Mason County News
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Operation Orphans
Wednesday, July 16, 2008 • Posted July 16, 2008

The Board of Directors of Operation Orphans, Inc. has selected five dates for doe hunts during the forthcoming whitetail deer season. They are the following Saturdays: October 25, November 15, November 22, December 6, and December 13. The first date will be an all girl's hunt, while the second, third, fourth and fifth dates will be all boy's hunts.

This is the 49th year of the "Take a Child Hunting" program. To date, Operation Orphans, Inc. has hosted 16,665 youngsters with a total game harvest 16,376. Interested individuals are encouraged to check the Operation Orphans web-site for information and videos of the program in action (www.operationorphans.org). During this program, landowners from the surrounding Hill Country allow children from child care facilities to harvest does from their property. Ranchers use the "Take a Child Hunting" program as a means to reduce the over population of does and to get a buck to doe ratios in order. Landowners and hunters also participate in this program to help educate youngsters about the outdoor. Landowners and hunters also participate in worthwhile outdoor adventure field trip. A summer fishing program for underprivileged children was begun in 2004.

Operation Orphans, Inc. provides the children, guides, and food for the activity. The guides which Operation Orphans, Inc. provide their own guides. One guide is assigned to each child. During the girl's hunt, a woman or a man/woman team serve as guides. All guides will have a background check performed. The meat which the child care facilities receive from these hunts helps to relieve some of the burden or their rising food costs of the year.

It all began when the late Gene Ashby, a State Game Warden, realized that the Hill Country, primarily Mason Llano Counties, had an excessive deer population and the necessity for removing a large number of anterless deer. He approached some local ranchers with the idea of allowing orphans to harvest anterless deer. They liked the idea, and Operation Orphans, Inc. came into being. Housing the young hunters was a problem, so another idea was realized. With backing from sportsmen's clubs throughout Texas, and other concerned individuals, a 320 acre tract of land on the North bank of the Llano River in Mason County was purchased from a generous land owner at a fraction of its market value. Through donations, a kitchen/dining hall, three dormitories, showering facility, and basketball court were built. In 1994, an orientation and recreational building was constructed. It includes a clothing room which allows the kids to obtain boots, coats, jeans, and other clothing items that are donated by concerned individuals. The camp is managed by a supervisor who resides at the camp. Camp Gene Ashby, named in honor of the founder of Operation Orphans, is today a beautiful facility capable of house and feeding 250 visitors.

During the first 20 years of the program only boys were allowed to hunt; however a girl's hunt was added to the program in 1980, and an "Exotic Hunt" in 1982. The "Exotic Hunt" has added a totally new dimension to an already successful program and is looked forward to by many youngsters as the "icing on the cake".

Many volunteer organizations assist with the program. Several different organizations and individuals prepare the Friday evening meal. Mason girls scout troops, 4-H groups, church groups, RSVP members, and others prepare the sack lunches which the children and guides enjoy Saturday during the hunt.

The Directors hope to make participation in the forthcoming hunts the best ever; however, this is dependent upon the number of ranchers who participate. Individuals who lease property for hunting may also participate by hosting a child and thus give up one day and one deer for the benefit of allowing more children to partake in the outdoor activity. The children will be brought to Camp Gene Ashby from homes throughout Texas on Friday preceding the Saturday hunt.

The youngsters will attend an orientation and safety meeting and will be given an opportunity to visit the "Boot Room" where they can obtain boots and other clothing which will be theirs to keep. They will be housed, fed, and transported to the host ranches before daylight the following morning by guides from various Texas Sporting Clubs and other interested individuals.

Beginning in 1944, in an effort to maintain the highest safety standards, all individuals who wish to serve as guides with Operation Orphans, Inc. must show verification of successfully completing the Hunter Safety Course. All guides will also have a background check performed.

Operation Orphans, Inc. is a nonprofit organization made up of a board of directors whose sole purpose is to serve less fortunate youngsters by offering them a positive outdoor experience. Any persons who interested in assisting with the "Take a Child Hunting" program, please contact camp supervisors, Jerry or Lyla Crouch, at 325-347-6745, or write Operation Orphans, Inc., P.O. Box 535, Mason Texas 76856, e-mail: operationorphans@yahoo.com. Persons interested in guiding, please contact director Bob Moore, (903)258-4366, e-mail: fiddler22243@juno.com. Operation Orphans web-site: www.operationorphans.org.

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