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The Many Sides of Del Logging
By Kathy Coatney
Back in the 1960s, Del Logging was known as CH&C. But when Delmer Hawkins’ partners pulled out, Delmer took the helm, and Del Logging was born.
The years passed, and Delmer’s son, Russ Hawkins, joined the logging operation in 1984.
“I started working in the woods full time in 1985, learning the business from the ground up and running everything from skidders, delimbers, chippers to feller bunchers,” says Russ.
The father and son team became partners in 1993, and in 1998, Russ began buying the company.
2013 Sees Upswing
After several down years, Russ sees the market starting to turn around. “Housing starts have nearly doubled since 2008. Although that is still half of what it was in 2005-06, it is easing the hard blow that the industry suffered for the last four years.”
Russ didn’t replace iron for two years, and now he is in catch up mode and has purchased a TimberPro, two skidders and two loaders. Russ is scheduled to run two sides for Roseburg Forest Products and one side for Sierra Pacific Industries.
On the job, fire is always a concern — this year in particular. Even early this past spring, when the humidity reached 20 percent logging was shut down. “We’ve actually had a shut down at noon before those last rains [in May],” says Russ.
To compensate for any shutdowns, Russ starts and shuts down earlier. He also has a hot saw and a bar saw for all of his feller bunchers so he can switch the bar saws during high fire danger periods.
Del Logging started mechanical logging in 1987, finding it much safer because everybody is in the machines where they are out of harm’s way. “Hardly anybody is on the ground,” Russ says, adding they haven’t had any serious accidents since switching to mechanical logging.
Going mechanical meant a change from old growth to second growth, says Russ. “Everybody went to small logs. Almost all the mills are small logs; there are only a few large log mills left.”
Russ says the small logs are preferable because it’s safer for the crew because there are few people on the ground; however, the trees are growing very fast and there are more plantations, so he sees his crew harvesting larger logs down the road.
“We’re actually trying to amp up a little bit to take on just a little bit larger log than we have in the past, to meet the increased size,” Russ says.
Russ runs a ground skidding operation. “We work on stuff that can be done with ground skidding equipment — with cats or skidders. I just never have gotten into cable logging, and I don’t have any desire to try and find the crew,” he says.
To get the job done, Russ looks to his Caterpillar (CAT) 528 and 525 and John Deere 648 rubber tired skidders, plus a CAT 527 and D5H track machines.
“We ran CAT skidders for years but recently purchased four John Deere 648 machines,” Russ says. “They just seem to hold up better for us, plus we get great service from our John Deere dealer, Papé Machinery.”
On the processing side, Russ runs all Log Max dangle heads attached to Link-belt and John Deere loaders. Russ says the Log Max heads work well for him. “We just don’t have that many problems with them, and if we do, we call my old buddy Andreas, and he talks us through it.”
Russ adds, “I’m still running the (Log Max) 7000s. We have fantastic luck with them. I think a couple of them are up around 18,000 to 20,000 hours on them, and we still produce lots of loads with them.”
Russ recently purchased a fourth TL735-B TimberPro from Bejac Corporation. These four feller bunchers, along with a Tigercat LX830, take care of all his cutting needs.
The chipping side of the business started in 1991, and it remains an important part of Del Logging today. They thin to create a healthier forest and for biomass materials, and they also do their own clean up, which includes chipping slash and top piles.
Logging and chipping go hand-in-hand now, Russ says. “We do a lot of multi-product sales, where chipping and logging are done at the same time.”
Even with the multi-product sales, Russ sees many of the biomass plants struggling to remain viable.
“This is a concern, because once they shut down, they’re gone, and all the infrastructure is lost,” he says.
“I’ve got a contract with Burney Forest Products for quite a bit of chips, but it’s not a money maker,” Russ says. He sees it more as a necessity.
“Biomass is like weeding the garden, and you weed so the plants will grow better; it’s the same with the forest,” Russ says. “Not only that, but you will fire proof it, and you will create a healthier forest, you’ll create more habitat for animals and everything else if you thin it out.”
Currently, Russ is thinning plantations. “We are doing 20 plus loads a day right now in plantations and delivering all the chips to Burney,” he says.
Russ is also involved in watershed restoration projects that require cutting and chipping of Western Junipers, which are considered invasive brush. Clearing them out releases more water, plus it helps the sage grouse mating areas called leks.
To tackle the tough Juniper trees, Russ purchased a Bandit 3590 Chipper. “That machine is impressive. It will eat anything and spit it out,” says Russ.
Hydro-Axe and Valmet 3 Wheelers are used to cut the small trees 16” and under. The TimberPros take care of the rest.
Russ buys three or four new machines a year to replace the worn out ones. He keeps the old ones for backups.
“If something happens, or if we get on these jobs where we get logs scattered behind us, I’ll put an old loader on,” Russ says. “I can load logs way back and keep my production going.”
Like all loggers, Russ can’t stand downtime, and keeping spare machines is the answer. “You only get a certain amount of days you’re going to work, and by god, you had better get it to the mill.”
It’s not just equipment that keeps the operations going, it’s the crew. Russ’ crew is experienced — some of them have been with the operation for over 20 years.
His crew has deep roots in the company. In fact, Russ says there are a couple employees who have been with Del Logging longer than he has.
That’s a good sign that Del Logging will be in operation for many years to come.
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