by Emily Wafler

Jim DeLellis has owned his 75 acre forest for 30 years. However, what originally attracted him to the land wasn’t the beautiful hardwoods or the potential timber harvests. Rather, it was the allure of owning private hunting grounds that brought him to his property in Alleghany County.

For years DeLellis had been an avid turkey and deer hunter, and when he heard of the property for sale in a local paper he jumped on the opportunity to own private hunting land. Up until the 50’s the area was composed of farmland until it was abandoned. It wasn’t until the 70’s that the previous owner began planting again in the area. Soon after buying the land in 1985 DeLellis began to make changes.

One of the first things he did was invest in a road system. DeLellis’ new trails not only provided better access for hunting, but also a place for his two sons to ride ATVs and motorcycles. In addition, he clear cut 3 acres to create early successional habitats to benefit the wildlife in the area.

DeLellis also began planting Christmas trees in some of his clear cut areas. Initially, he planted approximately 300 white spruces and took care of them over the next 15 years. Yet, he only gave them away without selling them, and without a profit. He knew that the trees were more effort than they were worth and stopped tending to them. However, it wasn’t until a few years after DeLellis bought the land that he fully realized than its value spanned beyond a place for recreation and Christmas trees.

“The forest is an asset and it’s worth money. I had no idea,” said DeLellis as he looks back on his few years of land ownership. It wasn’t until 1990 when he met with a state forester who began to explain the additional benefits of owning 18 stands of oak, maple, cherry, and other north eastern deciduous trees. He soon learned that various land management practices could not only improve the wildlife on his property, but could also be seen as a financial investment, and began to make changes.

One of the first things he did was develop a management plan with state forester, Paul Krester. DeLellis also took part in three federal cost share programs and was able to receive federal funding. After thinning several acres of his land, he was able to produce tall, straight crop trees 15 years later.

In 2008 DeLellis took part in what he calls the “worst first” timber harvest. After selling the trees on stump, he and a group of friends cut all of the trees themselves. He now recognizes that he can hire a logger to do the same job, but found the process enjoyable and educational.

Today, DeLellis’ land looks very different than it did 30 years ago when he bought it. He now has two small food plots for the wildlife he likes to hunt. Both food plots are planted to rapeseed and brassica, and have proven to be very successful in attracting wildlife to his land.

In addition, DeLellis has been monitoring the beech populations on his land. Knowing that deer don’t feed on beech seedlings, he sees these as a threat and a competition to other more valuable trees on his land. He has since been keeping beech and other less desirable plant populations down with various herbicide treatments.

DeLellis has also built a cabin, garage, and a pole barn on the land, and in 2012 he hosted his first NYFOA woods walk. He hopes to have another one sometime soon.

Currently DeLellis is mostly focusing on a selection system commercial timber harvest that will be happening on his property in the next few weeks. He is also working to implement a crop tree management plan for the next ten years.

What he enjoys most about his land is seeing how it has changed during his ownership. One day he hopes to pass the property down to his two sons, Nicholas and John, so it can be preserved and enjoyed for years to come.

If you would like to be profiled for a future issue visit or send an email to

Emily Wafler, Cornell University Coop Extension, ForestConnect Program Assistant, Department of Natural Resources, Ithaca, NY.

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