It may come as a surprise to some, but the state of Arkansas is covered in woodlands. In fact, more than 19 million acres of forests, consisting of 42 percent oak and 29 percent pine, cover the state according to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.
Since more than half of the state consists of timber, it’s no wonder many local loggers – like Don and Gene Hamaker, owners of Hamaker Timber – call Arkansas and Louisiana home for their forestry operations.
“I grew up around the logging industry,” Don says. “I was able to see firsthand what logging was all about, and I was good at it.”
After high school, and a brief stint in the construction industry, Don took a leap of faith and started his own business in 1986. Today, Hamaker Timber is a successful full-service timber harvesting company with a dedicated crew of nine employees.
“As a logger, I’ve been through some tough times, economically and financially,” Don says. “But I’ve always gotten through them thanks to the Lord. The Lord has blessed me very much in life, with my crew and with my equipment.”
Pine to profit
Arkansas forests are primarily owned by farmers, ranchers and other private landowners like Weyerhaeuser Company, one of the world’s largest private landowners of timber and manufacturers of wood products in the United States. The company owns approximately 7.3 million acres across 11 southern states and hired Hamaker Timber to actively harvest a portion of their woodlands.
Don and his crew were tasked with harvesting pine trees between 25 and 30 years of age. On average, Hamaker Timber logs 120-acre tracts and transports 90 loads a week.
To keep up with his expanding business, Don decided to meet with Jason Dutton at Equipment Inc. in Shreveport, Louisiana, to grow his heavy equipment fleet.
“I looked into other equipment brands in the past, but I couldn’t find the right machine for my operation,” Don says. “But, a few years ago, Jason took me to the Northwest for a week, and I observed several Doosan log loaders. I visited with other owners and I was sold right there. I was willing to take a chance on this machine.”
The DX225LL turned out to be an ideal solution for Don, so he decided to purchase a second Doosan® log loader 12 months later. The second DX225LL is used primarily to unload timber at a Georgia-Pacific wood mill, located in Bernice, Louisiana. The mill converts timber into chips that are distributed to other mills. A third log loader – a DX300LL-5 – is paired with a cut-to-length processor attachment. Don says the combination has increased his productivity more than any other machine he owns.
“The dependability, ease of use and speed of the machine is like no other,” Don says. “I’m able to take men off from our other logging machines and put them on Doosan log loaders. They can pick up how to operate right off the bat.”
Cutting down challenges
Don’s crew primarily logs in southern Arkansas and northwestern Louisiana. The landscape ranges from low, broad flatwoods and steep hillsides filled with sand and iron ore, which previously created unique challenges for Don and his crew.
“At times we are working on some pretty steep slopes on rocky terrain,” Don says. “It can be tough, but we have a job to do. And if we aren’t productive, we aren’t going to be around in business.”
With the purchase of two Doosan log loaders, Don says he’s been able to push past challenges and stay productive year-round. In fact, the swing power, swing speed and lifting power of the log loaders have helped him cut the time it takes to load and unload trucks in half.
“We can now load a truck in the woods in about 10 minutes,” Don says. “And at the wood mill, we can unload a truck in about seven or eight minutes. Prior to purchasing the log loaders, we had to use truck-mounted loaders which took twice as long. I can confidently say we are much more efficient using the log loaders than we have been in the past.”
In addition, the DX225LL has a higher vantage point and good visibility, allowing Don’s crew to efficiently sort logs as specified by each mill.
“There are some mills we work with that want pine one day and hardwoods the next,” Don says. “Prior to adding Doosan equipment, it was difficult to sort each type of wood with the truck-mounted loaders, but now we don’t have to worry about that. It’s very simple for us.”
Like other loggers, Don can’t afford downtime and lost productivity, so he depends on his crew and on-site mechanic for daily maintenance and his dealer for parts and service.
“Our mechanic and operators clean and inspect our machines daily to make sure the equipment is in good shape,” Don says. “And when I need parts, I call up Equipment Inc. There have been times my dealership has brought a part to me, even when we were deep in the woods. That’s how good they’ve been to me.”
While times have certainly changed since Don first got started in the logging industry, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Logging is challenging,” Don says. “But, we continue to adapt and learn. Our goal is to make sure we are doing the best job we can for Weyerhaeuser and Georgia-Pacific by using the best equipment. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.”