladies was tending to her new baby. A comment was passed about her being the same age as the child not that long ago, and now she has one of her own. A pair of young high school girls were mud riding on a four wheeler having the time of their lives.

One of those girls helping to stir the jambalaya was not a Louisiana native. Trent and his family have been hosting foreign exchange students for five years. CiCi Mill is from Bonn, Germany and is attending St. Amant High while here. She has fallen in love with our culture and food. She'll have a hard time going back home.

Trent and Goosie got a couple of guitars out to play a couple of original songs for us. Trent has recorded two albums. His latest is Louisiana Roadhouse. He belted out his favorite cut, "Louisiana That's Home to Me." Goosie then sang his original "Old Lake Maurepas," the theme song to Ascension Outdoors TV.

We went there for a rabbit hunt but we experienced much more. By the time we left plenty of strangers were now like family. "Y'all come back" is a phrase heard many times in Louisiana. We heard it more than once as we headed out.

Heck they even have a store named Hatfield's with a sign that states "McCoy's are welcome." You can see this story in March on EATEL channel 4 or 704 on Ascension Outdoors or Facebook. It's worth tuning in. Remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. Have fun in the outdoors, be safe and may God truly bless you!!"

Congrats on your award, Lyle! Thanks for contributing great content! --Greg

Lyle Johnson is a free-lance writer, co-host of Ascension Outdoors TV and Curator of the Louisiana State Fish Records. He can be contacted at reelman@eatel.net.

Outdoor Calendar

EASL Monthly Meeting: 3rd Monday every month, East Ascension Sportsman's League meeting held at Gonzales Fire Dept on Orice Roth Road starting at 7 p.m. A meal served and special speaker will be in attendance.

Wednesday Evening Bass Tourney: Every Wednesday at Canal Bank from 5 p.m. until dark. Fee $40/boat, one time registration fee of $40 going toward the Classic Tournament. Weekly event through spring, summer. Call Canal Bank for information. 225-695-9074

CCA Louisiana S.T.A.R. Fishing Rodeo: May 25 thru Sept 2 summer-long CCA Louisiana saltwater fishing event. Tagged Redfish, Offshore, Inshore, Ladies & Children's divisions. Registration required. Must be CCA member. Website: ccastar.com.

Inaugural Patrick Taylor Fishing Rodeo: Aug. 17—2 p.m. weigh-in, Nick's Marina, Lafitte. Fee $25. Heaviest Fish, Trout, Redfish, Big Bass, 5-bass Stringer, 5-trout Stringer, redfish/most spots. Benefits Patrick Taylor Science & Technology Academy. Call Teyvn Cagins 504-729-0489. Email: tcagins@pftsta.jppss.k12.la.us.

Ascension Area Anglers Open Tournament: August 17 at Doiron's Landing in Stevensville. Pick your partner, entry fee $100 per team, 75 percent payback. Application available at www.fishingfortucker.com. Call Ryan Lavigne for info 225-921-9332.

Ride the Bull Extreme Kayak Redfish Tournament: August 23 & 24 taking place at Bridgeside Marina in Grand Isle. Sponsored by CCA Louisiana. For all the info & registration go to www.ccalouisiana.com.

Need an event publicized? Contact Lyle at reelman@eatel.net