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Value of timberland has risen sharply

I spent an enjoyable afternoon just yesterday driving over the wood roads of our riverfront-hunting club. The roads, themselves, were somewhat better than usual and I was lucky enough to have my son, Mabry, do the driving.

The observer on one of these sightseeing trips has a certain advantage over the driver since most hunting club roads, though quite good, are rather narrow and require the attention of the driver at all times. I know this to be a fact. On more than one occasion I have “ditched” my vehicle when suddenly confronted by a huge buck or maybe a big drove of turkeys.

The healthy crop of weeds and undergrowth that has flourished unusually well this summer due to lots of rain kept us from seeing very far out into the woods proper, but there were enough openings, fields, and roadside food plots to allow us to see quite a lot of game.

We saw a large number of deer and at least one drove of fairly young turkeys, to say nothing of a couple of gobblers that were in a hurry to get out of the road and lose themselves in the thickets that abound.

One thing that we saw and that I am seeing in virtually every piece of bottomland hardwood around is that timber cutters are at work at a very rapid rate. It seems that they are cutting more logs and pulpwood than I've seen in the past.

I know quite well that a forest, be it hardwood or pine, exists for the purpose of producing trees that are turned into lumber for housing and pulpwood for paper and other products. I learned this lesson quite well when I spent the first few years of my working life at a huge sawmill. One of my jobs was to assist in getting plenty of saw logs to the mill.

Selective cutting is not only profitable to the landowner, but it also provides ideal habitat for virtually every species of desirable wildlife that we are blessed with, especially deer and turkey that are highly desirable.

My only hope is that the timber owners have this in mind when they start removing trees from their woods. It has become well-known for a few years that timberland is recreational land for more and more people and is becoming more economically valuable as a place to hunt, fish, and observe nature than it is as a producer of lumber or pulpwood.

If you doubt this, just ask a few hunters how much rent or lease fees they are paying the owner per acre just to have the privilege of visiting on the land and hunting and fishing the fine by-products the land provides.

Quite recently I have been made aware of just how valuable timberland is to a certain group that love to hunt and fish. Some of the figures that they quote in dollars per acre are absolutely astounding.

I have no trouble remembering a time not so long ago when thousands of acres of prime bottomland hardwood lands lying between the main levee and the Mississippi River sold outright for considerably less than a one-year hunting lease on the same land will now bring.

I don't know whether it was smart or just blind good luck, but a few men, including myself, bought some of this dirt-cheap land back then for a song, with no idea whatever that it would be worth much to any of us except as a place to hunt and maybe fish. A few of us who were lucky enough to fall into this bonanza are still thanking the Creator for making such places for people like us, and assuring ourselves and our families of a lifetime on some fine recreational land.

Some of the big timberland owners began wising up to the value of their woods for more than logs and pulpwood and, as a result, the hunting club became very common and popular over the South, especially in the Mississippi Delta.

As the old axiom goes, “They are not making any more of this land,” and if you are lucky enough to have access to such places, consider yourself fortunate indeed.

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