Oshkosh studies deer hunting history, habits

As weather cools, so does the desire to stay indoors. That’s not the same as wanting to stay at home: Consider this trio of recently opened exhibits as a good reason to bundle up and head out.

You don’t have to shoot a gun to appreciate the many history lessons that “Deer Hunting: Wisconsin’s Autumn Tradition” introduces at the Oshkosh Public Museum.

“It’s a huge part of the culture in Wisconsin – and it’s not all about blood, guts and gore,” says the museum’s Megan Del Debbio, raised near Pembine, where schools close during deer season instead of for a traditional spring break.

“Nearly everybody’s life is affected by deer hunting,” Megan believes.

Just as a single picture leads to many stories, one sport – deer hunting – embraces many traditions, trends, relationships and dynamics. Consider an exhibit snapshot from Donald Stoehr of Green Bay, now 83.

Next to nine men are five deer that neatly hang from a wooden beam in front of a log cabin. Hind legs skewered, carcasses gutted: This was Short’s Camp – north of Argonne in Forest County – in 1923, after the thrill of the hunt had ended for another year.

Three of the hunters were uncles who taught him how to track the whitetail when Don was a high school senior, one year before he joined the Army Air Corps near the end of World War II.

“My dad was a logger in that part of the country but didn’t hunt until I got out of the service,” Don explains, during an interview. Then they hunted together, but only once. The sport wasn’t a good fit for his father, who was shot by a German sniper while in the 32nd “Red Arrow” Infantry Division during World War I.

Although the father-son hunt happened 30 years later, stalking deer still seemed too much like stalking the enemy.

That’s the story behind one picture. Other props and explanations cover history (hunting as a necessity vs. sport, record-setting harvests), law changes (such as bans on salt licks, running deer with dogs), equipment (hand warmers, deer sleds), resourcefulness (uses for antlers, hides, hooves), ethics (deer baiting, fair chase hunting) and contemporary topics (chronic wasting disease).

Feel the difference between a deer’s summer and winter coat, hear the difference between a fawn in distress and a bawling buck, see a velvety deer antler up close. We learn that deer walk on their toenails, can run 40 mph and average 13 mph when swimming.

Under glass is a deerskin dress worn by a descendant of Chief Oshkosh. Mounted are bucks with record-setting racks – plus the hind end of a whitetail, to acknowledge hunter humor. For free are venison chili and venison marinade recipes.

“Deer Hunting: Wisconsin’s Autumn Tradition” ends Jan. 30 at the Oshkosh Public Museum, 1331 Algoma Blvd., Oshkosh. Closed on Mondays; admission is $7 (less for children and senior citizens). For more: www.oshkoshmuseum.org, 920-236-5799.

Jack Lummus and Maurice Britt were football players with promising careers cut short by military service. Their lives ended not with Super Bowl rings but Congressional Medals of Honor, the highest award bestowed on military personnel.

More about these and other lesser-known heroes make up “Pro Football and the American Spirit,” a new exhibit at the Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame.

Lummus, an end with the New York Giants, also was a Marine who died in action at Iwo Jima after stepping on a land mine in 1945. Britt was an end for the Detroit Lions before losing an arm during a World War II firefight in 1943.

A third pro football affiliate – Joe Foss, American Football League commissioner in the 1960s – earned a Congressional Medal of Honor as a Marine who shot down enemy aircraft at Guadalcanal in the 1940s.

More than 1,200 players, coaches and administrators interrupted football careers to serve the U.S. during military conflicts. Tales of heartache, survival and brave comebacks are abundant. Not all is about battle: We also learn, for example, that the Packers’ Curly Lambeau, Don Hutson and Cecil Isbell sold $2.1 million in war bonds during a one-night Milwaukee rally in 1942.

Look for “Pro Football and the American Spirit” until Jan. 9 at the Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame, 1265 Lombardi Ave., Green Bay. Admission is $10 (less for children, senior citizens and military personnel). For more: www.lambeaufield.com, 920-569-7512.

Time it right, and a new exhibit about frogs at the Milwaukee Public Museum offers a double helping of satisfaction. The amphibians are remarkable, and it’s also fun to watch children react to the creatures. So the display is proof that kids still get a kick out of the wonders of nature.

More than one dozen frog species from Asia to Africa make up the show, and many blend into their surroundings. Videos that show how frogs move, eat and interact. An interactive screen shows how to dissect a frog. Story panels explain museum researcher Bob Henderson’s work with frogs in Granada.

For trivia lovers: Frogs move their eyeballs to the roof of their mouth when swallowing food. They don’t drink water but absorb through skin what they need. Frog legs are known as mountain chicken in some parts of the world, and global demand for the delicacy has decimated some parts of the frog population.

“Frogs: A Chorus of Colors” continues until Jan. 2 at the Milwaukee Public Museum, 800 W. Wells St., Milwaukee. Admission is $18.50 (less for children and senior citizens). For more: www.mpm.edu, 414-223-4676.

Prices, at all three locations, include access to other parts of the host museum.

Which foods and food traditions define Wisconsin? I provide one perspective through the Cultural Coalition of Wisconsin: See www.portalwisconsin.org/eat/bergin.cfm. You are encouraged to post your own ideas at www.facebook.com/roadstraveled, and before Thanksgiving I will reward at least two of these Facebook fans for their efforts.

“Roads Traveled” is the result of anonymous travel, independent travel, press trips and travel journalism conferences. What we choose to cover is not contingent on subsidized or complimentary travel.