Typically when harvesting a timber stand we use a skidder to pull out the logs, but occasionally a team of horses are used. This is done either because of a land owner’s preference as some areas are more sensitive and horses are generally a bit gentler on the ecosystem and sometimes we just use them just because.
It was really incredible to watch how well the horses work. I commented to the logger on how well they responded to his voice commands and he just shrugged and said when you work with them like this every day they figure it out. Then we saw some bear tracks and asked him how the horses would react to seeing a bear, but we figured these two huge horses would scare off the little black bear no problem.
The stand had been previously marked by a forester with blue paint all the trees that were to be cut down in order to improve the quality of timber on the property. He is cutting a variety of species, red oak, poplar, soft maple, beech, and possibly a few others. This property didn’t have any white oak that I saw.
Loggers can direct which way they want the tree to fall by cutting a notch on the side it is to fall towards. This is very important for the logger to be aware of the surrounding trees in order to do as little damage as possible to the surrounding trees. We manage our stands primarily using group selection and single tree selection methods of Silviculture and they need to be aware of a lot of other standing trees.
Once the tree has fallen and a hole in the canopy is created it will allow the sunlight to reach the forest floor. This will release the young saplings and allow for growth of intermediate and shade intolerant species, such as red and white oak, cherry, and others that will create a healthy timber stand.
After the tree has is down the logger cuts of the ears around the butt of the log to round it out, then he measures the logs to cut and then trims the branches. The tree tops will remain in the forests. Regeneration is actually much better where these tree tops remain, nutrients are put back into the soil and the saplings are not easily accessible for deer and other animals to eat! After a few logs are cut he will back up his little wagon with the team of horses using voice commands and wrap a chain around the log and carry it out of the woods to the landing site.
Check out the video to watch how it all happens!