History Afield

Photo via Marv Kaukl


Many Wisconsin hunters are aware of the pheasant propagation program conducted at the state game farm in Poynette, which annually hatches thousands of pheasants for hunting opportunities across the southern half of the state.  Few however, are aware of the fur propagation program. But as writer Bob Willging recalls in today’s History Afield, fur was once a thriving part of game farm operations.

The old boys of the state game farm were all gone by the time I interviewed Marv “Koke” Kaukl at his home in Poynette in the spring of 2000.

Joyce Bong Erickson

Saturday is opening day of Wisconsin’s annual gun deer season.  For many families the hunt is about much more than taking a deer - it’s a time of family bonding, camaraderie and tradition.  In today’s History Afield, Writer Bob Willging has the story of a famous World War II combat pilot, who made deer hunting with his family a priority while home on leave in 1943.

Wisconsin Historical Society

It’s duck hunting season in the northwoods and while plenty of artificial decoys will be used by waterfowlers to lure birds within gun range one thing they won’t be using is live decoys.  

  This technique of waterfowl hunting was regulated out of existence in 1935, partly because of the severe drought of the early 1930s that devastated waterfowl populations.  But the practice was once common and even celebrated. 

Wisconsin Historical Society

The President of the United States endures a demanding schedule.  But it wasn’t always this way. In today’s History Afield writer Bob Willging tells the story of the summer of 1928 when President Calvin Coolidge moved the center of American politics to the quiet shores of northwest Wisconsin’s most famous of trout waters, the Brule River.

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. 

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.