Christmas tree hunt requires some preparation

By Dylan J. Darling / The Bulletin / @DylanJDarling

Tree hunting safety tips

The U.S. Forest Service offers these tips for a safe tree hunt:

• Let someone know when and where you plan to cut;

• Bring warm clothes, a container of hot liquid, water and food;

• Carry a flashlight during the hunt;

• Carry chains during the drive.

National forest lands around Central Oregon offer people who want a Christmas tree a chance to head out into the woods and cut their own.

But there’s a permit to have, rules to know and advice to follow before setting out on a tree hunt. It’s also good to have a plan, said Brian Tandy, forest products program manager for the Deschutes and Ochoco national forests.

“I think what people have to think about first is, ‘What kind of tree do you want?’” he said.

Ponderosa pines grow close to Bend and at lower elevations.

Douglas and white firs have more branches, making them more popular as Christmas trees. They’re found at higher elevations.

Incense cedars are another option; they’re also found at higher elevations.

The Sisters Ranger District is particularly popular for Christmas tree hunters, with a variety of trees found off state Highway 242 and near Camp Sherman. Many folks around Central Oregon have a particular place they like to go and get a tree each year, but if you’re new at tree hunting, it is up to you to pry info from them.

“A lot of people have the place they like to go and don’t like to divulge it,” Tandy said.

On the Ochoco National Forest near Prineville, the woods off of McKay Creek Road and around Walton Lake are popular places to go, said Patrick Lair, spokesman for the Ochoco.

“You can get up in the firs pretty quick,” he said.

While coming home with a Christmas tree is the goal, many people in Central Oregon have made a family tradition out of the event that involves more than a tree hunt, said Jean Nelson-Dean, spokeswoman for the Deschutes National Forest. Some pack sleds or bring chili and make a day of it.

“Getting the tree is just part of the fun,” she said.

Permits are $5 and available at Deschutes and Ochoco national forest offices around Central Oregon, as well as a number of retailers.

The businesses include Bi-Mart, groceries and country stores.

Last year in Central Oregon, 6,768 Christmas tree permits were sold for the two forests, according to Tandy. Of those, 1,298 were sold at U.S. Forest Service offices and 5,470 were sold at businesses.

Rules pertain to the tree itself, as well as where and how to cut it. One permit is required for each Christmas tree with a maximum of five trees allowed per household, according to the Deschutes and Ochoco national forests website. Trees should not exceed 12 feet in height and must be within 15 feet of another tree. Stumps should be cut shorter than a foot.

The forests also ask that tree hunters don’t cut within 150 feet of state highways, picnic areas, campgrounds and other developments; within 300 feet of streams, lakes or ponds; or within young tree plantations. The forests also don’t allow cutting of trees in wilderness areas.

Forest officials remind folks to think about taking care of themselves as they set out in search of a tree. Handy equipment for sizing up and cutting a tree include a measuring tape, a handsaw and gloves. Helpful gear in case the tree hunt goes longer than expected include warm clothes, food, water and a map.

Tandy also recommended tree hunters tell someone when and where they’re going after a tree.

“So if you don’t show up, they know where to start looking,” he said.

—Reporter: 541-617-7812; ddarling@bendbulletin.com.