We Are Tree Hunters

Members of the Native Tree Society are “Tree Hunters.”  We are a group of outdoor enthusiasts, hikers, climbers, adventurers, artists, and scientists obsessed with exploring the forests and woodlands of the world.  Unlike the causal hiker, we are hunting trees.  We are looking for:

  1. Large and magnificent trees, the forest monarchs;
  2. Ancient trees that exhibit the characteristics of great age;
  3. Unusual trees with character.

On a broader scale we are hunting for stands of trees that:

  1. Include a groves of large or exceptional trees;
  2. Remnant patches of ancient or old growth forests;
  3. Stands of trees that represent unusual assemblages of tree species or growth patterns, some of the elfin forests of stunted  trees growing on exposed mountain tops are some examples.

One major goal of the Native Tree Society is to introduce others to the greater forest experience and to share with them the passion of forest exploration we all feel.  Hikers enjoy the walks through the forest, the scenes before them.  They may take photos or simply commune with the forest and experience the feeling of the primordial.  Tree hunters share these experiences, but bring back something more than random snapshots.  Tree hunters bring back measurements. observations, and descriptions of the places they visit.  These are things that can be shared with others and preserved for the future.   

We collect these trees by noting their locations and accurately measuring their size.  If the height and girth measurements of the trees we locate do not meet certain quality standards, then tree simply can’t be counted as part of the collection.   We use topographic maps, air photos, and GPS units to note the tree locations, measuring tapes to measure girth and crown spread, and a combination of laser rangefinders and clinometers to measure tree heights.  A tree hunter does not need to spend all of their time measuring and cataloging trees, there is time to be taken for quiet contemplation.  Still, the process of mentally cataloging the forest allows one to see things that otherwise would pass unnoticed, and brings forth a deeper, or at least different, connection with forest than is achieved through a casual passage along a hiking trail.

We share much in common with groups interested in geocaching, with peak baggers, and hikers, but with our own twist.  We are not trying to locate caches of items hidden by others, we are trying to find our own big trees and find our own unique patches of forest.  While we document  and share our finds with other tree hunters, the overall goals is exploration of the new and to better understand what we have found.  We talk to people and pour over maps and air photos trying to find patches of old growth forest to visit and  the locations of secret groves of big trees.  But when we go out into the field, we are always unsure of what we will find in terms of trees, whether we will find an ancient giant, or young grove regrown after the latest round of logging.  There is an anticipation of the unknown. 

We hunt exceptional trees and forests because finding them excite us. There is the thrill of discovery and the idea of putting altogether new information into to the data stream that drives us.  Most people don't get it.  That makes the scientific approach to measuring and evaluating big trees all the more important.  It will help the rest of the world to understand why big trees and old forests are valuable beyond just aesthetics.  It allows us better understand the full potential of nature and to understand the ties to nature within ourselves. 

The Native Tree Society is foremost a scientific organization. Our membership includes some of the most renowned forest researchers in the world.  These people add their scientific expertise and provide a higher profile for our research efforts. However, the average member involved with NTS, whatever their background, are just as important in our efforts and form the backbone of our organization.  Members have a rare opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to the advancement of science as an individual - they are not a nameless cog in the industrial wheel. Searching for big trees, measuring trees, and documenting patches of forests are they core foundation for understanding forest processes. Whether working on an individual basis or as part of a small team of friends, members can take pride in the discovery, exploration, and documentation of important forests sites, and know they have personally made a contribution. 

Measurement and science is not the sole focus of NTS.  We respect the simple enjoyment of forest exploration.  Many of our members are artists, poets, writers, photographers, musicians, and composers.  The aesthetics of the forest are always a consideration.  The natural world has since prehistory provided inspiration for the arts.  It has been shown that walking in the forest contributes to our psychological well being and happiness.  We support efforts to encourage children, the next generation of our forest explorers and guardians, to get outside and into the natural world.  

Some of our members have commented on why we explore the forest:

James Parton wrote:
I hunt trees to get to know new ones and introduce them to the world. They do not have to be huge or old to be special to me. Of course, if so, that is nice too. It is so great to enter a forest and document trees, either by measuring or photography ( usually both ) and know that I may be the only one who has ever done that in the woods I am visiting. I find pride in that. It is a service to the trees that we do for them. Get them known and promote their preservation. It is a great pride we should all share. 
Steve Galehouse wrote:
I sometimes think people, including myself, need to have some sort of "purpose" to go for a hike off-trail in a woods, and tree hunting is my purpose, but experiencing the woods is real attraction. In a similar manner, I portage to and canoe lakes up North with the "purpose" of fishing, but hiking the trails and paddling a remote lake are the real attractions---catching fish, or finding big trees, is just icing on the cake.

Bob Leverett wrote:

We'd never get the kind of forest documentation that we do from conventional forest sources and associated activities. It is a singular NTS mission with no guaranteed paybacks. But, I can't think of anything I'd rather be doing these days.

This is who we are.  We are outdoor enthusiasts, hikers, climbers, adventurers, artists, and scientists.  We are you!  Come and join us.