How about a Wisconsin DNR museum?

Believe it or not, Wisconsin issued turkey hunting back tags briefly in the 1960s. This one is from 1967.

Every now and then I pull my copy of Otis Bersing’s “A Century of Wisconsin Deer” off a shelf and read about what kind of season was held in 1899 or when back tags were first issued (1942 until 2015).

The book was published by the Game Management Division of the Wisconsin Conservation Department in 1956.

In 1985, several of us organized a turkey camp to give new hunters some help learning about this “new” recreation started in 1983. An attendee brought in a turkey hunting back tag/permit from 1967. Yes, they really did issue those, probably for the hunts in the wildlife area near Wisconsin Rapids.

Several years ago, I was looking to get a photograph of an old, metal deer tag. You know, the kind unscrupulous hunters could damage so the lock no longer held, resulting in the tag being reused by a poacher who’d go get a deer, bring it in, and then pull his tag off and allow another person to tag the deer. The next day the poacher would fill his tag again.

Where is all this stuff? Who keeps track of the records and old equipment? Where is the DNR museum and archive? Is there a department historian, or is each section leader likely to be curator of old goods for a few years? And this is the 50th year of the modern day Wisconsin DNR. Has there been any celebration planned for this “event?”

A number of old timers have a closet, basement, den or storage locker with some of those things, but those are private. Wayne Whitemarsh, of Sauk City, has a collection he displays in McFarlane’s in the Marshland Outdoors Section, but again it’s private and catalogued.

There is a museum in the small northwestern Wisconsin town of Barnes with a corner devoted to Gordon MacQuarrie that holds a canoe, an old typewriter, and duck  gear. It gets a fair amount of traffic and interest, particularly during the summer months when vacationers are north.

Instead of tearing the DNR apart, maybe one of our state politicians could talk Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker into including a line item in the next budget to hire a historian who could start assembling old gear and records and investigate some possibilities for a museum or an expanded section in the State Historical Society building. There certainly are enough empty DNR offices to use as assembling locations, and there’s a beautiful building, relatively new, in Dodgeville that has been closed for several years. Put some of that space to use.

Come on, Sen. Howard Marklein, Sen. Tom Tiffany, Rep. Todd Novak, and Rep. Joel Kleefisch, Wisconsin used to be the gem of the country in natural resource management.  How about preserving some of Wisconsin’s history? These are the things that helped make Wisconsin, well, Wisconsin.

Just maybe we’d uncover some ideas pointing out that the good old times worked – and could do so again.

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