Being a writer sometimes means being a witness to remarkable happenings.
That is the case for T. Edward Nickens of Raleigh. The nationally known outdoors writer followed two sons retracing the path of a man, Walter DeSales Witt, who had died in a Pennsylvania deer hunting accident nearly 40 years ago. The resulting story was so powerful and compelling that it won one of the magazine writing’s highest honors.
Nickens’ article, “Following Our Father,” brought Field & Stream magazine a Gold Award as the best sports story in FOLIO – magazine’s annual Eddie and Ozzie Awards, the largest awards competition in magazine publishing.
“This was a topic that I had been following for years. I wanted to do a piece that explored a hunter fatality,” Nickens, a Raleigh resident for 25 years, said by phone Monday from his office near the N.C. State campus. “… This was one that the people were really willing to open themselves up. My hat’s off to them for being willing to be so open.”
Born in High Point, Nickens, 51, said he worked on the story off and on for at least three months. He visited the brothers and the investigating officer, he traveled to the accident site and he sifted through documents, court records and newspaper clippings.
“It was bringing together a lot of strands for the story,” he said.
Published in the December 2011-January 2012 issue, “Following Our Father” also won first place in the 2012 Outdoor Writers Association of America Excellence in Craft writing contest in September, taking the family participation/youth outdoor education category.
Nickens won an OWAA Presidents’ Choice Award when a panel of past OWAA presidents judged Excellence in Craft category winners for various media. Nickens had won the magazine/e-zine category with “Ready, Aim, Fire,” published in the January-February 2011 edition of Audubon. The story follows scientists and land managers who use controlled burns to mimic natural conditions and preserve habitat at quail hunting plantations along the Florida-Georgia border.
But “Following Our Father” will stand out above the rest.
“It was a real privilege to be a part of it,” Nickens said.
Wildlife officer promoted to captain
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has promoted 22-year veteran Todd Radabaugh of Pender County to captain for District 2, the commission said in a Nov. 29 news release.
Radabaugh, originally from Havelock, will direct enforcement operations for hunting, inland fishing and boating, and he will coordinate boating safety and hunter education programs in Beaufort, Carteret, Craven, Duplin, Greene, Jones, Lenoir, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico, Pender and Pitt counties.
His predecessor, Rick Venable, retired.