I want to improve my land to hold more deer and encourage them to spend more daytime hours on my property…

I’m looking for a way to work on my farm to strategically manage where the deer spend time…

I’m going to be spending time this spring getting my hands dirty in an effort to help my hunting this fall…

Does it sound like I’m talking about food plots?

Well as important as food plots are to achieving these aforementioned goals, it’s equally important to develop and improve the cover available to my deer. Deer spend their time equally in or traveling between food sources and cover, so its important not to neglect either one when trying to improve your deer habitat. One of the most interesting ways I’ve heard of recently to improve your cover is called hinge cutting and it is a method that I want to try soon myself.

Hinge cutting is the act of cutting a small tree part way, so that you can bend it over to the ground while still keeping the tree alive. The process of hinge cutting allows you to improve the quality and quantity of thick cover in your timber areas. You can hinge cut to provide great areas for bedding, develop cover to encourage daylight movement or use cuts to funnel deer through specific areas. So lets take a look at how hinge cutting can help improve these various deer holding properties of your land.

Why Hinge Cut?

Deer are naturally going to look for the thickest, nastiest cover to bed in. So if  you can provide them ideal bedding locations, deer will gladly start using them! Find natural bedding areas, such as ridges, and sweeten the deal by hinge cutting trees to offer additional cover for deer to lie next to. The better your cover is, the more deer will be likely to bed there and the more likely mature bucks will feel safe there. When it comes to creating bedding areas, the bigger the area the better.

Hinge cutting can also provide additional browse for deer to feed on. This browse can come from the tree tops that you tip over and the new growth that can result from the tree being cut. Look for new growth sprouting from the cut tree trunk or starting up on the ground due to the additional sunlight that will come through.

Another great use of hinge cutting is to funnel deer through hand selected areas. If there are several paths leading into a food plot, you can utilize hinge cuts to block off paths and leave open only the option that brings the deer right by your stand. Deer are relatively lazy when it comes to obstructions in their path,  so they’re always going to look for the path of least resistance. By planning out your hinge cuts to push deer in the direction you want them, you will also be providing them with cover that will make them feel safer as they travel this new corridor.

If planned strategically and implemented correctly, hinge cuts can improve the quality of the cover and browse for your deer, while also encouraging them to spend more time in the areas that you want them.

How Do You Hinge Cut?

So hinge cuts sound pretty great, but how do you actually implement this strategy? Well the traditional hinge cutting method is pretty simple and it starts by selecting the right trees to try a hinge cut on. Generally you want to select trees that are around 4-6″ in diameter and are of little nutritional value to deer. You obviously don’t want to be cutting down your oak trees! Now that you’ve selected a tree, use a hand or chain saw to cut half to three quarters of the way through the trunk of the tree. Supposedly you can try cutting straight through or at a downward angle. Now reach as high as you can on the tree and try to slowly pull the tree over until the tree comes down, while still keeping the trunk in tact. Be careful while pulling the tree over, because  some trees can “blow out” rather than nicely folding down.

So although food plots are an awesome way to improve your deer’s habitat, you also can’t forget the importance of providing great cover. Hinge cutting is a quick, affordable and effective means of improving the cover available for your deer herd. If done correctly, it can greatly improve your hunting area’s ability to hold deer and hopefully will improve your chances of hunting them as well. I personally have never tried hinge cutting before, so watch for a video coming soon of me trying out this great technique on my own land!

And since I’m no expert on hinge cutting and I’m just learning the basics myself, I would love to hear some of your tips and tricks! If any of you have experience with hinge cutting, please share your best practices or thoughts on this strategy in the comments.

Special thanks to Bob Schuknecht for the included photo.