Hinge-Cutting for Deer Bedding and Browse

hinge-cutting for deer bedding

Creating safe secure bedding for whitetails involves hinging a large area of trees (if possible) where deer and more importantly, mature whitetail bucks will bed in safety and solitude. This does not involve creating one bed but a whole area where “bigger is better” is applicable. Observation is the key in learning what deer seek when it comes to bedding areas. Watch for natural beds and how deer react to your hinge cuts to learn what they seem to prefer. One thing to note is deer love south facing slopes with conifers as a backdrop and hinging trees around those areas is very helpful in creating a good bedding area.

Hinging around cedars and south facing slopes is a great idea…

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.

A deer bed on a ridge top overlooking the valley below…

Birds tend to roost in brushy downed tops and in turn drop seeds that sprout new blackberries and grapevines to add to the tanglement and help diversify wildlife cover in general. In some cases the top of the hinged tree may die but the stump will send up lots of new cover and browse.

Look at the lush browse…

Every landowner may have different species to work with, but contact your local forester or private lands biologist to walk through your timber to identify trees that are less desirable and would be ones you’d want to hinge. Tipping them over helps create bedding and browse and allows shade intolerant oak seedlings to emerge. Hinging is a great way to create whitetail deer bedding area but takes some learning to be able to identify trees before cutting them, you’d hate to hinge a nice young oak thinking it was something else.

You can bet deer will be found laying in here…

…and also laying in here…

hinge-cutting for 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.

Blackberries and other regrowth came into this area after it was hinged four years ago…

In the summer, it looks like this…

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!

The tender sprouts that shoot up from cut stumps provide a source of food and thick cover…

More sprouts for thick cover…here…