Monday, January 30th, 2023
Monday, January 30th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

13 acres donated to Oconto Wildlife Area

Keshena, Wis. — The Natural Resources Board (NRB), at its meeting Oct. 26, approved the donation of 13 acres for the Green Bay West Shores Wildlife Area.

The donation, from Bernadine LaFave, of Poynette, is located 4.5 miles northeast of Oconto in Oconto County. The parcel adjoins DNR property, has 1,446 feet of frontage on Smith Creek, and 1,200 feet of frontage along Hwy. Y for public access.

The parcel is primarily wet meadow and wetland, and should provide excellent habitat for waterfowl and duck hunters.

LaFave donated the land because she was unable to sell it. She donated it in memory of her late husband, Gary R. LaFave, who passed away Sept. 2, 2019.

“It’s surrounded by DNR land and is good duck hunting land,” she said.

The name LaFave may ring a bell with long-time Wisconsin outdoors people, as Bernadine thinks the land was originally owned by Gary’s father, Reuben LaFave, who served in the Wisconsin State Senate and lived close to this parcel.

In addition, a distant cousin of Gary LaFave’s, the late Neil LaFave, was the center of news reports in 1971 when he worked for the DNR as a wildlife technician and deputy conservation warden. He was killed by a person he’d given a violation ticket to for hunting pheasants during the closed season the previous fall.

The 32-year-old LaFave was posting signs along the Sensiba Wildlife Area in northeast Wisconsin on Sept. 24, 1971, when 21-year-old Brian Hussong shot and killed LaFave, and buried his body.

An investigation began immediately, with the Brown County Sheriff’s Department, DNR, Brown County district attorney, Wisconsin attorney general, and Wisconsin Crime Lab working closely together.

The late Dale P. Morey, then DNR conservation warden in Appleton, served as the lead investigator and recalled that the case involved unique investigation techniques, an extensive search for evidence, and dogged law enforcement work that put small pieces of evidence together to find the killer.

Some of the top officials involved included Morey, Brown County D.A. Donald Zuidmulder, Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Peter Peshek, Brown County Sheriff’s Department officers Marvin Gerlikovski, the lead investigator Wayne Truttman, and Brown County Sheriff Norb Froelich, and Gary Giesherbach of the State Crime Lab.

Hussong was eventually apprehended, tried, and convicted of the killing and was sentenced to prison. He escaped and was briefly free, before dying in a shootout with law enforcement officials in northern Wisconsin.

A series of articles on the event appeared in Wisconsin Outdoor News in 2021.

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