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Hinge Cutting for Deer | Supplying Winter Food and Cover

Why and How to Hinge Cut for Deer

February and March are the hardest times of year for whitetails. They are near the end of their fat reserves, AG field residue is wiped out, and woody browse is limited and often over pressured. What is your solution for feeding deer in the winter if your property is not up to par? The solution is sitting in your garage, your chainsaw

February and March will bring new challenges to our properties, are roles as deer managers, and to the deer themselves. March is hardest time of year for whitetails. They are near the end of their fat reserves, AG field residue is all dried up, and woody browse is limited and often over pressured. Spring green up is right around the corner but deer still have a month or two of hardships ahead. It’s important that we understand what a whitetail desires this time of year and exactly what type of food they need in the winter.

A whitetail is adapted to survive the winter, they reduce movement, reduce intake and survive off of their fat reserves from fall. Currently a deer’s diet in winter will consist roughly 40% fat reserves, crop residues, and left over hard mass, but 60% will be woody browse. The main question you need to ask yourself this time of year is “do you have enough food and Quality cover on your property to carry your deer herd through the winter?”

We can correct this by putting out the right feed for deer in the winter with the chainsaw. By hinge cutting tree species such as hackberry poplar, and maples, non-mass bearing trees (do not cut oaks and hickories) we can put food at a deer’s level and also create bedding areas with certain cuts. The tops of the trees offer a lot of food in the form of newly grown buds and branches.

Cutting this way also serves the purpose of creating side cover, multiple hinge cuts can offer a lot of food and cover where it was once open. You are dropping a lot of shade closer to the ground, at the deer’s level( up to 6ft) and they will eat on the buds and branches, bed next to or under the hinge, and the top of the tree serves as protection for young samplings, ,especially important for oak regeneration. 

The Alternatives

Hinge cutting solves our problems for cover and deer food during the winter, it is a better long term solution for problems of March, and it is an alternative for the negatives associated supplemental feeding and/or feeding deer large quantities of corn. If you don’t have the habitat that can support hinge cutting as the form of emergency food you might have to rely on a stronger food plot program or supplemental feeding. Supplemental feeding is not recommended or illegal in some states, but where legal and in the right areas, you can do it right!

Deer Food and Deer Feeding in Winter

Deer Food | Feeding Deer in the Winter

By: Weston Schrank, BuckScore Specialist and Biologist

As deer hunters and land managers, we worry about our deer herds in the winter. With freezing cold temperatures, snow, ice storms, and a sun that doesn’t often show itself, it’s a miracle deer can make it through such conditions. While deer are built to handle these tough situations, it’s our job to ensure the habitat and herd are in a healthy state for any type of weather. One question that often comes up during this time of year is “should I be feeding my deer?” In most circumstances the answer is no. However, the answer depends upon the situation as both the terms “deer food” and “feeding deer” can have different meanings. Understanding the right and wrong way to feed deer this winter is your job as a deer hunter and more importantly as a deer steward.

There are three sections below, carefully read and watch the videos in this blog to get a full understanding of the right and wrong way to feed deer. There is a wrong way to feed deer, a better way to feed deer, and “the best way” to feed deer during the winter months.

Feeding Deer in the Traditional Sense

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear “feeding deer”? I bet that 90% of hunters think of deer corn. Corn or deer feed pellets are the most common foods that hunters refer to when they talk about feeding deer. So what is the problem with this? Feeding deer large amounts of corn in the winter in an area where they don’t normally get it can be a disaster. The video below explains why this can be a problem.

Feeding Deer with a Better Understanding

As the video above explains, this does not necessarily mean that all feeding is bad. There is a way that you can start feeding deer on a supplemental feeding program during the winter. The secret is feeding in the right amount and at the right times. The video below covers how to properly provide supplemental feeding.

The Best Way to Feed Deer

While many deer hunters and land managers might successfully incorporate a supplemental feeding program on their property, there is a better option. Through habitat management, food plots, and timber management plenty of deer food and nutrition will be available to the deer herd. Food in the form of food plots, early successional growth, woody browse, and downed trees should always be a higher priority for a deer manager than a feeding program. Unfortunately, there may not be enough natural food or habitat to sustain a herd throughout the winter. If this is the case, it might be time to create some emergency deer food and cover through hinge cutting. The video below covers hinge cutting and how it creates food and cover for deer.

When it comes to the terms “deer food”, “deer feed”, and “feeding deer,” it’s important to understand what each means to your management plan. There is a right way and a wrong way to provide food for your deer herd. Which will you choose and more importantly how will your choice affect the future of your herd?

Looking to read more deer hunting and deer manager related articles? Check out the link below!