By Brent Frazee

When Phil Taunton’s father passed away in 1995, he made a simple pledge to honor his memory.

Taunton vowed to do everything he could to get kids outdoors, much the same as his father had.

“Dad would always load the neighborhood kids into our station wagon and we would all go fishing,” said Taunton, 72, who lives in Council Grove, Kan. “As a family, we didn’t have a lot. But we didn’t know we were poor.

“We spent a lot of time in the outdoors, and it was a great way to grow up.”

Today, Taunton follow in his father’s footsteps. Few volunteers in Kansas have introduced as many kids to the outdoors as he has. He logs hundreds of hours annually, organizing events that give children and their families a look at what the outdoors is all about.

“We need to get more kids away from their video games and show them how much fun fishing, camping, hunting and hiking can be,” Taunton said.

Taunton, who hosts a weekly outdoors show on KVOE-AM in Emporia, Kan., is active in Fishing’s Future, a national organization dedicated to introducing kids and their families to fishing. He also operates the What’s in Outdoors Fund, which provides scholarships to youth interested in pursuing outdoors-related careers.

Taunton can show you a faded flyer from 1993, in which he established a Youth Outdoor Experience Contest for kids and their families. He wrote outdoors stories for the Emporia Gazette at the time, and he set out to get more families involved in the outdoors. Write a short story, include a photo and enter the contest for a chance at prizes.

It was a good idea at the time…and it still is.

Taunton has another contest this summer through KVOE AM 1400 Radio. He encourages kids 17 years of age and under to participate. The weekly contests are open to residents of Chase, Coffey, Dickinson, Geary, Greenwood, Lyon, Marion, Morris, Pottawatomie, Riley, Shawnee and Wabaunsee counties. The contest for the grand prizes is open to all Kansas youth residents.

Here’s how it works:

  • From now through Aug. 31, youths are encouraged to submit a story, 200 words or less, and a photo about an outdoor experience.
  • That can include fishing, hunting, hiking, biking, camping, chasing butterflies or even being chased by a snake.
  • Parents and mentors can assist with writing the story, but only youth are eligible for the prizes.
  • Two winners will be announced each week on Taunton’s What’s in Outdoors radio show on KVOE.  Prizes will include rods and reels, fishing tackle and even live bait.
  • The grand prizes at the end of summer will be a lifetime hunting and fishing license, a guided crappie-fishing trip with Joe Bragg and a mentored turkey or deer hunt with Joey Bishop and Pinch Point Outdoors.
  • Sponsors are KVOE What’s in Outdoors, Council Grove Marina, Fishing’s Future, Kansas Crappie Club, KDWPT’s Fish KS, Flint Hills Life Channel, and Bluestem Farm & Ranch Supply.
  • Entries can be emailed to Taunton at