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Odd Duck: Douglas County Impact

If Wisconsin had a poet laureate of hunting and fishing, it would be Gordon MacQuarrie ’24.

August 04, 2017
Photo courtesy of the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, Hayward

If Wisconsin had a poet laureate of hunting and fishing, it would be Gordon MacQuarrie ’24. The longtime reporter and editor at the Superior Evening Telegram — and later at the Milwaukee Journal — felt as deeply about duck blinds and dressing partridges and chasing beagles through the woods as Shakespeare did about his dark-eyed woman or Keats about his Grecian urn.

The only reason you haven’t read MacQuarrie’s ode to a deer stand is that he wasn’t the rhyming type. “I never wrote a poem in my life,” he said. “But if I ever do, it will be about ducks.”

MacQuarrie was born in Superior, Wisconsin, and he spent his youth roaming the woods and waters of Douglas County. In the 1920s, he went to UW–Madison to study journalism, before returning home to work for the local paper.

In the 1930s, he began to write short stories about his favorite hobbies, inventing an organization called the Old Duck Hunters Association and peopling it with fictionalized versions of various hunters and fishermen he knew. Beginning with The Old Duck Hunters Association and Other Drivel, he launched a career as the first outdoors writer in America.

“I never wrote a poem in my life. But if I ever do, it will be about ducks.”

MacQuarrie became fast friends with Aldo Leopold, the UW–Madison professor of wildlife ecology who developed the “land ethic,” a series of principles that guide hunting and fishing today. Though MacQuarrie died in 1956, his work remains in print, inspiring new generations to explore the natural world just beyond the towns and farms of northern Wisconsin.

Thank you, Douglas County, for Gordon MacQuarrie who invited us to see the humor and poetry of a life in the outdoors.

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