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This grandma is a big game hunter

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Marty Mason of Bagdad got a late start in hunting, but every year now she travels to Africa for the really large animals.

By Lisa King

The wind in her hair, with sounds of the most dangerous animals on earth roaring in her ears on the plains of Africa, Marty Mason of Bagdad has proven time and again why she ranked among the top five in the international Extreme Huntress competition last year.

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Her home in Bagdad, where she lives with her husband, Bob, features a trophy room the couple built after they discovered the joys of big-game hunting in Africa in 2008, and the walls are adorned with dozens of trophies from zebra to hippo to antelope.

But Bob Mason has bowed down to Marty’s skills when they go hunting together, whether it’s on an African savannah or deer hunting at home in Kentucky, she said with a chuckle.

“He lets me shoots the most; he’ll say, ‘No, you go ahead and shoot,’” she said.

Marty Mason wasn’t always so gung-ho about hunting; she and her husband are both retired from the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

Several years ago, she taught a nature photography class sponsored by Kentucky Fish and Wildlife to a group of women. That’s when she decided to buy a rifle and begin deer hunting, she said.

“I had never given serious thought to hunting until I spent my first morning alone in a tree stand wondering if I could pull the trigger,” she said. “I will never forget the muzzle flash as the bullet hit its target at first light.”

Marty Mason is originally from Laurel County and moved to Bagdad in 1977 when she and Bob married. She was in her 40s when she first hunted deer, and she will turn 64 this year.

But she said she is only picking up steam.

After moving up to hunt larger game such as mule deer, black bear, wild boar and alligator in the United States and Canada, she got the idea about seven years ago that hunting in Africa would be a fantastic idea, she said, never knowing that would become an activity she wouldn’t be able to get enough of.

“We really thought we would go once in a lifetime and that would be it,” she said. “But when we went the first time, we thought, ‘My God, whatever it takes, we have to go back.’”

She and her husband have journeyed to Africa each year since 2008, and she has taken a Kudu, a 1,000-pound creature resembling a huge moose with spiral horns nearly as long as her entire body, zebra, a hippo, and numerous other big-game beasts

She and Bob do not go with large groups; it’s just the two of them, along with a guide who is a professional hunter, a requirement for hunting in Africa, she said.

Marty Mason admits that the African climate is challenging, as is the hunting.

“I have battled mosquitoes, Mopani Flies, Tsetse Flies; I have crawled on my knees until they were blistered and the blisters broke,” she said.

But those discomforts are just part of the excitement of the hunt, she said.

Her last hunt in 2013 – when she took a hippo – was the most dangerous, she said.

“It was four o’clock in the morning, and we were in a field with tall grass. I shot him [hippo] with a large caliber rifle. When I shot him, there was another hippo there within ten yards of us that could have easily run us down, but he didn’t. They will kill you if they can; they’ll stomp you to death.”

Bob Mason said he enjoys the hunt also, and he’s glad that his wife is so into big game hunting.

“It makes for a good relationship,” he said. “We have a lot to talk about, and a lot of wonderful memories to share together.”

Bob Mason said that he and Marty get nervous at different times hunting big game.

“For me, the stalking part, trying to get close enough to the game, crawling on your stomach, your knees, that’s the hardest thing.”

But Marty Mason says she doesn’t let anything distract her.

“When I’m on the hunt, I try to stay focused – I don’t get nervous until after I make the shot,” she said.

Although they bring home the heads for trophies, they are not allowed to import the meat, so they cook and eat it in Africa and sometimes share it with entire villages, Marty Mason said.

“Not one piece of meat goes to waste – we eat it at the camps. The natives, the trackers, the villagers, they eat all the meat, even down to the stomach and everything.”

Is hunting deer in Kentucky boring after hunting big game in Africa?

“Not at all,” Marty Mason said.

“As soon as turkey season starts in April, I’ll be right out there hunting and enjoy it as much as anything – and I get excited when I get a big buck under my stand,” she said. “I like to be outside and hear the noises at sunrise and sunset. Every fall at deer season, Sandhill Cranes migrate through Kentucky, and it’s just a pleasure for me to see them, or just a flock of geese flying over, or just a flock of bluebirds flitting around. I just enjoy nature.”

But Marty Mason has a project planned that may net her the top slot in the next competition of Extreme Huntress – that is, if she can pull it off.

“I am going on a leopard hunt,” she said. “They are very intelligent animals, very dangerous, very wary, and super bright, so it will be a very difficult hunt.”

Is she up for it?
“Oh, yes,” she said. “I can’t wait.”