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Monica Smith

Buckhannon woman wins Big Buck Photo Contest

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) on Friday announced the winners of the state’s third annual Big Buck Photo Contest during the opening ceremony of the West Virginia Hunting and Fishing Show at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center.

The 19 winners included five resident youths, five resident adults, four non-resident youths and five non-resident adults who were selected from a list of 55 finalists. Monica Smith of Buckhannon, W.Va. was one of the five resident adult division winners.

“West Virginia’s hunting traditions are a big part of what makes our state so special and the Big Buck Photo Contest is just one of the ways we celebrate that heritage,” said WVDNR Director Brett McMillion. “I want to thank everyone who participated in the contest because your contributions not only help us showcase the excellent hunting opportunities in our state but will help us keep our outdoor tradition alive for generations to come.”

The Big Buck Photo Contest, which was sponsored again this year by the WVDNR and West Virginia Department of Tourism, was announced in November 2023 by Gov. Jim Justice. Over the last three years, the contest has received nearly 2,500 submissions.

“Seeing families bonding over campfires, young hunters proudly displaying their first deer, and photographers capturing West Virginia’s breathtaking scenery through their lenses – these are the moments that truly warm my heart as a lifelong outdoorsman,” Gov. Justice said. “I want to extend my heartfelt congratulations to the winners of our contest and thank everyone who shared their passion for West Virginia’s incredible hunting seasons. These stories prove, beyond any doubt, that West Virginia offers not just thrilling hunting, but also unparalleled natural beauty, shared traditions, and lasting memories. It’s truly Almost Heaven.”

The contest was open to residents and nonresidents and included a youth division for hunters 17 years of age and younger and an adult division for hunters 18 years of age and older. To enter, hunters were required to submit a photo with a buck they harvested during a 2023 hunting season along with a short account of their hunt. Each entrant was required to show proof of a valid 2023 West Virginia Hunting License and had to include their personal 13-digit DNR-issued game check number.

Finalists were chosen by random drawing from all eligible entries and winners were selected by a judging committee. Winning photos were selected based on photo composition, size of the buck’s antlers, number of antler points and how well the hunt was described. All winning and finalist photos can be viewed here.

The five resident youth winners will all receive one lifetime hunting and fishing license. The five resident adult winners can choose one lifetime hunting license or a two-night state forest cabin stay. The four non-resident youth winners will all receive a Cabela’s prize package. The five non-resident adult winners can choose a two-night state forest cabin stay or two Pipestem Peaks Zipline tour passes.

Resident Youth Division Winners

  • Cameron Ford – Bloomery, W.Va.
  • Gracie Harper – Friendly, W.Va.
  • Shyann Hurst – Peterstown, W.Va.
  • Elliana Meadows – Hinton, W.Va.
  • Morgan Wicker – Belleville, W.Va.

Resident Adult Division Winners

  • Raymond Adkins – Forest Hill, W.Va.
  • Zack Gill – Ballard, W.Va.
  • Monty (Jake) Boytek – Chapmanville, W.Va.
  • Leah O’Neil – Moundsville, W.Va.
  • Monica Smith – Buckhannon, W.Va.

Non-Resident Youth Division Winners

  • Brantley Bernhard – Port St. Lucie, Florida
  • Brock Davis – Star Tannery, Virginia
  • Gracie Ryder – Rockingham, Virginia
  • James Vernatter – Concord, North Carolina

Non-Resident Adult Division Winners

  • Joshua Anderson – Bluefield, Virginia
  • Christopher Derrick – Spartanburg, South Carolina
  • Christine Erin – Front Royal, Virginia
  • Spencer Helmick – Newport News, Virginia
  • Hunter Murcko – Cortland, Ohio

For more information about hunting and fishing in West Virginia and to purchase a license, visit WVdnr.gov.

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