BIEBER, California —
Russ Hawkins is a busy man with a business to run with his wife of 32 years, Helen. His company, Del Logging, provides contract timber harvesting services in northern California. Del Logging has 35-40 employees and operates as many as four crews at one time, sometimes five.
Russ carries on and is business as usual despite suffering the devastating effects of a spinal cord injury that befell him during a hunting accident.
Russ was injured while quail hunting in 2016. He tripped at the top of a steep bank and fell to the bottom. His spinal cord was compressed, and he was left totally paralyzed. He and his wife, Helen, were in a remote area. She had to travel 10 miles by vehicle in order to obtain cell phone service to call for help. Russ lay in a ditch for 2 hours until help arrived. He was hospitalized for two months.
His condition has improved, however. Now he can stand up and walk with the aid of a walker; he has walked as far as 200 yards. Also, he is gaining the use of his arms. He continues to take physical therapy three days per week. “The sky’s the limit, we hope,” he said.
Even though Russ still is impacted by his injury, his role in the business has changed little. “I’m pretty much still involved with everything,” he said. Russ lines up jobs for the company and is in touch with crew supervisors by phone. He makes all the decisions. He has an SUV equipped with a wheelchair lift so he can get into the woods and visit jobs. “I do 90 percent of what I did before,” he explained. “I’m just not walking the trails.”
Russ, 53, is a third generation logger. In addition to running Del Logging, he has a 1,000-acre hay and cattle ranch.
Del Logging is based in Bieber, which is located in northeast California; it is about 60 miles from Oregon and the same distance from Nevada. There are several national forests in the region, including the Modoc, Lassen, Shasta-Trinity, and Klamath. The company produces approximately 75 loads of round wood per day and 15 loads of fuel chips. It subcontracts for all trucking and some hand felling of oversize timber.
The company is named for his father, Delmer, who started it in 1968. Russ started working on his father’s ranch, then began working in logging when he turned 18. He began operating skidders and later operated delimbers on landings. “I learned to run everything as I was growing up,” he recalled. Russ began acquiring the business from his father in 1992 and finished the transition in 2002. His father, who retired in 1996, is deceased.
At the time Russ acquired the company, it had 18 employees that operated as one or two crews. Russ did not intentionally plan to grow the business. He expanded it as the demand for services increased. “I’d find a good person to hire and would build it from there,” he added.
Log Max harvester attachments are integral to the company’s operations. Del Logging owns four Log Max harvester attachments; all are the Log Max 7000XT model, dangle head attachments. Russ invested in the first one in 2003 and has added them steadily since then, the last one purchased in 2018. The Log Max XTreme Series of attachments can be configured for harvesting or as dedicated processors. Del Logging uses them strictly for processing at the landing. Each Log Max is mounted on a John Deere 2656 track log loader.
“We’ve owned Log Max forever and love them,” said Russ. “We’re very happy with them.” The harvesters run reliably on a daily basis, he indicated.
“And we love the people at Log Max,” added Russ. If the operators need technical assistance, they can call with their cell phone and speak with Andreas Karlsson, president of the company, or Ron Kisch, product support manager. All the operators are on a first-name basis with Andreas and Ron, he indicated.
“We do all our own maintenance,” said Russ. A technician from Log Max visits the company annually to inspect the equipment.
Log Max is a Swedish manufacturing company that has been designing and manufacturing machines for mechanized forestry operations since 1980. Its main product line is single grip harvesters, attachments that can fell a tree, delimb it, and cut it to desired lengths. They can be mounted on wheel or track carriers.
The XTreme Series attachments are heavy-duty harvesting heads specifically designed for track carriers. They were developed to provide the logging industry with a productive, durable head for the most extreme applications and to produce wood at the lowest cost per ton.
With its large, high-torque feed motors, the Log Max 7000XT supplies 11,600 pounds of feed force and delimbing power. High-flow hydraulics provide increased performance in any application and the toughest conditions.
The Log Max 7000XT has a maximum cutting diameter of 25-31 inches; its most productive range is 6-19 inches. A 30 cc saw motor is standard while a 60 cc motor is optional. It features four movable knives with patented positioning to minimize friction losses, which increases the active pulling force. The Log Max 7000XT is a dangle head attachment, but it is also available as a fixed head.
Log Max was acquired by Komatsu in 2012, and Komatsu acquired two other manufacturers of forestry attachments, Quadco and Southstar, in 2018. Komatsu’s forestry attachment division now operates under the Quadco nameplate and manages the Log Max, Quadco, and Southstar brands. (For more information about Log Max attachments, visit www.logmax.com or call its North American headquarters office in Vancouver, Washington, at (360) 699-7300.)
Del Logging works almost entirely under contract to other businesses to harvest timber they own or purchase. Those customers include Landvest, Hancock Resources, Sierra Pacific Industries, and W.M. Beaty & Associates. Del Logging also performs thinning and chipping by the acre.
Russ has up to five crews working at a time although the company usually runs three logging crews and one for chipping. The terrain can range from relatively flat to 50-60 percent slope. The dominant species are Douglas fir, white fir, pine, and cedar. Average timber diameter is 16-19 inches DBH, said Russ. About 75 percent of production is delivered tree length, and the other 25 percent is delivered cut-to-length.
There are good markets — sawmills and veneer mills — for round wood in the region. Russ ticked some of the names: Sierra Pacific Industries, Shasta Green, Roseburg Forest Products, Trinity River Lumber Company, Collins Pine Co., Thomas Lumber Company. Fuel chips are supplied to cogeneration plants like Honey Lake Power and Burney Forest Products.
All felling is done with TimberPro track harvesters; the company has three TimberPro 735C machines, a 735B, and a 745D. The harvesters are equipped with TimberPro bar saw felling heads during the warm months because they are less likely to cause sparks that could lead to a fire; in the cold months, when there is less risk of fire, the machines run Quadco 24-inch hot saws. Trees are skidded to the landing with John Deere 648L and 848L grapple skidders and Cat 527 track skidders.
Thinning is performed with machines equipped with shear feller buncher heads. The company has a John Deere 843K feller buncher with a shear head, and Russ also subcontracts a company that runs a three-wheel Hydro-Axe machine with a shear head.
The company chips all tops and limbs as well as thinnings up to 12 inches. The chipping crew is equipped with a Bandit 3590 whole tree chipper that is fed with a loader.
The company’s hauls average 40-50 miles, and trucks normally make three trips per day. About 75 percent of the timber being harvested comes off private land. The other 25 percent comes off the national forests in the region.
Russ credits the company’s success in large part to his employees. A lot of them have worked for him for many years. Del Logging offers employees a group health insurance plan and a 401(k) retirement savings plan, to which the company makes a matching contribution.
Russ has two sons who are involved in the business, too, Kolten and Hunter. They are “working their way up like I did,” said Russ. Hunter, 23, and Kolten, 30, are both college graduates and are operating heavy equipment; Kolten works in the chipping operations. Kolten earned a wildlife biology degree from Oregon State University, and Hunter received a degree in agricultural business from Chico State University in California.
Russ and Helen also have a daughter, Kelsey, who graduated from the University of Nevada-Reno with a degree in speech pathology and works as a speech pathologist. They also have two grandchildren, Ethan and Quinn.
Russ is active in the industry. He serves on the board of directors of Associated California Loggers. He also is a member of the California Forestry Association, the Logger Association of Northern California, the American Forest Resource Council, and the Sierra Cascade Logging Conference.
In addition, he serves as a chapter chairman of the California Deer Association. “My passion is hunting,” said Russ. He has achieved a ‘grand slam,’ bagging all four of the North American wild sheep.
At the time Russ was interviewed for this article, the company had equipment on four jobs, but logging conditions were not ideal. “It’s not cold enough,” said Russ. “We need a freeze.”