October 09, 2013
Got a buck that just won’t come into bow range? Make him come to you by putting up a roadblock.
Hinge cutting gives you the ability to bring — force, actually — deer right under your stand.
If you’re not familiar with hinge cutting, it’s a simple task that benefits hunter, deer and the landscape. It’s like timber stand improvement (TSI), but you’re not cutting a bunch of saplings down. You’re modifying the existing growth to your benefit, as well as the deer.
When defined, hinge cutting is cutting into a trunk of a tree to the point that it can be pulled over and left alive. This can be done for a number of reasons, be it a roadblock, cover for does or to obstruct your view of you enter or exiting your stand.
Which function you choose determines how high you’ll make your cut. If you cut multiple trees in an area shoulder high, you’ve just created usable bedding areas for does. Cut low and deer will simply move around the obstacle. Regardless of where you cut the tree, it will continue to live, sprouting new growth that’s attractive browse.
Suppose you’ve got a good buck patterned, but the terrain he uses just isn’t conducive to placing a treestand along the route. You can change his pathway to your advantage by hinge cutting a few trees, making him veer off course.
To alter travel routes, keep your cuts between knee and thigh high. This makes the horizontal section high enough that deer will walk around it rather than jump it. Like you, deer often seek the path of least resistance in the woods. Rather than traverse a downed pile of trees, you’d likely just go around the mess.
Deer are the same way, especially when conserving calories and energy is better spent doing other things, like chasing doe.
Hinge cutting does require some foresight. Study his travel route and see how far you need him to veer toward you. If you need him to come 15 yards one way or the other, you likely wouldn’t cut a tree that’s adjacent to the path. That would take him too far off.
Cut a tree or two that are back a ways so when they lay over they become an obstacle at the right distance, then he’ll go to step over right when he’s in range. Hinge cutting’s rule of thumb is much like cabinet making’s; measure twice, cut once.
Beyond altering deer movement, you can create viable bedding areas for does by cutting multiple trees into a bedroom of sorts.
Like you, does like to bed with a roof over their head. By cutting a semi-circle of trees at shoulder height and laying them across one another, you’ve made an inviting shelter that will be used in as little as 24 hours. Cut the largest tree first to act as a support for the rest, and then lay the additional trees across the support tree. It’s best to tie the group at the point where they come together to prevent collapse.
Finally, if you’ve got a killer stand but the path to and from it is wide open, consider cutting a mess of trees along the most exposed portions. This will obscure your shape and movement when prying eyes are huddled in a field after dark.
Criss-cross trees cut both low and high for the most obstruction. This also works as a sure-enough roadblock, if your goal is larger than altering a travel route.
If hinge cutting sounds simple, that’s because it is. Practice your technique on inconsequential trees, as different diameters require different levels of finesse or brute strength.
Large saplings may require a 1-inch cut whereas older growth may need four inches and a buddy to help pull it down. Hardwoods generally tolerate hinge cutting better than pines. Pines are often too brittle and tend to crack off rather than bend like the fleshy insides of hardwoods.
Pines will also die faster than a hardwood. A white oak may live for decades once hinge cut. It’s best to cut trees during their dormant period, like when you prune that crepe myrtle in the front yard.
Hinge cutting isn’t a magic solution that will herd dozens of deer right to you, but there are few better methods of altering your land’s makeup to your advantage.
David Hunter Jones is a hopeless outdoor addict from Alabama who hinge cuts his shrubs and mailbox.