You probably know of The Racquet Club, the Bogey Club and the Log Cabin Club—all long-cherished institutions where some of the most prominent residents of Ladue have been loyal members for generations. But in the I’ll-bet-youdidn’t-know-that department, there’s another, lesser-known club that’s been building a tradition of its own: the Ladue Hunting and Fishing Club.
Members of the group have set off on expeditions to Brazil, Chile, Outer Mongolia, the Yukon Territories and Baker Lake near the Arctic Circle. And each year, the group gathers in South Dakota for its annual pheasant hunt.
The club traces its roots to the late 1960s and the ‘Lunch Club’ that met each week at Busch’s Grove. It was there that the Ozark Trout Tournament was conceived by club founder, the late Charlie Kilgen. Last year, the 44th annual tournament was held at its usual place, Rock Bridge State Park.
The club’s unofficial roster includes about 100 members, among them successful businessmen, attorneys and physicians. But when they get together on a trip, they can just be ‘one of the guys.’ The more adventurous ones, like current club president Bill Hausman, come back with lifelong memories and incredible stories. “We saw thousands of caribou—two abreast crossing the river—with the mothers and the calves. It was something out of the movies!” Hausman says. “The indigenous people, who love the caribou, had never seen like that before in their lives.” He also recalls that story from last year’s fishing trip on the Kazan River in Northern Canada. They had crossed the frigid waters with native Inuits as their guides in lands so far north that the sun set for only a few hours a day. There are tales of polar bears, grizzly bears, musk ox and fish almost as big as the men who reel them in.
Club secretary Paul Denk beams when he talks about another trip to the Great North that he’s planning for July. Denk, a prominent patent attorney, would gladly trade in his wingtips and briefcase for a rocky bed made of an animal pelt. “I get excited six months before I line up a good trip—the adrenalin starts flowing, and at my age, I need all I can get to keep going. And if it’s a good trip, then I can brag about it for another six months,” he explains. “So I get a year’s worth of adrenaline out of it!”
This year, the club will go on a ‘float trip’ from Mosquito Lake in the Northwest Territories, 70 miles down the Dubawnt River to Dubawnt Lake in Nunavut in search of 60-pound lake trout. But Denk says it’s not always ‘National Geographic moments.’ He also tells the story of making a ‘coon skin cap, and an ill-conceived attempt to cook and eat the raccoon that gave up its hide. “Adam Wedel, who owns Treetop Enterprises, took my fine bottle of wine and he marinated the d*mn raccoon overnight. The next day, we tried to eat it— it was so oily and greasy, it was horrible.”
After the mid-adventure, Denk was certain he had scared off interest in the group when he included part of that story in a press release he recently sent out, highlighting some of the more memorable moments from last year’s South Dakota outing. On the contrary, that story and the other more illustrious ones reveal the authentic adventures of a fascinating group of gentlemen—a group that when its members gather together for yet another adventure, they can be just one of the guys.
I’ll bet you didn’t know that.