Anderson: When hunting deer, age is a state of mind

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 11, 2013 - 12:54 AM
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At the age of 95, Bob Rupp, left, of Stillwater, will be among the most senior Minnesotans hunting deer when the season opens Saturday. His younger hunting buddies include Gordy Gerling of Little Falls, center, 93, and Ray Gerst of St. Paul, who will be 83 on Tuesday. Rupp plans to give him a birthday cake over the weekend.

At 95, Bob Rupp might be the oldest deer hunter to take to the woods Saturday when the state’s whitetail season opens. But his tree perch won’t be any lower to the ground this season than in any year in the past half-century.

In fact, it might be higher.

“I’ll be up 10 or 12 feet or so,’’ Rupp said.

Rupp, of Stillwater, will hunt with a gang of about 10 people, as he has in years past. A couple will be his contemporaries, more or less, including Gordy Gerling of Little Falls, 93, and Ray Gerst of St. Paul, 83. “I’ll be bringing a birthday cake to camp for Ray,’’ Rupp said.

Born in Nebraska, Rupp reported for duty the day after he graduated from college. Against the Germans in the Battle of the Bulge, he was a battery commander, and was awarded a Bronze Star with the V Device, signifying combat heroism.

“When the war ended, places to live were hard to find, as were jobs,’’ Rupp said. “My wife had a sister living in St. Paul, and she and her husband gave us a place to stay and helped us get started here in Minnesota.’’

In 1950, Rupp was hired by The Farmer magazine, produced by Webb Publishing in St. Paul, and served as its editor for 13 years before retiring in 1984.

“At the time, nine out of 10 farmers in Minnesota read our magazine,’’ Rupp said. “One farmer told me, ‘The only things I read are The Farmer and the Bible.’ ’’

A hunter since he was 10 years old, when his grandmother gave him a .22-short Stevens repeater, Rupp has a special fondness for chasing ducks, as well as deer.

This fall, as usual, he made a trip to North Dakota looking for mallards and other fowl. Not finding many birds, he returned a second time, unfortunately with generally the same results.

Now comes deer season, and Rupp will join Gerling, Gerst and two generations of follow-on hunters — one set in their 20s and 30s, the other in their 50s and 60s — at their camp near Pillager, not far from Brainerd.

Compared to the hovel they once stayed in while hunting whitetails, their quarters will be luxurious.

“We started out in a tarpaper shack that finally got so bad one bed fell through the floor,’’ he said. “Then we had a fire, and they had to chop a hole in the ceiling to put it out. So about 10 years ago a log-home kit was put up. My job was to help with the chinking. I guess it’s still holding together OK.’’

With deer-head mounts on the walls, the bunk-filled structure is home during deer season to evening games of penny, nickel and dime poker.

“But we turn in pretty early,’’ Rupp said. “Wake-up is 4:30.’’

Soon afterward, Rupp will walk to his stand — “I don’t use a four-wheeler’’ — and pull himself up, ready and waiting well before legal shooting time for a new season to begin.

And he won’t make the mistake of returning to the cabin too soon for coffee and a warm-up, knowing that odds favor those who wait.

“At 9 or 9:30 opening morning, a lot of guys start moving around, because they get cold,’’ he said. “Cold doesn’t bother me, and movement of the other hunters sometimes kicks up deer. So I stay in my stand.

“You have to be patient.’’

He should know.

“After the Battle of the Bulge, our unit was put in for an award, but the request was rejected, reportedly because we hadn’t lost enough men, ‘only’ 13,’’ he said.

“Later, the Germans’ daily combat reports were found, and they told how they couldn’t advance because of our artillery. Which was true: For days we fired a 105-millimeter howitzer at them every 40 seconds, more than 27,000 rounds in total.’’

Not until 56 years later — in 2001 — was Rupp’s battalion finally awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for gallantry and determination in combat.

By then, he had long since retired from the Minnesota National Guard as a colonel.

“Only eight of us were left to attend the award ceremony at Fort Sam Houston in Texas,’’ Rupp said.

“A few years ago, I discovered my ammunition sergeant had been put in for a Bronze Star at the end of the war, after I had left Europe. But somehow it got lost. So about four years ago, I resubmitted the request, and he received it, finally, with the V Device he deserved.’’

Patience.

After all these years, Rupp still has it.

And deer near him should fear it.

 

Dennis Anderson danderson@startribune.com

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