Reinforced by the Forest Supervisor’s Office

Al Hayes, the Toiyabe National Forest administrative officer, validated many deer during the opening weekend of the 1966 deer hunting season.

My last few Toiyabe National Forest fire prevention patrol weeks coincided with California’s 1966 mule deer hunting season and provided my first experience with deer hunters. In previous years, I had returned to college before the hunters had arrived. But this year, having graduated from college, I was serving a full six-month appointment. So the opening weekend of that hunting season was an eye-opener for me. I had no idea so many people came so far to hunt.

            As the motels in Bridgeport and the campgrounds and other camping spots all over the district filled with hunters and their rigs, I began to appreciate the magnitude of the fire prevention job ahead. And, as the opening day of hunting season approached, the Bridgeport Ranger Station was mobbed by hunters wanting campfire permits—that was a good sign, I figured—and information.

Fire Control Officer Marion Hysell had planned for that onslaught. As he flew the district in a helicopter, he vectored me, District Ranger Lynn Mitchell, and a couple other district personnel assigned to patrol duties toward fire prevention “hot spots” on the ground. And, on the ground, in addition to preventing fires, we did the usual duties of Forest Service patrolmen during hunting season including, along with California Department of Fish and Game officers and Mono County Sheriff’s Office deputies, validating the tags successful hunters were required to attach to their kills.

Forest Supervisor Ed Maw detailed members of this Reno office staff to help district personnel during this opening weekend patrol effort. Mr. Al Hayes, the Toiyabe National Forest administrative officer, was assigned to patrol with me.

“Les, I’m just an S.O. paper pusher,” he joked as we left the ranger station on opening day. Then he got serious. “You’re the expert here. You know the country and the job. Just let me know how I can help you.”

I did. And he helped. By the end of opening weekend, Mr. Hayes and I had contacted what seemed like hundreds of hunters with fire prevention messages, validated dozens of tags, and put out more than a few abandoned campfires. I’m pretty sure we prevented some wildfires

But the deer hunting season didn’t end with the end of the opening weekend rush. It went on through the end of October, and so did my fire prevention patrols.


Adapted from the 2018 third edition of Toiyabe Patrol, the writer’s memoir of five U.S. Forest Service summers on the Toiyabe National Forest in the 1960s.


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