Hinge cutting is a great and fast way to improve your property. I spend December through March running a chain saw and hinge cutting. The best time to hinge cut is when the tree is dormant. This gives it, its best chance to survive for years. Hinge cutting is not killing the tree but giving the deer what they want, cover with browse. A deer doesn't care about the canopy above them. They care about 4-5ft and down. Hinging gives you exactly this. In area's I'm creating bedding I make my cuts about 4-6 feet high. Dropping the biggest trees first, and the smaller on top. Dong this leaves enough height for the deer to travel through and under. NOTE: There are several different opinions by several "Professionals" on the correct way to hinge a woods for bedding. Some for and some against creating a low canopy through hinging. I will give my two cents. I know for a fact on a rain or snow event deer bed where there is protection from the elements if possible. The same on a high wind day. Not every tree is the same and variation and common sense should be factored into hinging. When I hinge younger tree's I want the vast majority of the tree no more than 3 or 4 feet off the ground. When hinging tall, older trees with big tops and little mid section growth I hinge higher so the deer can walk through or under the cut, but the head of the tree is on the ground. Some clear cut the bigger tree's and leave the tops. I have done both as it is purely up to the land owner to make that decision. I do create bedding canopies but not the entire woods. I create a bed in a bed if you will. That way they have the option if desired on bad weather days. But I always have side structure. Remember it must provide cover, yet not make the deer feel like they are trapped. I like to create separate "area" bedrooms and not just mass hinge a woods. Leaving room for movement between each. 1/2-1 acre bedrooms, with hinged trails leading in and out and to different destinations. If I am making trails I cut trees at 3-4ft approximately. Most will say to cut perpendicular to the trail so the deer cant jump the trail. My bedding areas are sanctuaries and humans don't enter typically. I hinge my trails first to design and screen it. Second to avoid jumping. Typical trails are no more than 4ft wide. In summer I spray about a 2ft path of round up to kill vegetation. I only do this on initial creation after that the deer will keep it in check. In an old woods you have to take what you can get for workable trees. A lot of times my perpendicular cuts are from 50 feet away dropping the head of the tree where I need it to create a screen or blockade. Remember there is no cookie cutter way as each tree and woods has its own personality. The way a woods tree's lean will greatly impact on how to cut a tree or where to place the bedroom. What's a blockade? You have a stand. The way the deer enter now is not conducive to a successful hunt. To move the deer where you want them to enter or not enter. Hinge cut a wall to block that access. Hinge cutting a screen (Edge Feathering)around your food plot and placing blockades on it so they can only enter were you want them to is essential. The same goes for you're trails to the stand. Now lets get to where all the arguing comes in. What are you nut's? I'm not cutting down my woods, Ill be dammed for a deer...gulp..ok..lol. A while back I took a course on Aldo Leopold, the father of land conservation. Him and Teddy Roosevelt, respectively. The course was about Aldo and his beliefs on land conservation and how man and nature must work in harmony in order for all to prosper. "Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land."
If you have a old majestic woods that looks like this:
There are several different types of habitat improvement. Below I List all and how they can be effectively used for bedding, screens, blockades, travel corridors, edge feathering and mid day snacks.
Many things to consider before planting new varieties of habitat on your land. Never plant species which your state doesn't allow. Check your DNR website for a list. Stay away from invasive species that create a monoculture of plant life. Always check the hardiness zone location for what you are going to plant. Trees and shrubs have a freezing point and will die if not suitable for your local temperatures. You must also know what type of soil they grow best in. Nothing worse than drowning or starving a planting. Proper protection is also a must. Certain trees and shrubs will need to be sprayed for insects. I use Sevin and It works very well. Herbicides to control grasses from smothering and killing plant life is also a must. The cheapest most effective way to do this is to use the herbicide Clethodim with a non ionic surfactant and spray right over the top. This mix will not hurt the trees and shrubs and will only kill grass. For fruit trees I use a 4x4 weed mat for added protection. All fruit and nut tree's must be caged or they will be eaten. If you click on this link: It will take you to the QDMA website and show you a list of what they recommend to plant and not to plant for grasses, vines, shrubs and trees, This is a great resource and I follow it to the letter. Personally after 20 plus years I have come to find my favorites that work best in different regions. I deal mostly with great lake and some mid western states. Trees I like: Aspen, Hybrid Poplar and Willow. Red Oak Acorn varieties because they hold their nuts and leaves longer into season than white. I use a late dropping Apple tree as well Dolgo, Deer Candy, and Siberian Crab apple. I want my fruit and nut trees to drop as late as possible for another late fall, early winter food source. Shrubs I use Red and Grey Dogwood, Ninebark, American Plum, Smooth Sumac, Black Elderberry and sometimes Black Alder. When it comes to Conifers I use Spruce and there are multiple varieties for soil condition. They are also not high on the browse list for deer. White pine will get eaten so I stay away from it. I also only like to plant Red Cedar. White Cedar will get browsed. A deer eats 4 to 5 times a day. 3 of those times are when is dark out. They key is to create bedding areas that also house browse for their daytime snacks. The last thing you want is for deer to get up at 11 am and wonder over to the neighbors property for a snack and then have to hope he returns safely. I like to create pockets of bedding and not just long lines of planted conifers. I plant 3-5 Spruce, 3-5 Aspen, Poplar, or Willow and then a boat load of shrubs for browse. I also like to use them to create trails throughout the bedding system. Making the land look and feel bigger than it actually is. Spruce and Cedar can also be planted as a screen for your travel destinations, lot lines or for a screen on a food plot. Below is diagram of a section recently done as mentioned above.
By planting it this way I now offer the illusion of several different bedding areas in seclusion of each other with browse close by. Nothing bed's in this picture now except in summer. The middle is grassland leaving a big open void come fall. Instead of planting just a mono culture of cedar or spruce in a straight line, where the deer need to move to find browse during the day. Which is how the land owner originally planted the spruce years ago in this picture. I went with pockets of Spruce, Aspen and Red Oak. With plenty of Red Twig Dogwood for browse. All were transplanted from different areas on the property with a tree spade. Instantly creating new habitat and opportunities. The cut section running North and South on the East side of the picture was an atv trail, Now it is a long Clover plot, the west is ag land. Corn/Soy Bean rotation yearly. The south is planted in Ash still living. I have select planted Red Oak and Spruce into this. Sooner or later the Ash will be dead. The Black V's are hinged cut Spruce approximately 30ft tall. More than likely they will die. The benefit is they create structure and opportunity for bedding. They are cut facing south for cold season beds. Again wind direction. Always wind direction. NW wind direction, deer like to lay with the wind at their back to smell what's behind them and watch what's in front. Works perfect here. Planted Spruce beds are planted in V also. The Dogwood provide browse and structure and edge. The empty Ag field is of no interest to them by hunting season so deer presence and travel is from the bedding area and heading east towards food source. Not in the direction of the empty ag field. By filling in this area like this. The entire area (picture) now becomes 1 piece able to house deer in different area's of it without being seen. Making it seem larger than it really is. Instead of 3 separate small sections with no deer as it is now. The ag feeds the deer all summer and by October is gone. You've held the deer all summer and better have a plan or they will vacate. The long Clover plot continues to provide protein and green forage. Typically the standard is 5-10% of what you own should be in food plots. On smaller acreage and depending on your deer numbers if you don't have sufficient habitat to house deer it wont matter how many acres you plant. They will eat it at night, coming from other properties. If I have 40 acres and can get 2-3 acre's of food plots and know the majority of the deer going to it are coming from my property I would consider that a definite plus!! Remember in order for your plan to work. Everything must coincide with each other. Can I create a sustainable habitat that benefits both me and the deer? Give them what they want for habitat, but create it and plan it out to your hunting advantage. Wind direction, wind direction, wind direction.
Herbicides for habitat: Clethodim2EC/ Surfactant. Can be sprayed over the tops of trees and shrubs for grass control only.
Glyphosphate: (roundup). Use in the preparation for habitat planting. Caution!! It will kill anything it touch's.
Sevin: Pesticide killer safe to use on most tree's and shrubs
Dibble Bar: Great hand tool for planting seedlings by hand.
Concrete Wire: Great for fencing in fruit, nut tree's and shrubs.
Plastic And Wooden Snow Fence: Create blockades and travel corridors.
Be creative and think outside the box. Need a blockade but cant hinge. Use a snow fence. Want to make a travel corridor in tall grassland. Use a snow fence and make a 16 inch trail next to it. Spray the trail with round up. They will use it. Put a communication post in your clover. They work trust me lol. Use a tub or kids swimming pool to create a water source near a food plot. Bend small trees down and zip tie together to create screens, beds or travel corridors. Make that stand sound proof. Nothing is to outrageous as long as it gets the plan accomplished.
Use the internet!!!!
There is a great habitat and food plot forum with tons of information. Habitat-Talk
Hybrid Poplar and Willow cuttings grow very fast and are a great way to plant an area.
It is serving no useful purpose other than it looks awesome. The trees are all racing each other to get sunlight. No energy is being used to produce nuts, hence the lack of a potentially available food source. And no vegetation is growing on the woods floor. Another lost opportunity at a potential food source. A deer can sit in this woods and see 100 yards either way or better. The odds of multiple deer using this woods is slim. As this makes the woods look very small and too cramped. As far as conservation and the benefits from A) select cutting the wood for intent of sale or personal use and then hinge cutting. Or 2) Selective hinge cutting is this. This woods needs it's canopy opened. No sunlight gets through, hence no floor vegetation, nut production or wildlife. The only thing that benefits from this now is the squirrels and crows. Get in there and hinge it, open the canopy and in a couple years this woods will be flourishing with new vegetation and trees. As well as deer and other wildlife. Hinge so oaks tree can reach their potential and flourish. I like acorn trees 40ft apart and bushy with big tops and lots of acorns, not 4ft apart and growing like pencils. The structure and browse you created with the hinge will instantly bring deer in for the browse and then stay for the security. Deer must have entrances and exits and room to move. Use that to your advantage. Again wind direction. Making them feel secure is key. The browse is just an added bonus to keep them there during daylight hours. The benefits of bringing an old woods back to life far outweigh the looks of it if your serious about holding deer and other wildlife and regenerating new life. Remember... Hinge cutting is about creating instant cover and browse. It is also about regenerating new life and growth by opening the canopy above and letting the sunlight and mother nature do her magic.