Saw Your Way to a Better Arkansas Wildlife Habitat

New Jersey Pine Barrons
Saw your way to better wildlife habitat
Arkansas Game & Fish Commission
Arkansas Game & Fish Commission

Arkansas  -( Leaving things half-done often yields lackluster results, but in the case of hinge cuts, an unfinished job can be excellent for wildlife.

Hinge cutting is simply cutting halfway through a tree and allowing the top to fall over.

The top creates instant cover but does not die, so it continues to produce leaves and vertical shoots. If the tree is a desirable browse species, a new food source also is created. One landowner with a chainsaw can create plenty of brushy cover and browse in one weekend that benefits all sorts of wildlife. This is effective on cedars, or small, low-quality oaks.

Native grasses and vegetation also are allowed to grow by increased sunlight penetrating the forest canopy. This can create good nesting habitat for turkeys, quail, rabbits and other creatures. Deer love to bed and raise fawns in these browse-rich areas as well.

The best trees for hinge cuts are around 4 to 6 inches in diameter and have little potential to provide hard mast for deer. You obviously don’t want to cut down your mature oak trees. Once a tree is selected, cut halfway to three-quarters of the way through the trunk of the tree level to the ground. If you also want to use the hinged tree to funnel deer toward a certain spot, you can cut the tree 24 to 36 inches above the ground to add a barrier. Cut through the tree just enough to lay it down.

Reach as high as you can on the tree and slowly pull it to the ground without breaking the trunk. Be careful while pulling the tree over. Some trees can “blow out” rather than fold down. Start with some small trees, and then lay the bigger trees on top of the smaller ones to cushion the fall as you cut. Ease the trees to the ground, especially bigger trees since a hard landing can cause the remaining attached wood to break.

For bedding areas, a half to 2 acres of hinge cuts generally provide adequate habitat. Consider taking a weekend after hunting season and before spring green-up to improve your habitat with this simple habitat management practice.

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