Gene Bauer: The deer hunter

Gene Bauer has a deer hunting story he's willing to share. And it's a classic.

On second thought, maybe not so classic, but it's certainly exemplary.

Bauer's son Chip said his father's 50-year history of deer hunting in Minnesota is more about "the love of the game." A stubborn love, indeed.

Gene Bauer's love of deer hunting began in 1953 when, at the age of 14, he tagged along with his father into the deep woods around Effie, Minn.

In those days, driving to Effie to hunt deer was a major expedition from the Twin Cities.

"My father was an avid deer hunter," Bauer recalled recently. "In 1956, his hunting party consisted of me and five of my teenage friends."

Bauer, 64, graduated from Robbinsdale High School in 1957, and by 1960 he had become a devoted deer hunter.

Time passed. Soon Bauer was joined in the woods by his own sons, Chip and John.

"Both sons are good deer hunters," the elder Bauer said, proudly.

Deer season for the Bauers was a family adventure.

"We used to camp out in a squad tent, the kind used in Viet Nam," Bauer said

More time passed. And more deer seasons rolled around.

Bauer remembers only missing a few deer openers, including the three years he spent in the Navy and perhaps a season or two in the early 1990s. Otherwise, Bauer who resides in Monticello, Minn., has faithfully purchased a firearm deer license every autumn since 1953.

Turn to November 2001. More family members have joined Bauer's deer-hunting tradition, including grandchildren. On opening weekend of the season, Bauer is standing on a rock atop a bare hill amid the popple woods near Orr.

It is late afternoon when Bauer spots a deer walking his way. He takes aim. The bullet flies true and a doe runs and drops.

"I was satisfied, but shooting the deer wasn't the emotional high I was expecting," Bauer recalled.

But Bauer did get to use his deer tag — for the first time.

After nearly a half century of deer seasons, Bauer finally shot a deer.

"I'm not a good hunter. I don't see things in the woods like others do. I'm not aware of things," he said.

"Luck would help. Sometimes I see deer, but not at the right time."

Is his former deerless record an embarrassment?

"Nah," he said. "I go deer hunting because I love the fun of going."

And, so, he does.

This year's deer season for Bauer ended just like so many others: no deer, but he did pass on his love of deer hunting to his oldest granddaughter, who shared a deer stand with him.

"I didn't even miss," he said.

Ron Schara may be reached at ron@mnbound.com.

Schara's new 250-page book, "Ron Schara's Minnesota Fishing Guide" (Tristan Outdoors; $19.95) is available by clicking here or by calling (888) 755-3155.

October through December 2003, Ron Schara's short feature, "Backroads with Ron & Raven," airs Saturdays on ESPN2 at 7:55 a.m. ET. Click here to view this week's show descriptions.