Food plots are awesome for attracting and feeding deer, but if you want to actually hold whitetails on your property (and create better hunting opportunities), you need thick, brushy cover. The fastest way to create that habitat is by hinge-cutting with a chainsaw.
Hinge-cutting is pretty simple. As the name implies, you use the saw to cut just far enough to tip the tree over, leaving it partially attached to the trunk. The fallen log creates immediate horizontal cover that deer love, and since the bark and cambium layer remain intact, the tree’s roots keep shooting nutrients to the crown. This keeps the tree living and results in a two-for-one: cover and food, in the way of browse. What’s more, the resulting gap in the forest canopy allows brush and young trees to receive sunlight and flourish, creating even more cover and food.
I hinge-cut only low-timber-value trees. Here in the Midwest, box elder, ironwood, and aspen are classic examples, but I also pick on young maples, elms, and hickories. For safety’s sake, I stick with small to mid-size trees. While I do much of my hinge-cutting right now, I’ve done it as late as July and been really pleased with the results. Like dropping a brush pile into a lake to attract fish, even a small hinge-cut area draws deer almost immediately for bedding, feeding, and sanctuary. If you’re a land manager and not doing at least some hinge-cutting, you’re not attracting as many good bucks as you could be.