The Board of Directors of Operation Orphans, Inc. has selected four dates for doe hunts during the forthcoming whitetail season. They are the following Saturdays: October 25, November 15, December 6 and January 10. The October date will be an all girls’ hunt, while the remaining dates will be all boys’ hunts.
This is the 55th year of the “Take a Child Hunting” program. To date, Operation Orphans, Inc. has hosted 17,885 youngsters with a total game harvest of 17,502 animals. Interested individuals are encouraged to check the Operation Orphans, Inc. web-site for information and videos of the program (www.operationorphans.org). During this program, landowners from the surrounding hill country allow children from child care facilities to harvest deer from their property. Ranchers use the “Take a Child Hunting” program as a means to reduce the over population of does and to get buck to doe ratios in order. Landowners and hunters also participate in this program to help educate youngsters about the outdoors and provide a worthwhile outdoor adventure field trip. A summer fishing program was added in 2004.
Operation Orphans, Inc. provides the children, guides, and food for the activity. The guides which Operation Orphans, Inc. provides have successfully completed the Hunter Safety Course. Some landowners wish to provide their own guides. One guide is assigned to each child. During the girl’s hunt, a woman or a man/woman team serves as guides. All guides will have a background check. The meat which the childcare facilities receive from these hunts helps to relieve some of the burden of their rising food costs for the year. Some facilities use the meat in their outreach programs.
It all began when the late Gene Ashby, a State Game Warden, realized the Hill Country, primarily Mason and Llano counties, had an excessive deer population and needed a means to reduce the deer numbers. He approached some local ranchers with the idea of allowing orphans to harvest antlerless 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 landowner 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, The Milton & Janie Jordan 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 housing and feeding 250 visitors.
During the first 20 years of the program only boys were allowed to hunt. In 1980 a girl’s hunt was added to the program. Boys and girls fishing days were started in 2004. It has been a pleasure offering additional opportunities for disadvantaged children to enjoy the outdoors.
Many volunteer organizations assist with the hunting and fishing programs. Several service organizations and caring individuals prepare the Friday evening meals. Mason Girl Scout troops, 4-H and church groups, and others prepare the sack lunches which the children and guides enjoy Saturday during the hunts.
The Directors of Operation Orphans, Inc. 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 arrive at Camp Gene Ashby from homes throughout Texas on the 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 1994, 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.
To further assist children who have participated with Operation Orphans, Inc., the Eddie Argo Scholarship was established. Boys and girls who participate with the hunting and fishing programs are able to apply to receive financial assistance with their education. Eddie Argo had attended the Operation Orphans, Inc. hunts as a child from a children’s home and then later became a director and volunteer of Operation Orphans, Inc.
Operation Orphans, Inc. is a non-profit 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 are 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: firstname.lastname@example.org. Persons interested in guiding, please contact director Bob Moore, (903)258-4366, e-mail: email@example.com. The Operation Orphans, Inc. web-site: www.operationorphans.org. Please contact Jerry or Lyla Crouch if you wish to donate used coats or hunting clothing.