By Lindsay Mohlere
Building a good reputation by taking care of business and being professional, while treating employees with respect, was the first order of business when Jesse Hunt, president of Jesse Hunt Logging Inc., grabbed the reins of his own logging company. His first steps from the get-go have formed a solid business philosophy for success.
“When I started out, it wasn’t that I feared failure, it was I wanted to make sure I was doing stuff the right way and treating my employees good. Probably the biggest thing is, I didn’t want to be known as somebody that’s an ass or somebody that’s crooked. I wanted to have a good reputation with the state, PotlatchDeltic, and Idaho Forest Group. I took care of business and tried to treat my employees with respect. I don’t talk down to my employees. They’re an important part of the company. It’s ‘let’s work together.’ I value the input of my employees, says Jesse. When problems arise, he turns to his team to efficiently work as a group and come up with a solution together.
After a year in college following high school, Jesse landed a job at Gem Chain Bar, where he worked for a couple of years until he hired on with Evergreen Logging out of Kamiah, Idaho. One year later, in 1998, he went to work for Steve Henderson Logging out of Lewiston, Idaho.
“In 2013, Steve retired, and I bought four pieces of equipment from him. That’s how I got started. Just because of him,” says Jesse.
Along with the four forest machines, Jesse was joined by Gene Breeding on day one. “He’s got a lot of knowledge and more years in the woods than I do. A year later, Macintosh joined us. Both are pretty knowledgeable individuals, good workers, good equipment operators. They’re pretty valuable employees to me because you can have all the nice rigging in the world, but if you don’t have good guys in the seats to run it, it doesn’t mean a thing,” says Jesse.
High Expectations at the Top of the Pay Grade
For most logging companies, finding the right individuals for the job is always a difficult task. However, from the beginning, Jesse Hunt Logging has made it a priority to pay top wages to ensure the company can attract good operators.
“It goes back to if you pay these guys what you think is a good wage for a good operator, you tend to attract good guys,” says Jesse. “You still have some issues with employees, whether they find a better job somewhere else or they just don’t click with the crew, but that’s part of life. I want employees that want to be out there and enjoy it, versus just being out there and going through the motions. I want to be able to attract good operators and guys that truly have a passion for being out in the woods.”
With higher wages comes greater responsibility and greater expectations. Employees who have the mindset to produce at a high level, efficiently and safely, are essential to the success of the company. Paying at the top of the scale means holding the crews to a higher standard.
“From top to bottom, I think I’ve got a pretty good group of guys that, like I said, across the board, all enjoy what they do and take pride in what they do. They like it when they can produce and do good quality work,” says Jesse, adding “You can’t just give somebody a job and stick them in a $600,000 machine and only get half of its production capacity and expect to survive. You’ve got to be able to produce, take care of your machine, and be professional about it.”
Currently, Jesse employs 14 crew members and subcontracts a sawyer. He also subcontracts with
Rick Whitcome for hauling. Jesse also subs hauling to some of the bigger trucking companies, aiming to keep 14 to 16 trucks rolling. Annually, Jesse Hunt Logging harvests between 22 to 25 MBF.
Jesse’s wife Kellie is also an essential part of his operation. Not only does she handle the books, Kellie, who has an associate degree in business management, also manages maintenance and operational duties and supplies, which Jesse says makes her an absolutely invaluable resource. “We run a pretty lean outfit, and having her do some of that takes a lot of the pressure off me,” says Jesse. “Without her, I would have fallen on my face a long time ago.”
The Right Iron and the Right Attitude
From his beginnings with four machines, Jesse Hunt Logging has expanded to 13 machines and fields two and a half sides. One is a CAT side with a buncher, shovel logger, and skidder. The yarder side features an exclaimer CAT 235 — or when the situation demands, a Falcon tethering machine.
The Falcon Winch Assist system can be fitted to any excavator over 27 tons, and the single drum 11/8-inch rope provides continuous traction support for felling and shoveling machines on slopes up to 50 degrees. Jesse purchased the first one sold in Idaho and so far, the system has been a winner.
“It’s been awesome,” says Jesse. “The operator I have on my John Deere 909MH was already pushing the envelope on steep ground and that was one of my driving forces behind buying a tether. I wanted him to be safer. We also needed to be able to access more of the steeper ground. And be able to cut and skid on the shorter stuff because it takes a while for the yarder to rig up and skid. If it’s only 200-300 feet deep, it’s a lot easier just to grab it and swing it up to the road.”
Jesse says that Zeke Campbell and Russ Smith of Modern Machinery in Spokane, Washington, were a big factor in introducing him to the Falcon line. “Russ was instrumental in bringing the Falcon line into the U.S. I went over to the coast and watched one with him.” Although Jesse was impressed, the question was affordability. It took a couple of years, but he finally bought one.
Along with the yarder and tether machines, Jesse’s iron roster stacks up three John Deere machines, a John Deere 909M8, a John Deere 848H skidder, and a John Deere 2954 log loader. In addition, a Tigercat LX870D feller buncher and a Tigercat 855 equipped with a Waratah 624 processor add to the mix, alongside two Doosan DX300LL log loaders, with one shovel logging on the CAT side and the other loader on the yarder or tether side. A Link-Belt 240 LX is equipped with a Pierce Stroke Delimber.
Most of the machines in Jesse’s stable are newer models. It’s part of his overall business philosophy.
“I try to keep my guys in newer equipment, especially my bunchers and loaders because there’s only so many days out of the year you can cut, and so many days of the year you can load,” says Jesse. “I don’t mind running a little bit older processor. You can still process when you got adverse weather conditions.”
But in the end, for Jesse, it still comes down to maintaining a good reputation by taking care of business and being professional, while treating his employees well.
On the Cover
Overhead view of Osprey Logistics’ barge transport out of Everett, Washington
HDWI attempts to predict bad fire days by taking the wind speed and multiplying it by the vapor pressure deficit.
Osprey Logistics serves this logging community by finding a way to bridge logging and barge transport.
Emergent Technology Column
Komatsu Steps Up with User-Friendly Telematics
From the Get-go, A Step in the Right Direction
Building a good reputation by taking care of business, while respectfully treating employees, was the first order of business for Jesse Hunt Logging Inc.
Innovative Loggers Meets Innovative Machine
VanNatta Brothers Logging out of Eugene, Oregon, are pleased with the acquisition of their Quadco 4400 feller head.
Managing Forests for Maximum Value and Health