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For information about Sandhill Wildlife Area, contact:
Sandhill Wildlife Area
1715 County Hwy X
Babcock, WI 54413
715-884-2437

Sandhill game farm and the Grange era

In the 1930s during the peak of the Great Depression, an entrepreneur by the name of Wallace Grange and his wife, Hazel, purchased 9,460 acres of this abandoned, tax delinquent "wasteland." Wallace Grange was a prominent figure in Sandhill's history and the history of Wisconsin's wildlife management. In 1928, at the young age of 23, Wallace Grange became the first Superintendent of Game Management for the old Wisconsin Conservation Department (now called the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.) In 1930 he moved on to a position as a biologist with the U.S. Biological Survey (now known as the U.S. Fish & Wildlfie Service) in Washington D.C. During these formative years, Wallace became well known as a competent biologist and was influential in working with others (Herb Stoddard, Aldo Leopold, Adolf and Olaus Murie, Sigurd Olson) in developing wildlife management into a profession.

Government work didn't settle well with him and in 1932 he returned to Door County, Wisconsin where he ran a small, private game farm. Meanwhile, he continued his land purchases in southwestern Wood County, made improvements to his acquisitions and with Hazel they enclosed their land with an 8-foot tall deer-tight fence and named their enterprise Sandhill Game Farm. The couple moved permanently to Sandhill in 1937.

The Granges nurtured the scarred landscape, restoring the drained wetlands by plugging ditches and creating dikes and flowages. Grange 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 between the 1930s and 1950s from Sandhill to the southeastern states. Likewise, live grouse were sent to several northeastern states to support wildlife reintroduction programs where these animal populations had become depleted. Grange's game farm also shipped out many pounds of venison to restaurants in Chicago and New York City.

The Granges spent 25 years nurturing Sandhill and running their Game Farm. Upon retirement in 1962, they sold their living legacy to the State of Wisconsin specifying that it was to 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.

Note: For those interested in reading more about Wallace and Hazel Grange's life work, three excellent books written by them include:

  • Grange, Hazel. 1996. Live Arrival Guaranteed: a Sandhill memoir. Lost River Press.
  • Grange, Wallace. 1990. Those of the Forest. Willow Creek Press.
  • Grange, Wallace. 1949. The Way to Game Abundance: an Explanation of Game Cycles. Charles Scribner's Sons. (out of print)

These books are available at book stores or through book dealers.

Last revised: Friday September 28 2012