Hinge-Cutting for Whitetail Deer Browse
Many landowners spend all their time on food plots while ignoring the fact that whitetails are browsers and must have natural browse available at all times. Hinging is a great way to provide browse and bedding at the same time. Browse comes in two forms…first from the hinged tree top and stump itself and secondly from the new forage that springs up once sunlight is allowed in.
Hinging trees often leaves an area looking like a tornado went through it and it will eventually grow back thick and wild. Some soils will take longer to respond with new growth in which case adding some fertilizer and pel lime can help encourage browse and cover. Deer immediately respond to the cover the tops provide and begin to bed in it within days after cutting. Note that deer prefer to be on a ridge or slope where they can lay behind the hinge trees and see danger from below and escape over the ridge.
Some species, such as honey locust, tend to die when hinged but the thorny mass does provide cover. Others, such as shingle oak, are more inclined to remain alive and though not a valuable food source, do provide dense bedding cover, as the leaves tend to remain on all winter. Each tree species reacts differently to hinge cutting. Mulberries tend to sprout back up with lots of quick re-growth from the stumps. Hackberries and shingle oaks tend to hinge easier than other trees, they seldom snap off. Each tree species and scenario will affect how a tree reacts to hinging. One thing you can bet on is that bringing the tree top down to the forest floor and allowing more light in will boost growth and improve your whitetail habitat. When looking at your overall management program, don’t forget about the browse, deer seek it!