PALO CEDRO, California – Logan Taylor credits half of his success as a longing contractor to hard work, his ability to focus, and his love of what he does. The owner/operator of Hunter Creek Contracting credits the other half to the dedicated men who make up his four-man crew. The company recently added a second skidder, a Tigercat 632H.
Taylor, 27, was born on a ranch in Fall River and raised in the suburbs of nearby Redding. He started his company seven years ago and has no plans of slowing down. Hunter Creek Contracting is based in Palo Cedro, which is situated a short distance from I-5 in northern California, a little over 120 miles from Oregon. The company harvests white fir, cedar and ponderosa pine that grows in the southern Klamath Mountains to the west and the Cascade Range to the north.
“When I first started,” said Taylor, “if you got 15 or 16 loads a day you were doing good, and now my two skidder operators and a buncher, loader, and processor operator average 25 to 30 loads a day.”
“With inflation,” he added, “we have to produce more and more just to meet the margin, and to do that you have to invest in and maintain good equipment.”
Taylor contracts for W.M Beaty & Associates, a land management company that consults for private landowners. At the time he talked with TimberWest, Taylor and his crew were clear-cutting a fire clean-up job in the Mt. Shasta/Lake Elsinore area. They usually work year-round except when the snowmelt starts to get muddy and fire season, when California’s strict laws kick in.
Taylor’s latest investment was the Tigercat 632H skidder, which he purchased through Bejac Corporation and its Redding-Anderson location. He chose the Tigercat machine, he said, mainly because of its heavy-duty drivetrain, big cylinders and strong center section. He also figured the comfortable and spacious cab would help with operator fatigue. The skidder also features easy access for routine maintenance.
“I have a great relationship with (Tigercat),” said Taylor. “They have been very supportive of not only my business but my family as well.”
The Tigercat 632H grapple skidder is powered by a Tier 4f engine that generates 285 hp and can travel up to 14 mph. It is available with higher capacity grapples and Tigercat’s most robust rear axle for extreme duty cycles and high volume demands. The cab features Tigercat’s Turnaround 220, a seat that rotates 220 degrees and enables the operator to access all functions and full drive control from any position. (For more information about Tigercat equipment, visit www.tigercat.com.)
Hunter Creek Contracting also is equipped with a John Deere 859m track feller buncher and a Link-Belt 4040 forestry machine with a Southstar 600 for processing. The company’s other skidder is a John Deere 848H. Rounding out the equipment is a Doosan 300 log loader.
Taylor normally operates the LinkBelt, processing trees. As the owner, though, he does much more. He lays out each job with the landing(s) and skid trails and also figures out the trucking logistics, including stops for meals. As he described it, everything before the job starts and afterward to the finish. His wife, Jayden, manages the books for the business.
Every work day Taylor meets with the crew in the morning to talk about their tasks for the day – including what he expects from them. “I also talk everyday about the safety procedures.” He runs a “tight ship,” he admitted, and is strict on operations and equipment maintenance. After the morning talk, “We go to work and get it done.”
Taylor does not own any trucks, so he contracts to haul his wood. Also, unless he is required to remove the biomass, he contracts his father’s company, Sierra Land Management, to chip it.
Labor is a challenge, noted Taylor. “One of the biggest problems we all are having today is there are too few new employees,” he said. “The workforce is either getting older, or they’re really young and difficult to teach. When I started, I brought in a lot of friends from high school that were interested in logging from an early age. They already liked the equipment and the work. The ones that stuck and stayed are doing very well because they like to work. My retention stays at about 60 percent and I think my secret is that I hire the young, weed out the dumb, and keep the smart.”
Although he has high expectations for his employees, Taylor pays a “good hourly wage.” He also pays bonuses based on job performance. The company provides health insurance, pickup trucks and fuel cards, and a crummy.
“I keep my fire equipment in my truck at all times, and my guys are fire and CPR certified every year. When a fire breaks out, we all jump into equipment and head for it. As far as Hunter Creek Contracting, we’ve never had a safety violation claim so far.
Taylor is a third-generation logger. He remembers being obsessed with logging and the equipment when he sat on his father’s lap while he worked in the woods. He operated equipment for his father, Wes, on weekends and summer vacations. After graduating from high school he worked two years for his father and alongside his paternal grandfather, Ron. He saved enough money to buy his first machine and go into business for himself.
Taylor has two brothers who also work in logging. His brother Wyatt is president of Allwood Inc. in Redding, and his brother Jesse runs a shovel logging operation for Green Diamond Resource Co. on the coast.
“My dad, who has two big operations and three small ones, now does contract work for all of us,” said Taylor. “He had a vision for his three boys and has done what he can to set us all up, and now we all have our own things. It’s what he wanted, and it’s what we wanted, too.
“We are all very competitive,” continued Taylor, “but we talk every day and throw each other jobs as they come up. When I see a job that’s a better fit for one of my brothers, I pass it on to them, and they do the same thing. Fortunately, when I get home at the end of a long day, I can leave my work in the truck before I go in the house. However, none of us is always successful at not dominating family dinners with shop talk.”
Taylor and Jayden have three children, so he saves the weekends for his family. They go to church on Sunday. Other than that, Taylor is up for whatever his children want to do on the weekends. He has had to cancel more vacations than he’s taken, but he and his family enjoy taking a couple of weeks off in the fall to go hunting.
A member of the California Association of Loggers, Taylor thinks the future looks bright. “Technology is advancing at such a fast pace,” he said. As the old loggers retire and the young don’t want to work, I figure there’s going to be more work for fewer contractors, and that could be rosy.”