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Axes, Saws and Running on Logs at Southern Forestry Conclave
Axes, Saws and Running on Logs at Southern Forestry Conclave
featured in Forestry

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana–A towering, 20-foot wooden pole with a smooth, slippery surface seemed impossible to conquer when the 62nd annual Southern Forestry Conclave kicked off its pole-climbing competition last weekend.

One student after the next attempted the climb, but some couldn’t get their feet to stay on the pole at all. Others struggled to make it half-way, their bodies visibly shaking from the effort. One fell off. A few finally made it.

Pole Climb Southern Forestry Conclave

Above: Some contestants competed barefoot to get a good grip in the pole climb.

Then came a student from Stephen F. Austin University who had clearly done this before. He shimmied up the pole, slapped the sack of chalkdust on top to signal timekeepers to stop their watches, and whipped back down before his climbing time could even be announced: he had crushed the pole climb in an incredible 4.685 seconds.

His classmates let out cheers of triumph, waving a massive school flag above their heads as he was pronounced the winner. But it was only the beginning. Still to come were competitions in axe and knife throwing, swaing, pole felling and even log birling, in which contestants try to outlast each other while running atop a spinning log in a lake (shown below).

Log Birling Southern Forestry Conclave

Above: In Log Birling, a log is held steady until contestants climb on top and signal they are ready. As soon as the log is let free, it begans to spin at a rapid speed, forcing the contestants to either run in place or take a plunge.

Conclave, featuring timber sport events reminiscent of a lumberjack competition, is an action-packed tradition that has lasted more than 60 years. This year’s event on March 21-24, 2019, attracted 250 college students from 15 universities across the South. LSU’s Society for American Foresters Student Chapter hosted the event at LSU’s AgCenter Botanic Gardens at Burden.

Pole Felling Southern Forestry Conclave

Above: In Pole Felling, students have to pound a stake in the ground where they want their tree to fall. Then, they have to chop the tree and make it fall as close to the stake as quickly as possible.

The competition kicked off Friday with technical challenges relating to forestry, like photogrammetry (examining and interpreting aerial photos), tree diameter estimation, tree identification and compass and pacing (using a compass and chain to locate a specific point). Then came the physical competitions:

  • Crosscut sawing

  • Bowsaw

  • Axe throw

  • Knife throw

  • Chain throw

  • Archery

  • Log chop

  • Pole fell

  • Log rolling

  • Archery

Rayonier was proud to be a sponsor of the event, passing out sunglasses, sunscreen and other supplies to the students and talking forestry with them. We cheered on several former Rayonier interns as well as some future interns who will be joining Rayonier this summer.

Log Rolling Southern Forestry Conclave

Above: In the Log Roll, students have to roll a large log down a course that turns here and there without ever going out of the boundary. When they reach the end, they have to turn the log around and roll back -- a very physically-demanding task!

When the results of all the competitions were in, it was announced that Stephen F. Austin came in first place overall, followed by the University of Arkansas at Monticello in second and Clemson University in third.

We can’t wait to see everyone again at next year’s conclave!

Rayonier Forestry Conclave Table