Closed Edge Hinge Cuts
The trees in the picture above were hinge cut parallel to the edge of a food plot to block deer travel. This is an example of a “Closed Edge Hinge Cut.”
A “Closed Edge Hinge Cut” is a section of trees that are Hinge Cut in a row, all hinging in the same direction. Whether it is along a field edge or confined within a woodlot, this technique is an effective way to encourage predictable deer movement patterns with the intent of getting deer within range of your stand.
Hinge Cutting in a Bedding Thicket
Whether it is it a bedding thicket, a micro clear-cut, or a temporary forest opening, it is the same thing. A change in forest structure encourages sun-loving species to establish and increase the stem density to break up the monotony of the woodlot.
This is accomplished by opening up the canopy, allowing sunlight to penetrate the forest floor. When executing a bedding-thicket cut, in my opinion your goal should be 80% sun exposure. Of the trees that you cut, no more than 25% of them should be hinged.
The reason for the handicap on hinged trees is two-fold. These bedding thickets will mature as time passes. They should be maintained every couple of years by treating invasive species, selectively felling trees that begin to shade the site, and observing how much deer use has occurred at the location. The more trees are hinged, the more difficult it is to maneuver within and maintain the site.
The other reason I discourage too many hinged trees within a bedding thicket is to deter predation. As does become accustomed to bedding within the thicket, they will often leave their fawns unattended as they go about their foraging. If there are too many hinged trees in the area and not enough escape routes, you could be serving up deer fawns on a platter as they struggle to escape the mess of tangled, living, hinge-cut trees.
Feathering Field Edges
Can’t resist the temptation to plant your food plots right up to the tree line? Consider dropping or hinging a few trees out into the field itself! You can essentially create a “reverse edge-feather” where instead of blending the field edge back into the woodlot, you are pushing the woodlot into the field and creating a buffer strip along the field edge. Because the trees will be lying perpendicular to the field edge instead of parallel to it, I would consider this technique an “open edge” as the deer can maneuver freely across the porous edge.
Why do I encourage hinging some of these trees as opposed to felling them all into the field? It has to do with the longevity of those horizontal limbs once the tree is on the ground.
The limbs of a felled tree will become brittle and break within a few years of it being on the ground. If that same tree were hinged, and the limbs still living, the twigs and stems will continue to provide perching locations for songbirds. The birds will disperse seeds of trees, shrubs and plants within the structure of the tree top itself, shielding the young plants from predation by deer and allowing them to establish into a young forest or early successional cover, depending on how it is managed. The hinge cut tree acts as a surrogate nursery.
As much as I love traveling the country and helping landowners manage their properties for whitetails, my favorite aspect of my job is always seeing the lightbulb turn on when it comes to why we do these management techniques.
Living in the information age has granted us all access to more resources than we can fully make sense of. You hear someone talk about hinge cutting or planting switchgrass enough times, and you suddenly feel compelled to do the project without fully grasping the lingering effects of your well-intended transformation.
Considering all of the nuance surrounding these different habitat improvement techniques, having a well-informed plan in place before firing up the saw will save you from wasted time and heartache.
By Zack Vucurevich
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