Author: Mike Alesch, Land Specialist/United Country Summit Realty Group LLC
Long, frigid winters with heavy snow create bleak habitat conditions for wildlife. Fresh drinking water sources freeze over, the grass dies, and bare brush leaves no foliage for deer herds and other creatures to nourish them. Winter’s deep freeze can negatively impact the wildlife that makes tracts of land used for hunting and recreation so valuable. However, there are things that property owners can do to help shepherd struggling creatures through into the spring thaw.
Hinge Cutting Increases Food Supplies
Environmentalists generally agree that hinge cutting ranks among the most effective ways to provide deer herds with critical food resources during the late winter and early spring weeks. The practice involves taking an ax or chainsaw to partially cut into select trees to make them fall over without killing them. Usually, a 60- to 70-percent cut will accomplish the task. This is done higher up than traditional timber cutting to provide safe cover as well as enhanced food sourcing.
Because hinge cutting opens up patches in otherwise thick forests, it allows sunlight to stimulate undergrowth and create an added supply of woody browse for wildlife, particularly deer herds. It’s important to keep in mind that one of the goals of hinge cutting is to keep the tree alive. When done effectively, hunting landowners will have bent early tree buds to a height that deer can access.
The hinge-cut trees are also likely to produce greenery at and around the bend. Again, this is at an accessible height for deer and other big game. Dos and, particularly bucks will be at dangerously low-fat reserves before the early blooms. By creating additional and early food sources to struggling herds, you can make a lifesaving difference.
Hunters and outdoors enthusiasts generally understand that wildlife naturally gravitates to areas rich in food, water, and shelter. Hinge cutting offers a sense of safety.
When small and mid-sized trees are bent vertically in a forest, the landscape enjoys a dramatic positive change for herds. The environment now offers brush-like cover as green shoots, and leafy branches are at deer heights. Hinge-cut areas also provide low cover for fawns to nestle into during spring and summer.
When herds feel secure in a particular area, they are more likely to stay there. In terms of property owner benefits, the extra effort to sustain wildlife increases the value of hunting lands.