Mason County News
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Some Traditions are Too Hot to Risk
Wednesday, September 28, 2011 • Posted September 28, 2011

The first wave of deer hunters will start arriving this week as the bow season kicks into gear. As the trailers arrive, loaded with 4-wheelers, corn, blinds and stands, the county braces itself for another deer season.In Mason County, hunters enjoy not just the experience of seeking out the best deer, they also arrive seeking to carry on traditions they've established after years of returning again and again with their friends and family. There are the games of washers and horseshoes. There are the early morning breakfasts that could feed an army in normal circumstances; but, at hunting camp, it's just a way to start the day.However, some traditions will need to be set aside this year.For the last year, Mason County, like the rest of the state, has suffered through a devastating drought. Records have fallen as ponds, creeks and rivers have evaporated. A glance at the countryside would make one think that Mason was experiencing early fall color, when in fact, the trees around the entire area are either going dormant, or completely giving up the fight. Leaves have turned to orange, yellow and red, or completely dropped off. Even cedar trees and mesquites have started dropping their foliage.The pastures and fields are almost all a uniform shade of brown. If there is grass remaining, it is dry and brittle. And it is extremely flammable.Mason County has already had its share of fires that damaged the landscape and the wildlife. Other areas of the state have experienced some of the most devastating fires in their history, and the drought is not predicted to ease off for months. Even small rain showers in the coming months would have little effect upon our current conditions.Land owners need to, obviously, remind their hunters that Mason County is currently under a burn ban and a disaster declaration. They need to explain to the hunters that this means ALL activities involving any type of open flame are banned.This means that hunters that smoke need to restrict themselves to areas where their errant butts won't fall into tall grass, smolder and become a flame. Most real hunters know better than to try to smoke while hunting; but, this is a good time to hammer the point home to them again.It also means that one of the most time-honored parts of hunting camp will have to be excluded this year - the camp fire.There can't be any camp fires to make the coffee. No fires to grill steaks or make camp cornbread. No camp fires.It almost seems that hunting camp would not be the same without this most basic of camp needs. However, this year it is a matter of survival and necessity.Let you hunters know that they will need to bring a gas or charcoal grill if they are going to be cooking outside. Let them know that they need to be acutely aware of clearance around the camp site of any grass or other flammable material. And, let them know that the game wardens will be issuing tickets for anyone who decides that they are exempt from the rules.It's not just cooking fires that need to be nixed this year. Many hunters use a fire to burn the trash they produce in camp so that they don't have to then carry it out with them at the end of the trip. This is something that is even more dangerous than the wood-stoked fires, as paper residue blows out of the fire and into the surrounding countryside, igniting any flammable source in the pastures and fields.It is going to be a rough year, and we all know that. If we work together, with the hunters (who we value greatly), we can make sure that there will still be good years in our future.It’s all just my opinion.

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