Hinge cutting is somewhat considered the new ''sexy'' habitat strategy in the whitetail woods. With many hunters grabbing saws and aimlessly cutting any tree without any strategy involved, it has become a hot topic on internet forums. Here are a few tips and tricks we tend to share with our clients who ask about hinge cutting!
Should I Hinge?
The #1 question we receive when on a property visit is "Should I hinge cut?" I would say 50% of properties I see in northern Indiana could utilize hinge cutting. Here are some things we look for when deciding on hinge cuts:
-Can you see all the way through your woods in January? If so, you clearly have a low stem count issue due to lack of sunlight hitting your forest floor. Your canopy is clearly shading out your entire wood lot and needs improvement. There are 2 options, First we suggest accessing your timber value followed by hinge cutting. Timber harvest is always greater than hinge cutting for a property owner!
-Do you greatly need to improve bedding or food with the only option of cutting? Clearly hinge cutting is the best option, but with strategy. Know your travel cooridors, seek out potential great bedding sites by utilizing terrain changes, don't create bedding without having a solid entry/exit strategy in place.
Hinge Cut Methods
So you've decided to cut...now what? There are a couple different cuts that we like to utilize: screening or bedding. Here's how to do it:
-Screening: Screen cuts are generally cut as low on the tree as possible. Cutting low creates a barrier that deer cannot see through and they generally don't penetrate if done correctly. Deer don't bed in these cuts because they cannot easily see or escape predation. A great example of these cuts are to create access to stands.
-Bedding: Bedding cuts are generally knee to waist high. These cuts create a visual underneath that deer can easily access and have a view of their surroundings. (see image)
-SAFETY FIRST: I always suggest having 2 guys to hinge cut. Having products such as wedges or a habitat hook are very helpful in pushing trees where you want them. Barber Chairs and Kickbacks are common, so please stand clear and communicate when dropping trees. Having the proper attire and extra saws in case of a pinch is always suggested.
-MANAGE YOUR CUTS: We check on our hinge cuts every year. When you create a space in the canopy, other trees will fight for that space to get more sunlight. Generally we will hinge cut the same area multiple times for this reason.Treat your hinge cuts similar to a food plot! Consider this, your trees are no longer reaching toward the sun for sunlight, so you need to make sure they are receiving adequate sunlight to survive. Trees WILL survive a good quality hinge cut if they are maintained with proper care.
-NO HEAD HIGH CUTS: There is no reason for a cut head high or above. This is a very dangerous cut and results in injuries every year.
Hinge cutting can be a phenomenal tool for the habitat manager executing a game plan. It can also be the exact opposite if done at random without proper technique and planning. When done properly, hinge cutting can be a game changer for holding deer on your property while providing food in the form of woody browse and cover for bedding.
If you have any questions concerning hinge cutting, please feel free to contact us!