By Samantha Paul
Hannah Dehoog—also known as Logger Girl and Hanimal—of Smithers, British Columbia, is catching a lot of attention in the logging community.
It’s not just her engaging presence on social media, but her determination, bravery and skill as a young female heavy equipment operator working in a decidedly male dominated industry.
Dehoog has been exposed to and involved in various aspects of the forest industry for the majority of her life. Before she was even old enough for school, Dehoog was marching around the bush alongside her father, a log buyer at the time. In high school she worked at a tree nursery and a sawmill, and now at the age of 22, Dehoog works as an equipment operator for Groot Bros. Contracting Ltd. out of the town of Houston, in B.C.’s northern interior.
The first question Dehoog usually gets asked when someone discovers what she does for a living is, “How did you get into that?” Although her father, Chris Dehoog, is a log buyer for West Fraser, she was introduced to operating equipment by an ex-boyfriend.
While visiting him at a remote logging camp, a crew member suggested that she get a job on the crew. “No one thought I would take the suggestion seriously but as soon as the idea of running equipment came into my mind, it lit a fire in me. This is what I want to do,” she says.
Dehoog wasted no time. Before making the long drive home, she found the name and address of the contractor and stopped at his house to convince him to hire her. She had no operating experience, but was extremely determined. She recalls that after some persuasion the contractor said to her, “I will give you a chance, just don’t piss me off.” She was ecstatic.
She couldn’t wait to tell her Dad. “Guess who’s going logging Dad?” Dehoog yelled. Her Dad was thrilled.
Her father is well known in the logging community and is a huge motivator for Hannah. She works hard every day, not only to prove herself as a female operator but to make her Dad proud. “That drive will never change,” she states. “Most people think the start of my career as an equipment operator got handed to me by my Dad, but it didn’t. I did it all on my own,” she explains. “My Dad will be the first to tell you that he did not lift a finger. He did not make a phone call or be a reference.”
How many young women could survive life in the middle of the bush, with no cell service, infrequent showers and only the company of an all-male crew for weeks on end? Dehoog happily took on this challenge. “It was intimidating being the only girl in the camps. It is definitely more challenging for girls,” says Dehoog. “It took a while to get used to only showering every ten days,” she said.
When we spoke with Dehoog, she had just finished eight months of night shift, working alone with just a satellite SOS phone and the stars. “I got used to it. Some nights I got freaked out, but I did what I had to do. It was an adventure.”
Dehoog started out on an excavator, learning simple hydraulic controls and basic machine maintenance.
On day three she got behind the seat of a processor operator and by day four she was on her own, operating the processor. She recalls her boss telling her not to fire a log through the cab.
After two years operating a variety of machines including excavators, processors, skidders and loaders, Dehoog finally got her hands on a Tigercat feller buncher, an LX870C. Dehoog had always wanted to run a leveling machine. “I’ve tackled some pretty steep ground with that tilter and loved every minute of it,” she states. Tigercat quickly became her favourite brand.
Having run an 880 logger, several Tigercat skidders and both an LX870C and 870C, it was clear to her that Tigercat manufactured for the operator. “Life changing,” is how she describes Tigercat’s Turnaround skidder seat. “And I love how accessible everything is with the buncher. The hood flips open, the auto hydraulic pump is great and all the doors and guards are easy to use.”
When mechanic Dave Hunter and Dehoog were both working at Matt Hromatka Contracting, he gave her the nickname Hanimal and it has stuck with her over the past three years. When asked what type of Hanimal she is, she always responds with, “I’m a Tigercat.” She considers herself a bit of an animal—a little wild and outgoing in almost every aspect of life.
Dehoog is an adrenaline junkie. “My heart is like a compass that points to anything that feeds adrenaline,” she states. “When I am not logging, I am sledding with my family, dirt biking or hanging out with my boyfriend, and pit bull, Phoenix.”
She loves taking on new challenges. “There is nothing a guy can do that I can’t do. That is what fuels me,” explains Dehoog. “If someone doesn’t think I can do it, I want to prove them wrong.
“I am very proud of what I do as a female forestry equipment operator and so I want to share it with the world,” explains Dehoog. “I also don’t think there is enough promotion for women in logging.”
Since she started sharing her logger girl lifestyle on social media, other women have been curious about what it is like to be a woman working in harvesting. Dehoog provides them with candid insight whenever asked.
Due to Dehoog’s social media presence, she often gets recognized around Smithers and Prince George, B.C. She loves the attention but understands other young women are watching her, so she tries to behave online. “I have a cheeky way about explaining some of the challenges I face, but I absolutely love my job and truly encourage other women to give it a try.”
The next step in her career is to get certified for lowbed equipment as she feels that would be a useful skill.
Dehoog could also see herself working steep terrain abroad and has had job offers in New Zealand.
It takes a certain type of person to log every day whether you’re a girl or a guy. “I don’t think women are superior to men and I don’t think men are superior to women. We are equal and we all need the same opportunity,” she says. Dehoog is driven, hard working and tough. She is proud of what she does and isn’t going to stop promoting her logger girl lifestyle anytime soon.
This story was originally published in the Tigercat publication Between the Branches, and is reprinted with Tigercat’s permission.
On the Cover:
Hannah Dehoog of Smithers, B.C., is catching a lot of attention in the logging community. It’s not just her engaging presence on social media, but her determination and skill as a young female heavy equipment operator working in a decidedly male dominated industry. Read all about Dehoog and the logging work she is doing beginning on page 8 of this issue. (Cover photo courtesy of Tigercat).
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