Northern New Hampshire and Vermont are speckled with the name Bunnell: Bunnell Brook, Bunnell Notch, Bunnell Mountain — and Bunnell logging. The Bunnell name has been associated with working in the woods for at least four generations. Heath Bunnell, proprietor of HB Logging and son of well-known Monroe, N.H., logger Rocky Bunnell, is the fourth generation.
“We’ve always seemed to have been around here,” says Heath, who, unsurprisingly, grew up wanting to be a logger like his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather — well, a logger, and a fisherman in Alaska.
Right out of high school he bought his first skidder and began working with Rocky and independently. But the call of the cold, churning Alaskan sea was too much to resist, and in 1992 young Heath sold that skidder and went to the far north to try his hand at commercial fishing.
“I loved it, actually. It was incredibly hard work, but I loved it,” he says. But on a visit home in 1998, when he was trying to decide whether to buy a share of quota on the boat he had been working on, the ice storm of 1998 pummeled northern New England. There was a lot of salvage opportunities for loggers in New Hampshire. Despite pleas from his boat’s captain, Heath decided to stay in his home state (he grew up in Monroe) and bought another skidder.
“My dad didn’t really want to travel a lot, and southern Vermont after the ice storm was good territory for a cable skidder,” remembers Heath. “So that’s where I went.”
HB Logging today, with a crew of 12 employees, has diversified into excavation and trucking beyond logging. Two years ago HB bought a horizontal grinder, following that purchase with an excavator and grapple saw to work with the grinder. HB Logging also runs three skidders now, a feller-buncher, and delimber, in addition to other equipment. Heath will sometimes subcontract with other loggers when demand outpaces the capacity of his feller-buncher.
The range of jobs HB Logging will work is impressive, from clearing homesites to large clearing jobs for commercial projects. In May, HB will begin a clearing job at the airport in Bennington, Vt. Often, two or three jobs are occupying HB Logging at the same time, but they all share the hallmark of an HB Logging timber sale, says Heath, which is “professionalism. We’re fully insured, and we work hard to maintain our reputation. Virtually all our work comes to us through word of mouth; we don’t even have a website.” That reputation and professional approach to work has earned Heath not just a place in his family’s legacy as well as the respect of fellow loggers and colleagues in the industry, but also the 2019 Outstanding Logger Award from the New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association.
Heath will also buy timber himself on occasion, and though HB Logging typically doesn’t do a lot of contract logging, the company has a relationship with Meadowsend Timber Co., where Heath works often with Meadowsend’s Jeremy Turner.
Mud season finds Heath, who has settled with his family – his wife Tricia and daughters Sofia and Zoe – in Kirby, Vt., about 20 miles north of Monroe, far away from the forests of northern New England. Every April he returns to a home he bought a few years ago in Moab, Utah, where he spends his time mountain-biking with friends. “I lived in Crested Butte, Colorado, for several years and did a lot of skiing and mountain biking there, and then we kind of gradually moved on to southern Utah. I finally pulled the trigger and bought a home out there so we’d have kind of a base of operations.” Heath is also an avid tracker and hunter.
Being honored as Outstanding Logger for 2019 is “definitely special to me, and I think it’s also special to my dad,” says Heath. Rocky Bunnell is also an Outstanding Logger honoree, in 2007. “This has been our family’s business for as long as I’ve been alive, and long before that. It’s a great business, and it’s great to have it in the family.”