Hinge Cutting Trees With The Habitat Hook
By Nick Nation
In 2010, I was first introduced to the practice of “hinge cutting.” For those that don’t know, hinge cutting is the process by which smaller diameter trees are cut ½ to ¾ of the way thru the tree and then pushed or pulled over to a horizontal position. When the location of the cut (hinge) stays intact and receives enough sunlight, the tree will continue to grow for years to come. This is a rapidly growing technique used by many landowners who seek to improve their habitat for deer and can be done easily with some general habitat knowledge and the right tools.
When done correctly, hinge cutting is extremely effective at enhancing your property for deer and other wildlife. It can be used to create buck and doe bedding, create travel corridors, screen hunter access movements, remove forest canopy for forest regeneration, screen property borders, and other features that may fit into your habitat plan. When I say plan, I’m referring to the thought process put forward BEFORE you go in and create a tornado zone impassible to deer. Plan out your stand locations and access trails first using topo or aerial maps. Then map out where you want food sources, bedding, and travel corridors. Once a plan is in place, start your hinge cutting based on that plan.
To hinge cut safely and correctly you MUST have the proper personal protective equipment and the right tools. One of my absolute favorite tools is what I call the Habitat Hook. When I first started hinge cutting there was no specific tool available that could help me hinge cut effectively. Attempting to hinge cut any amount of trees was extremely labor intensive and had poor results because I couldn’t consistently keep the hinge together. The Habitat Hook helps give the leverage required to push or pull against a tree that has had a hinge cut into it. More leverage means a shallower cut which allows more of the tree’s cambium layer to stay intact. This will give the tree a much higher success and growth rate.
When looking to create hinge cut areas, using a good quality handsaw and the Habitat Hook in combination works great. Having hinge cut thousands of trees myself I’ve learned some things along the way to help make the process more efficient. Working together with a friend allows one person to be cutting the hinges while the other uses the Habitat Hook to push the trees over and then pull into position if needed. Small diameter trees that are under 4” in diameter are quite easy to push or pull over once the hinge is cut. Any larger and I prefer to push trees rather than pull because of two primary reasons. One, I feel it’s easier to apply constant pressure against the tree rather than pulling with only my body weight and two, it helps prevent the Habitat Hook from getting caught up in a falling tree. If the hook gets caught up in a tree when pulling there is a much higher chance of it getting bent by the tree. Extendable Habitat Hook models are the most universal because they can be used in tight areas at 7’ long or extended to 13’ when the most leverage possible is required. The same process applies to bedding areas, travel corridors, property border screens, etc.
If any hinge cutting is in a habitat plan, having a Habitat Hook and a good handsaw in your tool arsenal is as valuable as your personal protective equipment. A property can be transformed for the better thru selective hinge cutting and help you reach your management goals. Before heading to the woods, reference your habitat plan and be sure you’re aware of all potential safety hazards involved when cutting trees. Check out the Habitat hook at www.habitathook.com and some slick handsaws at www.wickedtreegear.com.