SIU Forestry Club puts timber sports on display during campus eclipse festivities


Fashion Design and Merchandising senior Kyndell Cole demonstrates the Jack & Jill Buck saw with forestry senior Luke Dvorak as forestry graduate student Ashley Bergman coaches on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, outside SIU Arena. (Anna Spoerre | @annaspoerre)

By Denton 'Gio' Giovenco, Sports Editor

While the campus swelled with recently settled-in students and eclipse tourists from across the globe Monday morning, the roar of a chainsaw cut through the festivities, signaling that the SIU Forestry Club was moments away from putting its timber sports skills on display.

The forestry club was one of numerous registered student organizations invited to entertain the crowd at the eclipse festivities while showcasing all that Southern has to offer for current and prospective students. The club took prime residence on the lawn just north of the Troutt-Wittmann Academic & Training Center, demonstrating such Stihl Timbersports staples as underhand chop and the cross-cut saw discipline, double buck.

Senior Forestry Club second-term President Xavier Stewart explained that any chance to perform a live demonstration is paramount in keeping the members of the club sharp for competitions, and Monday’s opportunity was one that the club could not pass on.


“Last year, we didn’t do a lot of demonstrations,” Stewart said. “We want to hit the ground running as soon as school starts and go from there.”

Each year, the forestry club fields a competitive team to take part in the Midwestern Forester’s Conclave – a collegiate-level competition held each spring semester that will celebrate it’s 66th year in 2018.

Conclave Captain and Forestry senior Caleb Thompson demonstrates the underhand chop on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, outside SIU Arena. (Anna Spoerre | @annaspoerre)

Outside of the more traditional events regularly seen on the professional Stihl Timbersports Lumberjack Series, the Conclave adds events such as pulp toss, bolt toss, log roll and axe throw to the mix.

Pulp toss is an event governed by technique and accuracy, throwing four long and slender logs with the objective of landing each between two posts driven into the ground. Bolt toss on the other hand, finds a competitor adding strength to the mix as they try to throw and land a long, large and heavy log as far as they can down-course.

Along with physical events, the Conclave plays host to knowledge-based events that test student-competitors’ forestry acumen. These include wood ID, dendrology and traverse events.

Within these events, knowledge gained from classroom instruction and in-field study guides the competitors as they work to identify tree species, estimate tree diameters and properly record direction and distance while traveling over a set course.

All events are split into men’s and women’s divisions, while some events such as log roll, single and double buck also consist of a Jack & Jill team. Each event awards first through third place with trophies — frequently hand-made by members of the host college’s forestry club — while awarding team points to all competitors based on finishing position.


The college with the highest overall team point total at the end of all events is crowned the Conclave champion. The Salukis have claimed that championship many times throughout the Conclave’s 65 years, including a streak of 18 first-place finishes beginning with 1992 and running through 2009.

SIU struggled to take first place in the years following its 2009 championship, regularly serving as runner-up to the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Pointers as they took Conclave’s top spot in years 2011 through 2016.

Forestry sophomore Eugene Ballance, demonstrates the Men’s Double Buck saw with forestry senior Caleb Thompson (not pictured) as forestry senior Luke Dvorak coaches on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, outside SIU Arena. (Anna Spoerre | @annaspoerre)

The Salukis ended the Pointers’ dominant run in the spring of 2017 at the 65th annual Conclave, taking first place to return the championship trophy back to the Agricultural building trophy case. UW-Stevens Point placed second — not far behind the champion SIU conclave team.

“Stevens Point is most definitely a strong rival,” Stewart said. “We have the competitors and the talent, so we are definitely ready to fire back this year at conclave and go for a repeat performance.”

This years conclave will be a special one according to Stewart, as UW-Stevens Point will serve as host. Stewart also notes that the 66th annual Conclave is slated for a two-day event in 2018 rather than the one-day length that has become regular in recent years.

To prepare for the end-year Conclave, the Forestry Club attends other events throughout the academic year such as the Iron Horse in Poplar Bluff, Missouri.

“It’s not a big competition, averaging only a couple schools regularly,” Stewart said. “It is more to get the club’s feet wet and for new members to come along and learn.”

To be able to travel and take part in various competitions like the Iron Horse and Conclave, the forestry club focuses on running fundraising programs throughout the academic year. These programs include selling firewood that the members harvest, split and deliver themselves. The club is also selling coasters this year cut from harvested trees and emblazoned with laser-etched designs of leaves that represent native species.

“The coasters seem to be a pretty big hit,” Stewart said.

Outside of fundraising programs, Stewart explains that the club relies heavily on outside sponsors to fund the forestry club’s competitive teams. These sponsors are prominently placed on all club t-shirts and jerseys that members wear during competitions, demonstrations and off-campus events.

SIU Forestry Cub members sell laser-etched coasters for a couple dollars each on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, outside SIU Arena. (Anna Spoerre | @annaspoerre)

To further give back to the community that sponsors the club, Stewart noted the charitable work that Forestry Club members undertake throughout the year that covers local natural areas.

“We are going to be doing trail maintenance and trail building with Green Earth, Inc.,” he said. “We also continue to work with Touch of Nature, but we are always looking to branch out to other areas in the community.”

The Forestry Club will also take part in the RSO 5k Race for the Cure scheduled around homecoming festivities this year, with benefits from the race going towards a scholarship that benefits students that have been affected by breast cancer.

Stewart is confident that membership numbers will remain strong for the Forestry Club, as he notes over a dozen new students have already e-mailed the club or signed up through the RSO website with intentions of actively participating this academic year.

“I would say overall we have 30 active members this year,” he said. “We took 32 to conclave last year. We hope to gain some good competitors out of the new people joining the club this semester.”

The SIU Forestry Club will make another push for membership at the New Student BBQ on Wednesday located just outside the Ag. building breezeway. The BBQ is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m., and the club hopes for the opportunity to perform another live demonstration on the lawn next to the BBQ. Be sure to visit the club’s table for more information on joining and activities scheduled for the upcoming year.

Sports writer Denton “Gio” Giovenco can be reached at or on Twitter @DentonGiovenco.

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