The 5 W’s of Hinge Cut Trees

Hinge Cuts- felling a tree so it falls horizontally but remains attached to its bole and living, it perhaps the easiest habitat improvement to implement.

WHO: Want to improve habitat on your land? Anyone can do it, and if done properly, properly cut hinge cut tree could survive for four to six years!

WHAT: Evergreen species make the best trees for hinge cuts, especially cedars. Sassafras, redbuds, wild cherry and various species of maples are also quality options. Small, poorly shaped oaks could be hinge cut to create browse and cover. In turn the superior oaks still standing can expand their crowns and become better acorn producers. Avoid pines, spruces and hollies as they tend not to send out side shoots and the crowns quickly die.

WHERE: Eastern states vegetation and species are more suitable for hinge cuts. The west is too open to be well-suited for hinge cuts, but they could benefit overgrown river and stream bottoms.

WHY: Hinge cuts can become timber stand improvement projects. Hinge cut trees produce excellent cover and potential nesting areas for songbirds and game birds such as turkeys and quail. Some trees can also create browse for whitetail or enhance the soft-edge habitat near the edge of food plots.

WHEN: Winter and early spring are good times to make hinge cuts. Identify and mark trees before they lose their leaves to avoid misidentifying and cutting the wrong trees.

AND HOW:

  • Select a tree measuring between 3 and 8 inches at waist height
  • Cut slowly and deliberately, avoid sawing too much of the cambium layer (the growing part of the tree)
  • Usually cut about 75% of the way through the tree to make it fall right
  • Thoroughly plan hinge cuts, leave enough space if cutting several trees
  • Do not face cut (notch) when hinge cutting because it destroys the cambium layer
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