Improving Habitat And Hunting: Hinge Cutting Vs. Hack And Squirt (Episode 505 Transcript)

This is the video transcript. To watch the video for this episode click here.

GRANT: Last week my 20-year-old daughter, Raleigh, and I celebrated our first annual kidney transplant anniversary. A year ago Raleigh gave me one of her kidneys.

GRANT: The operation went super smooth. We had the operation about noon, and by 9:00 that night Raleigh pulled her IV pole and walked into my room to check on me. The next day we were both walking circles around the nurses’ desks.

GRANT: I just returned from the Mayo Clinic where I had a check-up, and all the numbers are great. I haven’t felt this good in a decade. I’m extremely thankful for all the GrowingDeer viewers that prayed for Raleigh and I during that operation and continue to pray for us today. God has heard your prayers, and we are extremely blessed.

ANNOUNCER: GrowingDeer is brought to you by Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s. Also by Reconyx, Eagle Seed, Nikon, Winchester, LaCrosse Footwear, Flatwood Natives, Morrell Targets, Hooyman, Hook’s Custom Calls, Montana Decoys, Summit Treestands, Drake Non-Typical Clothing, RTP Outdoors, Yamaha, Fourth Arrow, onX Hunt, ScentCrusher, Scorpion Venom Archery, Bloodsport Arrows, Code Blue, D/Code, G5 Broadheads, Prime Bows, and Redneck Hunting Blinds.

GRANT: A few weeks ago Clay, the summer interns, and I traveled to a property in Central Missouri where I’ve worked with the landowner for several years.

GRANT: Mr. Henderson owns about 800 acres where he and his family enjoy hunting turkey and deer.

GRANT: His goals are simple – he wishes to provide great hunting opportunities for his family and hold some mature bucks.

GRANT: The property consists of high-graded stands of oak timber, fescue pastures, and food plots we’ve designed throughout the years.

GRANT: Mr. Henderson has done an incredible job of implementing our original plan and continues to make additional improvements each year.

GRANT: Look at that.


GRANT: In each hand. You do not want to run out on a pass.

GRANT: One project I was excited to see was a TSI project we started two years ago.

GRANT: Two years ago, we selected an 80-acre stand of timber that had been high-graded many years ago. By that I mean loggers had cut the best and left the rest. It was now a closed canopy forest and providing very little food or cover for wildlife.

GRANT: We used blue spray paint to mark the best trees in a stand and planned to terminate the rest. This is the opposite of high grading.

GRANT: After the timber was marked, the Flatwood Natives crew came in and used a hack-and-squirt technique to terminate the trees that weren’t marked and chainsaws to fell the cedars.

GRANT: The hack-and-squirt technique terminates trees but allows them to remain standing. The first year, of course, all the leaves will fall off and allow sunshine to reach the forest floor stimulating the growth of native grasses and forbs. Through the years the smaller limbs – eventually the bigger limbs — and finally the stem will decay and fall to the ground.

GRANT: Back at Mr. Henderson’s property – we filmed here several years in a row. It’s an ongoing project. So we started with marking trees, and we terminated trees using the hack-and-squirt method, and then there’s been a fire in here – I don’t believe it was quite hot enough for my liking, but it still generated a great response. Everything you see that is green was brown. So there’s bedding, and food, and still acorns, and the residual trees can grow faster because there’s not as much competition. So, this is a win for wildlife and a win long-term for the property.

GRANT: An interesting thing – I rarely see deer eat the fruit off of this, but these have little seeds in ‘em, and when they ripen, this is a tremendous attractant for dove. If I can make poke grow exactly where I want it, it would be an ideal crop for a dove field.

GRANT: Walking around looking at the work the hack-and-squirt crew did, I’m pretty impressed. Now, there’s always a few boo-boos. You’ve got a lot of guys moving through here quickly, but this tree has been terminated. It’s a small tree next to some larger trees close by, so I marked it to get gone. When I look here, their hack is well in the cambium layer. It was gonna hold herbicide, and it was clearly gonna terminate the tree. And I’ve got a hack here, a hack here, and one, so I’ve got three hacks for about a five- or six-inch tree. I like a hack every three inches or so. So great job on this one, but let’s compare it to another tree.

GRANT: We’re just about 10 or 15 yards away, and here’s a tree that’s been hacked, but obviously still alive. And the operator this time – this tree has a thick bark – hit it but didn’t get through the bark into the cambium, just kinda scabbed some bark off – probably sprayed it and went on. And if you don’t get into the cambium, well it’s like painting something on your skin versus putting it in the vein. It wasn’t effective, and this tree is still living.

GRANT: This is one out of thousands of trees, but it’s just an example when you’re using the hack-and-squirt method, you need to use that 45-degree angle and make sure you’re not just sliding off the edge; get into the cambium; make a cup in the wood, not the bark; and administer the herbicide in that cup.

GRANT: In here we’ve terminated small, low-quality trees, left the large high-value trees, got sunshine hitting the forest floor, and we’ve got a multitude of species growing in here providing both quality food and cover.

GRANT: This 80-acre track of timber went from basically starvation alley to an extremely highly productive wildlife area.

GRANT: We’re a few yards across a logging road from the stand where we applied TSI – Timber Stand Improvement – using the hack-and-squirt technique. But I gotta tell ya, that stand looked exactly like this one before we used the hack-and-squirt and followed up with prescribed fire.

GRANT: As we’re driving on the edge, we saw some fawns bedded right there -perfect fawning habitat. Obviously, a fawn bedding in here, they’re totally exposed to predation. A few steps, they were out of view. Here, you could see a fawn running a 100 yards behind me. No food on the forest floor, nothing to eat here – over there, several 100 or 1,000 pounds of quality browse per acre growing on the forest floor.

GRANT: There’s stems every, what, 10 feet or so in here? It’s too thick. The trees are competing. Each crown is rubbing up against the adjoining tree, and they are not allowed to express their potential of either market value or acorn production.

GRANT: This is a great comparison. Right across the road, the same soil, same weather, same tree species – the difference of a mismanaged forest and one that’s been managed.

GRANT: We also checked out some of the existing food plots on Mr. Henderson’s property.

GRANT: I gotta tell ya, this is the best this food plot has looked in the years I’ve been working here.

GRANT: And they’ve started the Buffalo System. These are Eagle Seed forage soybeans. And I see some browse out here – here’s a really interesting one right here. It’s been browsed on. It’s been browsed extremely heavily, but you can see new growth coming off. And that’s the power of an Eagle Seed forage soybean.

GRANT: They’re using the Buffalo System but just a year in it, so there’s not much mulch on the ground. And they had to use an herbicide, which I expected, to keep the weeds under control this first year. In a year or two, as they build up more mulch, they will be able to use less and less herbicide.

GRANT: For now, this food plot is large enough, even though they’re next to about an 80-acre bedding area, the beans are out-competing the deer.

GRANT: I can tell you if I was hunting here, I’d get the wind in my favor and have a stand right on the edge of that bedding area coming out to feed on these beans.

GRANT: Can you imagine when these beans make pods and it’s a cold, late season day? Deer are gonna be pouring out of that cover into these beans. It will be a show to watch.

GRANT: The habitat quality at Mr. Henderson’s property continues to improve. He’s a great steward of the resource in providing excellent hunting opportunities for his family and friends.

GRANT: Last week, Daniel, and interns Taylor and Patrick, and myself traveled to Northeastern Missouri to assist another landowner with the habitat and hunting improvement plan.

GRANT: Many of the steeper hillsides on this property had been converted from production ag to CRP fields. The neighborhood in general is production ag and small wood lots.

GRANT: This type of habitat can support high populations of deer and turkeys. Once the production ag crops have been harvested in areas like this, deer tend to move far and wide to find high-quality winter forage.

GRANT: Mike and his sons had previously tagged great bucks from this property. Their goal is to be able to tag at least one good buck annually. After studying maps of this property before our tour, I knew they could meet or exceed that goal.

MIKE: In reality, if we could kill one nice buck a year would be reality.

GRANT: You would consider that a successful year?

MIKE: I would consider that a real successful year.

GRANT: Is anyone in this, say kinda like this circle right here?

MIKE: Are you asking me if there’s food there late season or a later on?

GRANT: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

MIKE: Nothing. No, there’s no food nowhere.

GRANT: I want to own the late season food market. I want to own that.

GRANT: I mean…this guy is trying to make a living. His beans are fertilized, right?

MIKE: Umm-hmm.

GRANT: You know he’s got the weeds out of there. The deer can’t over-browse it ‘cause it’s 200 acres of beans or 80 acres of beans in one place. You just can’t compete with that.

MIKE: Right.

GRANT: But you can win. 20, 30 acres of fall food wins.

GRANT: Nothing beats boots on the ground, so we headed out for a tour.

GRANT: Four years ago, Mike used a hinge cutting technique in several stands of timber on his property.

GRANT: Working on a habitat improvement product in Northern Missouri, and we came across the perfect example of why I never prescribe hinge cut or stump cut. It’s easy to see why.

GRANT: I’m standing by a tree that was hinge cut to make more cover. It’s been hinge cut four years. And the landowner says the first year or two it worked pretty good. But in year four, well, the top of this tree – I can touch an eight-foot ceiling, so it’s 16-foot tall or something like that up to that – and it’s shading out a pretty big area. We’ve still got a little growth where the sun is coming through here, but over here slim to none.

GRANT: Think about the expense of felling this tree, the danger, chainsaws, hearing protection, you know, chaps, helmets, all that stuff. Versus walking up, as we’ve shown in the past, with a hatchet and squirt bottle, terminating this tree standing up and now we got full sunshine here.

GRANT: There’s no cover here now. And it’s gonna get worse as time goes by and this canopy fills up this whole area. The sun won’t even be coming in from this direction. So I know a lot of people recommend it. I never see anyone follow-up and this is why. It’s going to grow out. Trees naturally are going to reach for the sun. They’re gonna spread their canopy. In the first year or two it’s good, but then you end up with a mess.

GRANT: In areas where guys have been sold on using the hinge cut technique because woody browse is the best food in the neighborhood. Maybe they can’t do food plots; there’s no ag in the area. Let’s consider that. The lower limbs have already died because this is shading it out. These top limbs that are providing that shade have grown higher than a deer wants to browse. We’re left with no food, no cover.

GRANT: I’m just gonna take a few steps here, and maybe this was meant to be a hinge cut. I see where it was sheared off here but in effect it becomes a stump cut. In this case, that’s a blessing because that allows some sun to come through the area. Be careful if you’re gonna use hinge cut. I hope you don’t. But if you do, and you cut this tall – obviously it doesn’t always work out right – and if that tree would have hit here and slid this way, it would have went through someone’s abdomen, and they’d have been slow-release fertilizer right here.

GRANT: If you do a logging plan, and you’re gonna select cut, and you think “Boy this is gonna be great. I’m gonna open up the area.” And right after the timber harvest for a year to two it looks great, but most of those stumps will sprout like this. And I’m not gonna count, but there’s a bunch of sprouts coming out here.

GRANT: So let’s say this was a bigger tree; it was logged and taken to market. You’re gonna end up with this, which is again shading out the area, growing out of the reach of a deer, no browse, no cover, and now no visibility. You can’t see on through the forest to take a shot.

GRANT: Pretty much, if you’re harvesting or doing work on hardwoods for cover for wildlife management, it’s important that you treat the cambium with the herbicide. If you’ve removed the tree and you want sunlight to come down, you don’t want the tree sprouting back. You need to terminate it with herbicide.

GRANT: Two great examples. This is one of the most common mistakes I see made in timber management throughout the whitetails’ range. And really candidly, I hear some foresters say, “Aw, we’re gonna log at a certain time of the year and it won’t sprout back.” That’s rarely the case. So if this is what you want, it works fine. If you want more sun to the forest floor for cover and food; if you want visibility, you have to terminate trees – hardwood trees – with the herbicide. A chainsaw rarely terminates a hardwood tree.

GRANT: So, just sit back and take a moment. Think about walking up to a tree you wish to terminate. Consider the difference between using a chainsaw, safety factors, expense, and what’s gonna happen a few years from now versus a couple of hits with a hatchet and a couple of squirts with a squirt bottle.

GRANT: It was difficult for me to say, but I had to recommend that Mike and his sons re-enter these areas and use the hack-and-squirt technique to terminate some of these trees that have been hinge cut so sun could again reach the forest floor.

GRANT: And you’ve got enough growth now. Instead of saying, “I messed up”, I’d be saying, “Boy we did a two-stage project. And we’ve got cover for 3 or 4 or 5 years, whatever, and now we’re going to the second stage.” But if you don’t treat this, it’s gonna be really – you’re gonna be just as open down where deer lives as you were earlier but really difficult to hunt because from whatever, six, eight feet high you can’t see anything. So if you’re in a tree stand, you hear deer walking below you, but you can’t see ‘em because you have all this… (Fades Out)

GRANT: We’ve been walking a property in Northern Missouri with Mike, the landowner. As we’re walking around – of course, it’s hot today, I think in the 90s. We’re all sweating and I’m drinking water like crazy, but it could be this hot the first week or two of bow season. Don’t you agree?

MIKE: I agree.

GRANT: And as we’ve been walking, I’m not seeing any paths wore out by UTVs. And just listening to ’em, I got the feeling, but I’m gonna ask. How do you get to your stand?

MIKE: We walk everywhere.

GRANT: “We walk everywhere.” And you’re carrying a bow and probably have a pack of goodies or something.

MIKE: Yep.

GRANT: You ever sweat on the way to your stand?

MIKE: Oh yeah.

GRANT: Yeah. We’ve spooked a handful of deer so far this morning that we’ve seen — three or four or something – and no telling how many we spooked we haven’t seen.

MIKE: Right.

GRANT: And there’s six of us, and we’re all hot, and talking loud, and respirating, you know perspirating. I’m downright sweating. But when you’re going in your stand, you’re also breathing all the time. But if you’re on a buggy – and your Dad, so you always get to ride to the stand – and one of the sons drops you off 100 yards away in the afternoon. In the afternoon I’d pull all the way to the stand in case there’s a deer bedded right here. Because I don’t want them associating me with the area. I want them associating the buggy. You’re not gonna hunt out of the buggy; you’re not gonna shoot out of the buggy; you’re not gonna do anything that makes deer conditioned to avoid the buggy.

GRANT: Off camera, a son here just won the high school golf tournament. You play golf. You see deer on golf courses ever?

MIKE’S SON: Every now and again.

GRANT: Buggies all over the place, humans all over the place. Are those deer scared of you?


GRANT: No. You need to do 180-degree change, which is against the mindset. “Oh, I gotta be quiet.”

MIKE: Right.

GRANT: “I gotta sneak in.” I want my buggy loud and proud. I want it spewing out a lot of fumes, so it covers up my human scent. They’re not associating that buggy with danger, just like the golf buggy.

GRANT: Drive in here early afternoon. I want to drive to the base of the tree, so I don’t leave any scent getting to the tree. Deer are gonna cross that buggy path and not even notice it’s there. The only time that would be a negative is you’re an absentee landowner; you’re not on your property. You’re either working in the summer, going fishing, or anything, and opening day of deer season is the first time they heard a buggy all year.

MIKE: Hmm, hmm.

GRANT: That wouldn’t be too good. But other than that, on our place we want people to take us as close to the stand as they can get us.

GRANT: Ideally, I would step out of the Yamaha to the Redneck Blind and never put my foot on the ground – not in the morning necessarily, but in the afternoon. And you’ve wisely noticed that this property hunts better in the afternoon except probably during the rut when deer are willy-nilly. Then you just go in. If you bust a deer, another one is coming, not a game changer.

GRANT: But I would change, today we should’ve been in a vehicle because we’re spooking deer, alerting deer. During hunting season you definitely want to be in your buggy, and real importantly, the same buggy so they’re used to the sound and the smell – same transmission sound, same smell, everything. And that’s to get conditioned like deer in a city park; that’s a non-issue.

GRANT: So a tree stand right here. We’ve talked about seeing some bucks out here. A little cool season hunting – only fall season food plot right here – cool season food plot, which is a great idea. It’s too small to grow anything. There’s a big trail coming out behind me. A scrape right here on this tree – a traditional scrape – use it year after year. A little food plot, they’re not gonna feed here, just stop, take a nibble, get squared up for a shot out of the stand. I love all this except how you’re approaching it.

MIKE: Yeah.

GRANT: Even though we’re close to a bedding area, get someone to give you a ride in here, drop you off a few feet away, get up the tree. There’s minimal disturbance. You will see more deer.

GRANT: We use that same technique here at The Proving Grounds. We have someone that didn’t hunt that afternoon, or one of us that do hunt will sacrifice for the rest of the people, drive a vehicle to the stand. We take hunters in and pick hunters up as close as we can get to the stand with the vehicle.

GRANT: And on the opposite end of the hunt, when the hunt is over, I’d much rather a vehicle pull up, shine its lights in the area, and push the deer out of the area than a hunter make noise getting out of the stand, and the deer pinpoint the location of that stand.

GRANT: There’s wind – you notice how there’s more wind here? It’s not gonna swirl as much. It’s gonna be more consistent.

GRANT: You can get under these acorns because that’s a limited resource in this neighborhood.

MIKE: Hmm, hmm.

GRANT: Especially right in here. On the other end of the property you got that bigger wood lot down below.

MIKE: Yeah.

GRANT: But up here – there’s not acorns everywhere around you. And when you’re getting in these acorns when they’re on the ground, you’re going to see deer.

GRANT: Ragweed. Earlier, I don’t know if you noticed that almost all of this had been browsed off. So, that’s been browsed off right there in the center.

MIKE: Yeah.

GRANT: And that, and that, and that, and that, and that. Right here is a fresh bite right there.

MIKE: Yeah. I always try to look for that ‘cause I see you point that out in your videos, and I’m like, “I don’t ever see that.” I guess I ain’t looking close enough.

GRANT: Yeah. Right there, see the center?

MIKE: Yeah, I see it now that you pointed it out. Yeah.

GRANT: So, they’re walking right here. I mean this would just be to me – man, I don’t – which tree – I’d think about it a little bit more, but probably trim this one right here where I can shoot this road, and out here, and in that whole head of acorns right there, and get a wind blowing out over this way. Oh my goodness, I’d be on that in a heartbeat.

GRANT: Don’t tell your sons, but I would hunt that right there.

MIKE: Right there?

GRANT: Right there.

GRANT: So let’s look at this now. This is a hayfield. It’s not doing anything for deer during the winter.

MIKE: Hmm, hmm.

GRANT: They just re-did some of this other stuff in here. You’re in the main travel corridor right here – the main corridor – and you’ve got the best food in the area. Every deer is gonna stop right by there. If you will do this and trust me, if will be awesome.

MIKE: Oh, we’re gonna do it. That’s why I got you here.

GRANT: Okay, so I’m gonna call that our plan. You’re gonna finish timbering this as it’s marked. I want you – certainly on the bean years. When those plants start senescing or turning a hint of yellow – and you know those leaves are gonna turn yellow pretty soon – this is not gonna hurt them at all.

GRANT: Walk right down the row and broadcast out a fall blend. The combine is gonna run over it, a grain cart may run over it; It’s not gonna hurt that young vegetation. It will just pop back up. Even if it does, it’s a real small percentage of the habitat. And if you do that, man you could add five or ten acres of winter food real easy. But if you wait until the beans are all the way out of the field, it’s so late you won’t get much tonnage. You won’t get much growth.

GRANT: This is gonna be, if you do it right, incredible. You’ve got hordes of deer passing through here.

MIKE: Hmm, hmm.

GRANT: This is a quick stop, which is feeding everything.

MIKE: I mean when you say that, is that like something you buy, like it’s already mixed up?

GRANT: Oh yeah, yep, yep.

MIKE: Or is it a company? Who are you buying it from?

GRANT: I get mine from Eagle Seed and it’s called the Fall Buffalo Blend. And I designed the blend and I promise you it works well.

GRANT: Mike’s plan was relatively simple. The native grass areas were already providing outstanding cover. There’s water everywhere in this neighborhood. The biggest limiting factor, by far, is quality forage after the surrounding crops are harvested.

GRANT: We created a plan to supply that limiting factor and address the ways to hunt that – through approach, through staging area food plots, and through management of timber that makes it, once again, better for food and cover.

GRANT: I am extremely confident that when Mike and his sons implement this plan, they will be extremely pleased with the results.

GRANT: GrowingDeer interns get a huge amount of in-the-field experience. If you’d like to consider being a GrowingDeer intern, go to the bottom of and click on the intern tab for more information.

GRANT: You shouldn’t have to go through a kidney transplant to realize that every day is a great day to enjoy Creation and, more importantly, realize the blessings of the Creator.

GRANT: I hope you take time every day to slow down and listen to what the Creator is saying to you. Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.

GRANT: If you know someone that will benefit from the habitat improvement and hunting techniques we share at GrowingDeer, please encourage them to subscribe to