One of the most common habitat improvement methods is hinge cutting. Although it is fairly simple and easy to accomplish there are several things we think about before we hinge cut.
What is Hinge Cutting
Hinge cutting is taking a chainsaw and cutting a tree 1/2 to 3/4 of the way through and then pushing it over so part of the tree is still living and producing natural forage and cover for deer and other wildlife. Its main goal is to allow more sunlight to hit the forest floor in an effort to produce more food and cover.
When to Plan or Do Your Hinge Cutting
It is important to do a little bit of planning before you hinge cut so you can identify which trees you want to use and which trees will maximize the amount of sunlight that will hit the forest floor after hinge cutting. It is easiest to do this in the spring time because it is easier to identify the different tree species and which trees have the dominant canopy cover. The best time to do the actual hinge cutting on your property is in the early spring before things start to really green up.
How Big An Area Should You Hinge Cut
Remember that does and bucks are going to be bedding in different areas. So, creating one big area is not the best option. Instead making multiple smaller ones is the better option because that one big area would most likely be overrun by does. The smaller hinge cutting areas should be about ½ to 1 acre in size. Creating multiple smaller areas is even more important when you are working with a smaller property. Those smaller areas will help the property hold more deer and make your property hunt bigger. In the end, you want to enhance what bedding areas you have and create a few new ones.
Which Trees Should You Cut
The first rule is to not cut any conifer trees. These types of trees already provide thermal and escape cover for the deer. Also, you shouldn’t cut any “giant” trees. This means trees like big oaks or cottonwood trees. The general rule is to cut small trees that are about 6 inches in diameter.
How High Up The Tree Should You Hinge Cut
A deer is only about as high as your waist. His world is closer to the ground and because of this you want to hinge cut your trees at about waist high. This allows the deer to be able to either go under or over the trees you hinged cut when they are walking through that area. If you hinge cut the trees to high, deer will be able to see right underneath all the trees and it won’t create bedding areas because the deer won’t feel safe in that area.
Don’t Cut to Many Trees
Don’t make the mistake of cutting down too many trees. Hinge cutting can be beneficial, but if you cut down too many trees it can be counterproductive because you make it too thick. When you’re thinking about how many trees to cut down remember that deer need to be able to get into that bedding area you created and that they also need to feel like they can escape that bedding area.
It’s Not Just A Bedding Area Strategy
Not only will hinge cutting allow you to create more cover on your property, but it will also help you provide more food for the deer. Hinge cutting provides a lot of natural browse for the deer to eat and increases the nutrition that is available for the deer.
Overall, hinge cutting is a cheap way for someone on a budget to make their property better and improve it in multiple ways with just a chainsaw.
For more information listen to episode 11 of the Whitetail Instinct Podcast for more information on this topic.
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