Sandhill game farm and the Grange era
During the peak of the Great Depression in the 1930s, an entrepreneur named Wallace Grange and his wife, Hazel, purchased 9,460 acres of abandoned, tax delinquent "wasteland." Before purchasing the land that would eventually become Sandhill Wildlife Area, Wallace Grange spent a career working in game management with the former Wisconsin Conservation Department (now the Wisconsin DNR) as the state's first superintendent of game management and for the U.S. Biological Survey (now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) as a biologist. Grange became known as a competent biologist and was influential in working to develop wildlife management into a profession alongside Herb Stoddard, Aldo Leopold, Adolf and Olaus Murie, Sigurd Olson and others.
In 1932, Wallace Grance returned from Washington, D.C., to Door County, where he ran a small, private game farm. Meanwhile, he added to his land holdings in southwestern Wood County. In making improvements to his Wood County property, he and Hazel enclosed their land with an 8-foot-tall deer-tight fence. They named their enterprise the Sandhill Game Farm.
The Granges moved permanently to Sandhill in 1937. Together they nurtured the scarred landscape, restoring the drained wetlands by plugging ditches and creating dikes and flowages. The Granges experimented with forest cuttings and demonstrated how proper habitat management could boost deer, grouse and waterfowl numbers that could be harvested for commercial purposes. Many living deer were shipped to southeastern states from Sandhill from the 1930s through the 1950s. Likewise, live grouse were sent to several northeastern states to support wildlife reintroduction programs in areas where these animal populations had become depleted. The Granges' game farm also shipped out many pounds of venison to restaurants in Chicago and New York City.
The Granges spent 25 years restoring Sandhill and running their game farm. Upon retirement in 1962, they sold their living legacy to the state of Wisconsin, specifying that it be used as a wildlife demonstration and education area. Wallace died in 1987. He was inducted into Wisconsin's Conservation Hall of Fame in 1993. Hazel died in 1997.
For those interested in reading more about Wallace and Hazel Grange's life work, three excellent books have been written by them:
- "Live Arrival Guaranteed: A Sandhill Memoir," by Hazel Grange, 1996, Lost River Press;
- "Those of the Forest," by Wallace Grange, 1990, Willow Creek Press; and
- "The Way to Game Abundance: An Explanation of Game Cycles," by Wallace Grange, 1949, Charles Scribner's Sons (out of print).
These books are available at bookstores or through book dealers.