The focus of the holiday season shifts from turkey to trees in the days following Thanksgiving. Some residents will pull out boxed trees to decorate while others scan local tree lots to find the perfect evergreen.
Douglas County offers another option: Cut your own. People willing to travel, explore and put in some sweat equity can cut down balsam fir for $5 in the Brule River State Forest.
"We know people enjoy our forests throughout the year and the opportunity to find that special Christmas tree or bring home some fresh-scented evergreen boughs provides another great reason to visit our northern state forests," DNR State Lands Specialist Teague Prichard said.
The opportunity is only available in six state forests, and Brule made the cut.
A dozen people have already picked up permits for trees at the Brule ranger station on 6250 S. Ranger Road. Visitors service associate Mitch Pauly said he expects permit distribution to pick up in the next few weeks after the deer gun hunt ends. Visitor guides and maps of the area are available to help tree hunters navigate the forest.
“Scouting is definitely recommended,” Pauly said, and balsam fir is the quarry.
There are some restrictions on what trees can be bagged. Harvesting is prohibited within 100 feet of visual distance of roads, trails and water. No harvesting is allowed from campgrounds or day use areas. Trees must be cut within 6 inches from ground level, with a maximum height of 15 feet and the trees taken from state forests can't be resold.
Trees cut inside the gypsy moth quarantine area cannot be moved outside the quarantine zone. As of May 1, there was no gypsy moth quarantine in Douglas County.
Permits can be purchased at the ranger station between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Visitors are encouraged to call ahead to make sure someone will be at the station.
People can pick up more than one permit.
“It’s not uncommon for a family, mom and dad, brothers and sisters, to all make a day of it,” Pauly said.
With the recent snowfall, tree hunters may want to add a shovel to their gear so they can reach the base of the tree.