The word woodsman, meaning man of the woods, can be applied to any person coming from or living in a wooded area. Woodsmen is the plural form.
Woodsmen are stereotypically nature-wise persons who hunt for their food and live simply. They are often portrayed as male, bearded, knowledgeable about plants and animals, and possessing highly developed tracking and survival skills. Characterized by their log cabin homes, woodsmen are also sometimes stereotyped as old fashioned, and possibly eccentric.
Woodsmen and hunters were placed in special military units in many armies up until modern times. In many cases, the names of these units are still used today.
The image of the woodsman, with his full, thick beard, flintlock musket, and hatchet, is often romanticized in movies and books. The 1980s movie Continental Divide made fun of these stereotypes in the context of a love story.
Today a number of "Woodsmen Teams" can be found at both the intercollegiate and professional level. Timbersport events are often featured on popular sports networks such as ESPN and ESPN2. Collegiate timbersport is heavily concentrated in the Eastern United States and Canada. Schools such as Colby College (Maine), Dartmouth College (New Hampshire),University of Maine and the University of Toronto are among the first and most dominant schools.
Events include chopping, sawing, pole climb, fire build, axe throw and log roll.
A typical Woodsmen Meet is described below by a member of the elite Unity College's women's woodsmen team.
Teams from many colleges gather at the host college's wood-shed or wood-field. The most recent one was held November 3, 2007, at the University of New Hampshire. The entrance fee for each team into this competition was $175. Most schools have 2-4 teams. Each team has 6 men or women. If team is part guys and at least 1 girl, they are labeled as 'Jack and Jill' and must compete under the men's rules. Most events, with one or two exceptions, rely on time to determine the winner. Logs used in each event vary greatly in size and can be circular or square. I will use 'she' throughout this.
The day started off at about 8 a.m. with a captain's meeting and a drawing of wood numbers. These numbers determined the order in which each team would compete through-out the day. The events were staggered slightly so that something was always going on but also so that members of the team had ample time to prepare for the next events.
The first set of events was 'singles'- all members of the team must complete a separate task by themselves. These are the basic ones, but each meet varies slightly in rules and events in every category. There are only 6 events at each meet, but more are listed below because the actual events vary.
Axe throw: The thrower stands a marked distance away from a target (which is made of the typical concentric circles) and must stay behind the line as she throws and aims for the bullseye. The points increase as you go in towards the center, 1 down to 5. You get from 1-3 practice throws, and then you have 3 consecutive throws that count for points. There are no redos, and if you miss, you get 0 points. Double-sticks (where both edges of the double-headed axe are embedded in the wood) usually don't count, but when they do, you must tap the handle to see if it is secure. The handle must be facing towards the ground.
Bowsaw: The person stands on one side of a log chained to a stancheon, and uses a bowsaw to cut a set number of 'cookies' (wood slices). The fastest wins.
Singlebuck: The person stands on one side of a log chained to a stancheon and uses a cross-saw to cut cookies. This is considered harder than the bowsaw because the saw is longer and heavier, and the log is sometimes 3 times larger.
Quarter Split: The person has a log set upright on the ground (sometimes it is set in a tire for control), and they must chop it into at least 4 full-length pieces as quickly as possible. Sometimes, there is a painted circle on top, and that color must appear on each piece of split wood to count. This event is sometimes modified to 'wood' split' where the wood must be split into pieces that must fit through a hole (typically 6-8 inches).
Chainsaw: Each person (donning appropriate safety gear) starts their chainsaw and warms it up. They then set it on the ground and put their hands on the woods. On 'Go!' they must pick up the chainsaw and cut a cookie as quickly as possible.
Disc-stack: Also uses a chainsaw. There is a log set upright on a stancheon and the person must cut the wood so that there is a stack of discs- this is done vertically. The person with the most discs set before it topples wins.
Obstacle Course: The one at UNH consisted of 3 parts, each one immediately after the other. First was a 2/3 pulp toss event. Then she had to run over to where a thin, marked, square cookie was laying; she had to grab the axe and split it (a bonus for this was that if you hit the red dot, you got 15 seconds deducted from your time). Last was upright bowsawing. She had to run up a diagonal log and saw a cookie off. This required balance. A person stood a bit away to catch the saw if the girl fell.
Pole Climb: Self-explanatory. A harnessed person wears special spikes to scale a wooden pole and ring the bell at the top to signify completion.
There were 3 doubles events that included the 3 pairs of girls from each team:
Crosscut: Each girl stood on either side of a suspended, stancheoned and chained log and had to cut 3 cookies. This was timed.
Pulp toss: There are 2 sets of stakes directly opposite from each other- the distance in between varies. The girls usually have to throw lighter logs a shorter distance. Each girl stand behind a set of the stakes. The logs are sitting on the fround to start with. The beginning girl throws the 4 logs one by one, attempting to make the logs straddle the line created by the other stakes. Each time she does, it counts as one point. Logs and points can be knocked in and out. The team who gets a set number of points (usually 16-20) first wins.
Vertical chop: There is a log set upright on a stancheon. At some meets, each girl must chop a single log, but in some, such as UNH, they share one, each doing a side. They follow a set, marked, pattern to topple the log by chopping it in half. Timed.
In triples events, there are 2 groups of 3 people from each team:
Horizontal Chop: A log is set a horizontal stancheon and the chopper stands on the log. The same thing is done as in Vertical Chop, except that each chopper almost always has her own block.
Log Relay: The one at UNH consisted of three parts. The men's teams could only have one person complete each task, but all three women on each team could assist in each task. Each event started at one pair of stakes and had to get clear past the other set that was set up about away. First up was tire flip. This one was a tractor tire, and the most effective tactic, as found by the Unity team, was for one girl to stand in the middle and help pull it that way as the other two pushed it up. The girl in the middle would then slip out, assist in finishing that flip, and then get back in the middle. This was repeated until done. Second was chain pull- we had to pull a massive tire skidder chain until it crossed the line. It was mightily heavy. Last was log pull. You had to wrap a chain around a log and pull it.
Team events included every person on the team: Log roll: You had to go back and forth between 2 sets of stakes 3 times, 2 people at a time. Each person uses a peavey to push their end of the log. The log must hit both stakes. If one side falls shorts, a method called crosshaul is used. During this, the 2 girls are on opposite sides of the log and use the clamps on other side of their peaveys to haul it.
Crosscut: This is similar to the singles events, except that after every 2 cookies, you pass the saw off to another member of your team
Mystery Event: This is usually horseshoes or canoeing, but can be anything
The events are very unset, and the host school can make arbitrary decisions such as: making horizontal a doubles event (most events can be switched around like this) or anything else. This is relatively incomplete.