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Ax Men
Genre Documentary / Reality
Starring Jay Browning
Darrell Holthusen
Melvin Lardy
Mike Pihl
Craig Rygaard
Jimmy Smith
Ryan Conner
Narrated by Thom Beers
Opening theme All Along the Watchtower performed by Jimi Hendrix
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 3 present (3 more planned)
No. of episodes 25
Executive producer(s) Dolores Gavin
Thom Beers
Producer(s) Marc Marriott (series)
Brian Knappmiller (story)
Location(s)  United States
Northwest Oregon
Northern Washington
Running time 60 minutes (with commercials)
Original channel History
Original run March 9, 2008 – present
External links
Official website

Ax Men (also known as Axe Men) is an American documentary reality television series that premiered on March 9, 2008 on History. The program follows the work of several logging crews in the second-growth forests of Northwestern Oregon, Washington, and Montana. The show highlights the dangers encountered by the loggers. Following in the footsteps of other shows from Original Productions, like Deadliest Catch and Ice Road Truckers, the series is considered part of a recent "real-men-in-danger" television programming trend.[1][2][3]

The Third season premiered on January 10, 2010.




Season 1

J.M. Browning Logging

J.M. Browning Logging is owned by Jay Browning, a 34-year veteran of the logging industry. His left hand was torn off in a logging accident, but he now wears a prosthesis that allows him to wield a chainsaw. Jay runs his company with a "hire the best in the business and use the best equipment" philosophy. His sons Jesse and Jared work for him; Jesse is scheduled to take over the company one day.[4][5]

Stump-Branch Logging

This company, owned by Melvin Lardy, is based in Buxton, Oregon. His crew is a fairly young one, using secondhand equipment and willing to take any job to make a living.[6][7]

Pihl Logging

Pihl Logging is owned by Mike Pihl. Comments by employee Dwayne Dethlefs are often featured in promotional spots for the show; his son Dustin also works for the company.[8]

Gustafson Logging

Gustafson Logging Company is a clearcut logging company based out of Astoria, Oregon.[9]

The company takes contracts to cut timber in Oregon's second growth forests. Gustafson Logging is currently owned by three brothers, Clay, Mark, and Wade Gustafson, sons of Duane Gustafson.[9] The company was started in 1974 by Duane Gustafson with only a chainsaw, some old wire, and some other assorted rigging.[9] Darrell Holthusen is the "side rod," or crew foreman.

Season 2

The Pihl and Browning crews are featured in this season, along with three other companies.

S&S Aqua Logging

Founded by Jimmy Smith in South Cle Elum, Washington, S&S recovers sunken old-growth logs from the beds of rivers that were used by earlier generations of loggers to float them downstream. The company motto is "Recovering the forests of yesterday to save the forests of tomorrow," reflecting their commitment to never cut down a live tree. His son James is active in the business as well.

Rygaard Logging

This company, based in Port Angeles, Washington, was founded by Craig Rygaard in 1993. His sons Gabe, Jason and Burt are his business partners.

R&R Conner Aviation

Ryan and Robin Conner founded this company in 2000 in Conner, Montana. They specialize in "heli-logging": using a helicopter to airlift felled trees from terrain too steep or hostile to reach with an access road. The helicopter was restored at The Pitstop Inc..

Season 3

The same companies from Season 2 (Rygaard, Conner, Browning, S&S, and Pihl) are featured in Season 3, which takes place during summer rather than fall/winter. Due to trouble with Washington state permits, S&S relocates to White Springs, Florida and begins working with Collins River Logging, run by Joe Collins, to pull logs from the Suwannee River. One new crew appears alongside these five.

Swamp Man Logging

Shelby Stanga has lived in the swamps north of New Orleans since he was nine years old, and he has been logging in the area for 37 years. He recovers abandoned logs from the nearby waterways with an ever-evolving cast of sidekicks--his dog Willy, his friends Earl and Bob, and his cousin Jarvis.

Season 1 episodes

Season 1 consists of 14 episodes.

"Man vs. Mountain"

Original air dates of March 9, 2008. Aired in UK 10 July 2008

"Risk and Reward"

Original air date of March 16, 2008. Aired in UK 17 July 2008.

"Storm Season Strikes"

Original air date of March 23, 2008. Aired in UK 24 July 2008.

"The Big Hit"

Original air date of March 30, 2008. Aired in UK 31 July 2008.

"Market Meltdown"

Original air date of April 6, 2008. Aired in UK 7 August 2008.

"Reversal of Fortune"

Original air date of April 13, 2008. Aired in UK 14 August 2008.

"The Close Call"

Original air date of April 20, 2008. Aired in UK 21 August 2008.

"Loggers Under Fire"

Original air date of April 27, 2008. Aired in UK 28 August 2008.

"A Logger's Thanksgiving"

Original air date of May 4, 2008. Aired in UK 4 September 2008.

"Black Friday"

Original air date of May 11, 2008. Aired in UK 11 September 2008.

"Storm of the Century"

Original air date of May 18, 2008. Addresses December 2007 Pacific Northwest storms. Aired in UK 18 September 2008.

"The Toughest Season"

Original air date of May 25, 2008. A recap of key events in the previous 11 episodes. This episode will not air in the UK.

"Picking Up the Pieces"

Original air date of June 1, 2008. Crumbling access roads and flooded homes leave all four companies reeling. Aired in UK 25 September 2008.

"The Final Haul"

Original air date of June 8, 2008. The crews race to get their last loads to the mills as the season winds down. Aired in UK 2 October 2008.

Season 2 Episodes

Season 2 consists of 12 episodes.

"Ax Men Cometh"

Original air date of March 2, 2009. The Pihl, Browning, and Rygaard crews set up operations for the beginning of the logging season; S&S goes into the water to start pulling logs from the riverbeds.

"Initiation Day"

Original air date of March 9, 2009. Equipment problems pose a challenge for S&S and Browning; Brad, the new hire at Rygaard, has trouble keeping up the pace; Dwayne's mounting frustration leads him to walk off the Pihl job.

"By Air, Land and Sea"

Original air date of March 16, 2009. S&S tries to haul in a gigantic old-growth log; an electrical fire nearly destroys the Rygaard yarder; Conner puts its rebuilt helicopter into service to start moving loads; Dwayne returns to work but finds a cool reception waiting for him.

"Moby Dick Strikes"

Original air date of March 23, 2009. Father-son arguments threaten to derail the S&S effort to pull in the enormous log; Conner's strategy to speed up production endangers its ground crew; Dwayne is sent to work on the landing after his previous disagreements; Craig and Gabe have different ideas about how to deal with Brad, who continues to struggle on the Rygaard job.

"The King Crumbles"

Original air date of March 30, 2009. S&S heads into new waters to chase down a big payoff; Jesse runs into trouble while setting the Browning crew up at a new site; motion sickness and a winter storm throw Conner's operations into turmoil; Rygaard out-produces Browning as Brad begins to pick up the pace.

"Lost in the Fog"

Original air date of April 13, 2009. Bart, Conner's senior pilot, has to face down two storms back to back; Craig and Gabe decide whether or not to keep Brad on at Rygaard as they move to a new site; the Pihl cutters must contend with a dangerous stretch of rotted standing trees; S&S tries to get a load of timber to shore without losing their barge to the river currents.

"One Weak Link"

Original air date of April 20, 2009. The Pihl crew struggles to bring enormous trees up to the landing; S&S faces mechanical trouble on the barge and near-freezing water temperatures in the river; Conner's business hinges on how quickly Steve, its junior pilot, can get used to flying the helicopter; Brad's inexperience earns Craig's wrath and leads to an injury at the Rygaard site, after which he walks off the job.

"The Ax Falls"

Original air date of April 27, 2009. Steve's slow pace and motion sickness result in his dismissal from Conner; S&S tries to pull in an old dock built from valuable logs; Jesse's nerves fray badly as equipment damage idles the Browning crew; Brad gets one last chance to pull his weight at Rygaard, but quits at the end of the day; Pihl puts an extra cutter on the mountain, only for him to go missing as the weather worsens.

"Fresh Meat"

Original air date of May 4, 2009. With winter fast approaching, S&S shifts its focus from harvesting logs to processing them into lumber; the missing Pihl cutter emerges safely from the forest after a site-wide manhunt; Austin, Rygaard's new hire, finds his new bosses to be particularly hard taskmasters; Ron, the new junior pilot at Conner, faces rough weather on his first day of work; Browning keeps running into mechanical breakdowns at every turn.

"Clash of the Titans"

Original air date of May 11, 2009. Jay takes part of the Browning crew to a new site, leaving Jesse to wrap up the current job; rising river levels threaten to swamp the S&S equipment; flaring tempers among the Pihl men force Mike to intervene before they attack a rotted 20-story tree; Ron shows promise during a windy, snowy second day on the job at Conner; Austin barely escapes serious injury as Rygaard sets up at a new site and tries to keep out-producing Browning.

"The Reckoning"

The two-hour season finale; original air date of May 18, 2009.

Part 1--Browning moves to one last job site, but a skyline malfunction hampers production; Austin climbs a tree to rig Rygaard's last skyline, then gets his first practice at cutting one down; Mike pushes the Pihl crew to move loads, but morale sinks rapidly and Dustin loses his temper; Bart lifts off to help Conner finish its last job, but damage to the helicopter slows him down.

Part 2--Dustin quits Pihl, fed up with Mike's haranguing, and Dwayne soon does likewise; Conner scrambles to pull the loads needed to meet its last deadline; a dead head ruptures the S&S barge's hull, forcing Jimmy and James to dock it quickly; Browning stalls when a truck loaded with logs overturns on the site's access road; a massive winter storm shuts down Browning and Pihl one day early, but Rygaard is spared and can keep moving wood off the mountain.

Final load counts:

  • Rygaard—690
  • Browning—687
  • Pihl—442
  • Conner—405
  • S&S—8

Season 3 Episodes

"Ax to Grind"

Original air date of January 10, 2010. Rygaard brings in Travis and Dave, two new crew members, and sets up for its biggest, most ambitious job ever; Stump-Branch owner Melvin Lardy signs on to help Pihl get a fast start; the Browning crew begins its season with Jay supervising the site and Jesse in charge of business operations; Swamp Man heads out onto the Louisiana bayou in search of valuable sunken timber.

"Deeper into the Swamp"

Original air date of January 17, 2010. A remote sawmill holds the promise of a big payoff for Swamp Man if they can get in and out safely; Craig and Gabe start to lose patience with the Rygaard greenhorns' safety lapses; Browning puts a new man on yarder duty, then brings out an even larger yarder for the next job; high temperatures put the Pihl crew and machinery in danger, while Leland, their previous yarder operator, takes Melvin's place.

"Diving for Dollars"

Original air date of January 24, 2010. Browning races to set up its skyline and start the new job, but the fast pace may lead to disaster; truck breakdowns leave S&S scrambling for a way to get to Florida so they can start with Collins on time; Melvin faces the ire of the Pihl crew when the yarder breaks down on his watch; Rygaard pushes thruogh a heavy storm to keep moving loads, only for a snapped skyline cable to threaten production.

"Boiling Point"

Original air date of January 31, 2010. Jimmy and James make their first dives in the Suwannee as part of the Collins crew; Melvin has to prove himself against Leland if he wants to stay on yarder duty at Pihl;Travis and Dave face increased scrutiny from Craig and Gabe as they compete for a full-time spot with Rygaard; the Browning riggers fight both the heat and a log that crashes down toward them after a careless error at the yarder.

"Surviving the Swarm"

Original air date of February 14, 2010. Sightings of alligators in the Suwannee make Jimmy's next dive for Collins extremely risky; Melvin's drive to finish the current Pihl job leads to an injury; a special order sends Swamp Man into bayou territory choked by hurricane debris; Craig and Gabe put the Rygaard greenhorns to a new test by assigning them to rigging duty; one safety incident at Browning is followed by another when Jay sustains dozens of bee stings and suddenly passes out.


Original air date of February 21, 2010. Melvin shows up late for the new Pihl job, then gets into arguments with the crew and storms off the site; Jay checks himself into the emergency room after the bee attack, but soon returns to the Browning job; Joe starts to run out of patience as Jimmy and James struggle to work together and find marketable logs for Collins; at Rygaard, a minor injury to Travis' hand results in Dave being sent home for the day, while Travis tries to work through his injury.

"Chopping Block"

Original air date of February 28, 2010. Travis fails to show up for work, leading to a heated confrontation with Gabe and his resignation from Rygaard, while Dave must prove himself in the rigging; Shelby ventures into alligator-infested waters in search of prize timber for Swamp Man; Melvin is put on rigging duty to try and settle his differences with the Pihl crew, but gets into more arguments and quits; Jay's frustration boils over when damage to the skyline idles the Browning crew; a rough day at Collins results in Jimmy being sidelined as Joe puts James and one of the younger crew members temporarily in charge.

"Assault by Air"

Original air date of March 7, 2010. Conner starts clearing a patch of timber infested by bark beetles in order to save the rest of the forest; Browning tries a makeshift repair on the damaged skyline to keep production going, but broken chokers slow the crew down; Jimmy and James set out on their own to find logs for Collins, with more success than in previous weeks; Swamp Man makes a nighttime search for a huge log, while the film crew following the company finds itself stranded in the swamp; the fast pace and crowded landing at the Rygaard site touch off an avalanche of logs that nearly crushes Dave.

"Crash and Burn"

Original air date of March 14, 2010. Conner's ground crew dodges turns of logs as they swing out of control and break loose, damaging the helicopter; a near-collision between the Collins boats and an alligator sighting send everyone home for the day; Jay puts the Browning crew to work placing logs in dry stream beds to improve breeding grounds for salmon; Dave gets his first practice on a chainsaw while Gabe hurries to clear a new landing at the Rygaard site; as Swamp Man hauls a load of logs to a meeting with a buyer, a collision with a dock leaves leaves Shelby scrambling to reel his cargo back in.

Logging terms

Back Cut--A saw cut in a tree trunk, on the side away from the direction that the cutter wants it to fall. Usually done after a face cut has been made (see below).
Barber Chair--A situation in which a tree splits along its length/height while being cut. This poses a safety hazard due to the fact that one portion of the tree can snap up and inflict serious injury.
Blowdown Site---An area in which large amounts of timber have been damaged by storms or high winds. Some trees may have fallen completely over, while others may lean at dangerous angles due to being uprooted.
Bucking--Cutting a fallen tree into logs of required lengths. May also refer to limbing (see below).
Choker--A cinching device used to secure cables onto logs so they can be hauled away from where they were cut.
Dead Head--The end of a sunken log that protrudes above the surface of a river. S&S targets these logs, which have been preserved and stained by the water and find use in specialty decorative construction.
Dead Man--A skyline anchor point created by digging a trench, placing several heavy logs in it, cinching a cable around them, and filling in the excavated dirt.
Face Cut--A notch sawed out of a tree trunk, on the side toward which the cutter wants it to fall.
Feller Buncher--A machine that can take hold of a standing tree, cut through it, and place it in a pile for later pickup. Most easily used when the site is on level ground.
Grapple Skidder--A machine that picks up piles of fallen trees and carries them to the landing. See above comment.
Hanger/Hangup--A dangerous situation in which a cut tree gets caught in a standing one and cannot fall to the ground.
Hook Tender--A person who supervises the movement of logs up to the landing.
Jammer Logging--A technique in which the yarder/yoader (see below) swings cables and chokers at high speed, throwing them downhill toward the rigging crew. This method was used a number of times by Stump-Branch in an effort to increase production, but the risk of injury to the crew also increased.
Landing--Area where logs are piled up to be loaded onto trucks. Usually at the uphill end of a sloping site.
Leaner--An uprooted tree that topples against a standing one and gets caught, unable to fall to the ground; presents risks similar to those of a hanger/hangup.
Limbing/Chasing--Cutting limbs off fallen trees. Both bucking and limbing/chasing may be done before or after the logs are brought to the landing.
Rigging--Securing logs to the skyline carriage using cables and chokers.
Rigging Slinger--A person who decides the order in which logs are to be hauled up to the landing.
Side Rod--Foreman of a logging crew.
Skyline--A cable strung high above a logging site, with a motorized carriage to which logs can be attached.
Timber Faller/Timber Feller--A person whose primary job is to cut down trees.
Topping--Cutting the topmost section off a standing tree so it can be used as an anchor point for the skyline.
Turn--A group of logs being moved by the yarder/yoader (see below); also, one round trip of the skyline carriage.
Upender--A situation in which chokers are attached to the downhill end of a log intead of the uphill end. When the log is reeled in, it can pivot 180 degrees with enough speed to inflict serious injury.
Widow Maker--Limbs and debris that fall from a standing/leaning tree; so named because it has the potential to kill a man standing underneath it, leaving his wife as a widow.
Yarder--A machine that moves logs up to the landing by reeling in the skyline carriage.
Yoader--A yarder that is also equipped with clamps to move logs around as needed once they are on the landing. Eliminates the need for a separate piece of loading equipment (yoader = yarder + loader).

DVD set

A DVD set of Season 1 was released on August 26, 2008. According to the AETV Store, the set includes four DVDs and features 611+ minutes of footage, but does not have closed captioning.[10]

International airing

Ax Men aired in the UK on the local variant of the History Channel, then later aired on the terrestrial channel Five, where the title was changed to Axe Men.

Legal action against S&S Aqua Logging

On 13 March 2009, Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) seized more than two dozen logs that may have been illegally salvaged by a timber crew featured on the History Channel's reality show Ax Men.[11] DNR officers served a search warrant on S&S Aqua Logging to retrieve timber the company had pulled from the Hoquiam River without a permit.[11]

Jimmy Smith, who owns and operates S&S Aqua Logging, said on the show that the logs were worth about $10,000, according to search warrant records.

"These are valuable materials that belong to the public and this looks like theft, plain and simple, They are part of the functioning ecosystem, so removing the log would be like removing part of the bed," state Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark said.[11]

Logs provide a key function for rivers in trapping sediment, harboring insects and other food for fish, and creating pools and riffles where fish can rest, said Greg Hueckel, fish and wildlife habitat programs director. Hueckel said his agency typically grants permits to remove logs in situations where flooding causes log jams and it's unlikely that a permit would be granted for timber harvest.[citation needed]


External links


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