Carter Logging Works in Louisiana Bayou

- Advertisement -

Hahn harvesting heads a good fit for first thinning operations in pine plantations

De RIDDER, Louisiana — Carter Logging operates in the bayou wetlands country of western Louisiana. The company is based in the city of De Ridder, located close to the Sabine River, which forms the border between Louisiana and Texas.

Carter Logging has been working in the area since 1995, when Mitchell Carter started the company. He is the third generation of his family that has worked in the logging industry.

Harvesting timber in these very wet areas is a real challenge, but logging contractors have learned how to do it using modern processors.

Like many small logging contractors, Mitchell works out of his home and relies on a cell phone to keep in contact with his customers and suppliers. If you call him at home, you will most likely hear the cheerful voice of his wife, Nancy, who usually answers the phone. Nancy looks after their two sons and helps with the company paperwork.

- Advertisement -

Mitchell has four men working for him, and at present the company is logging slash and loblolly pine exclusively for pulpwood. Carter Logging primarily does thinning on plantation pines. The crew, working about 60-70 miles from home, produces about 300-350 cords per week. The logs go to a pulp mill in the region owned by Boise Cascade, and Mitchell works closely in the field with Boise forest technician James Parker.

Logging companies in this region work in a different way than many in the North. Mitchell technically is a sub-contractor for Forest Products Inc., which is located just over the border in Bon Wier, Texas and is the general contractor or wood dealer to Boise Cascade.

Jeff Brady, a forester with Forest Products Inc., said, “The last three years, we have been cutting exclusively for Boise, which is probably the biggest timberland owner in the state. We have had an excellent 30-year relationship with them. In past years we have also cut for Temple Inland.”

“At present, we are contracted to do the first thinning on Boise plantations when the trees are about 15 years old,” added Jeff, “at which time they average between 6 and 7 inches dbh (diameter breast high). Later there may be a second or even third thinning before the area is finally clear cut.” Boise requires the pulpwood logs be cut to 17 or 18 feet long. They are delivered to a Boise pulp mill in De Ridder where they are chipped to make pulp for various paper products. The best trees are left in the residual stand to be harvested in the future as saw logs.

Boise representatives asked Forest Products Inc. about eight years ago if track fellers and forwarders could be operated successfully in the bayou wetlands. “We found we could,” said Jeff, “and it has worked out really well. What we are doing is pretty unique in logging, and we have found we can supply logs reliably year-round from these very wet areas. The key is to operate machines with very low psi ground pressure.”

Forest Products Inc. normally subcontracts with four or five loggers and has worked with Carter Logging since 1995. Forest Products Inc. and Carter Logging jointly decide what machines and attachments to use, and Forest Products Inc. owns the equipment. For felling, Carter Logging uses a John Deere track excavator equipped with a Hahn harvesting head. The equipment combination and the cooperation between the two companies have proven to be very successful.

John Deere Excavator

The track excavator chosen by Carter Logging and Forest Products is a John Deere 120 model, the latest version being the 120C. John Deere offers an extensive line of heavy equipment for forestry and construction. The 120C model has wider, 28-inch tracks with triple grouser shoes, which are specially designed for soft ground conditions. It features low ground pressure of about 4.5 psi, including the weight of a typical forestry attachment. Power is provided by a 276 cubic inch turbocharged engine. Swing torque is 24,387 pounds and drawbar pull is 22,930 pounds. Mitchell said he favored the John Deere machine because of the manufacturer’s reputation for durability and longevity.

Hahn HSG 140 Harvester

Low psi ground pressure is vital when logging in wetlands, and the Hahn HSG 140 single-grip harvester selected by Forest Products Inc. and Carter Logging is lighter than most at 1,850 pounds. Hahn expressly designed the HSG 140 for select cut felling operations and plantation thinning. It is used primarily for this exact purpose by Carter Logging — to fell, delimb, measure and buck the trees to length in one operation. The HSG 140 has a ¾-inch pitch saw chain with a 24-inch sprocket nose bar, automatic saw oiler and a maximum roller opening of 14 inches.

Maximum cut-off diameter is listed in the Hahn specifications as 16.5 inches. “At times we cut trees up to 20 inches in diameter with the HSG 140,” said Carter, “by cutting from two sides of the tree. Sometimes when you are clear cutting an area, you come across a single big tree, so we take care of it with the same machine.”

Feed rate for the head is 5 to 11 feet per second, according to Hahn, depending on the speed mode selected (low or high), and maximum hydraulic system pressure is 3,300 psi. All hydraulic valves are NFPA industrial type. The feed rollers are powered by 630 cc displacement low-speed, high-torque motors while the saw is run by a 1.72 cubic inch per revolution, high-speed piston motor.

The Hahn HSG 140 has an electronic length measuring system with digital operator display. It uses roller mounted sensors that feed pulses to a pulse counter and offers two pre-sets. The Hahn HSG 140 is made of high-strength alloy steel yet is small and light enough to be mounted on the less expensive mini-excavators or compact three or four wheel carriers. Four length pre-sets and an ultrasonic diameter measuring system are optional.

Hahn Machinery Inc.

Hahn Machinery Co. was started by logger Ray Hahn in the 1960s. Ray built the first harvester for his own logging business. He saw the need for simple, affordable yet rugged equipment that small logging businesses could buy and operate from the safety of a carrier cab. The harvesters were manufactured from 1966-1971 under the Cancar brand name. Since then they have been marketed under the Hahn name and make up about one-third of the company’s total product line, according to president Gary Olsen. Hahn has sold 110 of its HSG heads. A larger model is also available, the HSG 160 with a 16-inch roller opening, and the company soon will offer an 18-inch version for use with feller-bunchers.

Hahn Machinery Co. is based in Two Harbors, Minnesota and refers to itself as the “Tree Processing Specialists.” Its emphasis and product philosophy is on practical, commonsense logging equipment.

Since the early days when Ray built his first logging machine, the company has expanded to include short wood processors, tree length processors, slasher merchandisers, and single-grip harvesters for use in the U.S. and Canada. Its equipment is priced well below competitors, according to Hahn, but is designed to deliver good productivity at an affordable price.

When discussing future directions for logging equipment, Gary commented, “We feel that simpler is the way to go. Many of the machines out there are getting way too expensive for a lot of people as profit margins today are very tight for most companies. So the machines have to be cost effective for the owners.”

Mitchell sometimes deals with the local Hahn dealer, J.R. Miesch in Jasper, Texas, but often calls direct to the factory in Minnesota if he needs special parts or trouble-shooting advice. “Our equipment is designed to be simple to maintain,” said Gary, “and 99 percent of problems can be fixed by a customer after a phone call to us. We don’t charge for telephone support.”

Mitchell bought his first HSG 140 when he started the company in 1995 and ran it until 2001. “By that time it had 11,000 hours on it, and the carrier it was mounted on had worn out,” Gary recalled. “Then Mitchell had us rebuild the head and mounted it on a new John Deere 120 carrier. We felt 11,000 hours was pretty extraordinary at the time for a light-weight rigid head. This year, we also rebuilt his second harvester head. The simplicity of the HSG head actually lends itself to rebuilding, which costs roughly half what a brand new harvester head would cost.”

Carter Machines, Methods

Carter Logging uses a variety of machines in its operations. Most plantation thinning, however, is accomplished with the processors, which combine the Hahn HSG 140 harvester head mounted on the John Deere 120 tracked carrier.

When asked about the performance of the Hahn heads, Mitchell said, “They are hard to beat. They last well and are a real good value.” Other benefits of the equipment, compared to working on the ground with chain saws, are improved safety and production. “We find we can do much more now with the processors than we could before by hand.”

Carter Logging’s main equipment list includes:

1 – John Deere 120 track excavator with Hahn HSG 140 harvester head

1 – John Deere 120C track excavator with Hahn HSG 140 harvester head

1 – Blount Hydro-Ax 411 EX rubber-tired feller-buncher

1 – Timberjack 230 rubber-tired forwarder

1 – Timberjack 610 rubber-tired forwarder

1 – Prentice 210C log loader

Mitchell described how the company typically works in the swampy Louisiana pine plantations. “We start off by knocking a hole in the bush at the highest and driest point in the area to open a travel trail or roadway. We use the processors to cut the first trees and lay them down end-ways to form a mat to drive on.” The machines — the John Deere 120 excavator with Hahn HSG 140 harvester head — do 90% of the work. “We make a travel trail every fifth row of trees and take out the small trees around the bigger ones, leaving about 16 feet clear around the trees left.”

When asked about alligators, Mitchell said they rarely see them, although they occasionally find one in an old stump hole or a creek. Another good reason to work from the safety of a cab!

The Hydro-Ax 411 EX rubber-tired feller-buncher is used at times — mainly in the summer on dry terrain. With the processors felling the trees, the Timberjack forwarders are driven in and out over the tree mat roadway to carry the wood to a landing close to the highway. “Our Timberjack forwarders are older machines,” said Mitchell, “but they are lighter, and we find they stand up better to the conditions.” After the cutting is essentially finished, the last job is to pick up the logs forming the mat roads and take them to the landing.

At the landing, the Prentice 210C loader is used to put the wood on trucks for delivery to the mill. The wood is hauled by a number of independent truckers who also work under contract to Forest Products Inc.

Most of the Carter Logging employees have been working for several years, and two have been working for him since he started the business in 1995. “I hate to send a man to do a job he hasn’t done before,” said Mitchell, “so they mostly work on one specific job.”

When Mitchell is not working, he likes to hunt deer and fish for catfish. Carter Logging also sponsors a couple of dirt track race cars.

Mitchell is a hands-on kind of supervisor and usually is on the job all the time, operating some of the machines and directing the crew. “I’m the first to start in the morning and the last to finish at night,” he said.