On July 4th, I pulled camera cards after sitting for just under two weeks. The prior weekend I spent working on stands making sure shooting lanes were cleared and all stand equipment was in good shape for this fall. I made a conscious effort this year to widen lanes for a particular stand that over looks the East Food Plot. This just so happens to be the same stand from which I arrowed the buck pictured above on this blog page last year. There was a small tree that needed to go in order to open up one lane looking into the plot.
It soon dawned on me that I needed to hinge cut this and fall it out onto the edge of the plot to serve as an experiment. Knowing this would land right in the frame of the trail camera set in place, I figured I would get some good photos of deer foraging on the leaves. Upon viewing the card photos, I found the following...
I could have posted several more photos to support this particular story; however, I think it is clear that deer will browse a hinge cut tree. In many cases, they prefer this over what I have worked so hard to plant in the East Plot. In fact, I had no pictures on the trail camera of this buck browsing on the chickory in front of this tree. Do not get me wrong, the plot gets hit a great deal by several deer, but they prefer this new source of protein right now.
I personally have witnessed how deer prefer a hinge cut tree back in October, 2011. I had decided to place a stand along the outer perimeter of the property to hunt early season without pressuring the herd. The stand location was along a ridge, which required cutting shooting lanes to the main trail. That particular day I also hinge cut quite a few trees. One in particular was a small maple tree about 2-3 inches in diameter that still had green leaves. It was cut at approximately 2:00 pm. I then finished the lanes, cleaned up, and was in the stand by 5:00 pm for the evening hunt. The first deer hitting the area was a doe and her yearling fawn. In amazement, I watched for 30 minutes as they stripped this tree of all leaves. My scent that was just three hours old would not keep them from the delicacy I had provided while clearing shooting lanes.
What the above photos stress and the story from '11 is the importance of forage diversity for deer, particularly natural forages. This is why a chainsaw can be just as important as a tractor. Hinge cutting is a valuable tool for QDM. Don't overlook this in your management plan.
Andy Hayes is a devoted husband and father of 4 kids living in West Central Indiana. Outside of his family, his passion is hunting whitetails. He does not claim to be a professional hunter, but simply wants to share what he learns during his quest to improve whitetail habitat and hunt mature bucks.