Do you aspire to be an outdoor writer or photographer? The National Shooting Sports Foundation's STEP OUTSIDE® program is holding a photo and story contest to acknowledge the thrill of introducing someone, or being introduced yourself, to shooting, hunting, fishing or archery.

Prizes range from $100 to $1,000 gift certificates good for the purchase of outdoor equipment and supplies. The contest is open to outdoor enthusiasts of all ages and experience levels. The deadline to enter is Dec. 31.

"Past winners have ranged from elementary-school students to well-published outdoor writers," said Melissa Schilling, STEP OUTSIDE national coordinator. "We're looking for stories and photos that reflect our program's theme, which is introducing someone new to hunting, shooting, fishing or archery. We encourage both mentors and those who have been introduced to these outdoor pastimes to enter."

Here are a few tips from the NSSF for winning the contests:

Photo Contest:

-Concentrate on people shots. Photos of scenery or wildlife won't win. -Have more than one person in the photo. It's more difficult to demonstrate mentoring when you only show one person.
-Get close so your photos show the emotion (happiness, hopefully) of your subjects.

Story Contest:


-Stay within 250 to 1,000 words. Longer stories receive fewer points. -Capture the emotion and personal meaning of your outing, rather than just describing the activity.
-Provide details of how you invited someone to go with you, or how you received your invitation.

The most important tip is to enter!

Contest entry forms and additional rules are available at
http://www.stepoutside.org/contest.html
or by sending a self-addressed stamped envelope to "Contest Entry Form," STEP OUTSIDE, 11 Mile Hill Road, Newtown, CT 06470. Entries must be received by Dec. 31.

Since its inception, STEP OUTSIDE, a national program developed and managed by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), has helped introduce thousands to the traditional outdoor activities of target shooting, hunting, fishing and archery by encouraging outdoor enthusiasts to invite others to share in their outdoor experiences. The program has assisted state fish and wildlife agencies, manufacturers, distributors, retailers, hunting clubs and conservation organizations in providing first-time experiences for newcomers through grants, workshops and other sponsored events.

For more information, visit http://www.stepoutside.org.