Bob Willging

Feature Contributor

Bob Willging is a freelance outdoor writer who specializes in  writing about Wisconsin's tremendous outdoor and sporting heritage.  He has written two books: "History Afield: Stories From the Golden Age of Wisconsin Sporting Life " and "On the Hunt: A History of Deer Hunting in Wisconsin."  Willging lives in Rhinelander.  

A Northwoods Institution
4:00 am
Thu July 10, 2014

History Afield: Duke's Outboards

Duke Montgomery repaired and collected motors in his Boom Lake shop.
Credit Jim Montgomery

An outboard motor hung on the back of a well used fishing boat is an iconic symbol of summer in the Northwoods.  For years in the Northcentral Wisconsin lakes country of Oneida and Vilas counties, if someone had an outboard motor in need of repair, there was no question of where to take it - Duke’s Outboards.  Dukes was a Northwoods institution for more than 60 years. 

Read more
History Afield
4:00 am
Thu May 1, 2014

One Morning in March, 1933

Vern Frechette (left) grew up in Chequamegon Bay.
Credit Wisconsin Historical Society

It’s May and we’re still waiting for the ice to melt on most lakes in the Northwoods.  Lake Superior is still about halfway iced over.  But even when it’s thoroughly covered with ice, conditions can be treacherous.

In today’s History Afield essay, we hear the story of Vern Frechette’s memorable trip out on the ice…one morning in March 1933.

    

Read more
History Afield
4:00 am
Thu April 3, 2014

Trapping in the Blood: the Carl Schels Story

Young Carl Schels in the wilderness.
Credit Wisconsin Historical Society

When the stock market crashed in late 1929, ushering in the Great Depression, the prosperity of the 1920’s screeched to a halt.  As factories and mills closed their doors, millions of Americans found themselves unemployed.  

In today’s History Afield, WXPR Contributor Bob Willging tells the story of one man who left Chicago during the Depression to make his mark in the Northwoods.

Read more
A Resort Like No Other
9:18 am
Thu January 30, 2014

Northernaire: Waldorf of the Wilderness

Carl Marty was famous for befriending wild animals at the Northernaire.
Credit Wendy Robinson

The resort industry in Northern Wisconsin goes back over 100 years to when tourists were first lured to the lake country on the heels of the lumberjacks.  Small family owned resorts with cottages lining lake shores catered to fisherman in the early days. 

 In the midst of Mom and Pop operations one man had a vision to build a Northwoods resort like no other.  In today’s History Afield Bob Willging tells the story of the rise and fall of the Northernaire, the Waldorf of the Wilderness.

Read more
History Afield
10:08 am
Thu December 26, 2013

The Mysterious Death of Edward Keeler

Edward Keeler and his renowned boat, the Pelican.

Hunters and trappers spend a great deal of time alone in the woods, and outdoor activities in remote areas have their share of inherent dangers.  

Those dangers were even more apparent in the 1930s, a time of limited communication, large tracts of remote country, few heavily traveled roads, and the occasional gangster, moonshiner or poacher.

In today’s History Afield, Bob Willging tells the story of one man’s mysterious death in the woods in 1931.

Read more
History Afield
4:00 am
Thu November 21, 2013

Sixty Years Ago, A Bloody Gun-Deer Season

The shooting and death of a state game warden shook up hunters during the 1942 deer hunt.
Credit Rhinelander Daily News, November 19, 1942

Wisconsin’s gun deer season is approaching.  It’s a time when many hunters across the state look forward to getting away from the pressures of work, spending time in the woods.  

But as WXPR’s Bob Willging relates in today’s History Afield essay, the 1942 murder of a conservation warden in Florence County had deer hunters in northeast Wisconsin anything but relaxed.

In the autumn of 1942, America was becoming deeply involved in World War II.

Read more
Conflict Over Local Control
4:00 am
Thu October 31, 2013

1930 Deer Revolt: When Oneida County Took On the State

We’re heading into November, and that means deer hunting will soon be in full swing. 

It’s a cultural phenomenon in the state, with deeply rooted traditions that go back 100 years or more. While there has been much change in Wisconsin deer hunting over time, controversy and disagreement have never been far away.

In the first of a series we’re calling History Afield, WXPR Contributor Bob Willging has the story of one of the oddest deer hunting political battles of the last century.

Read more