How Chainsaws Can Transform Whitetail Properties
June 02, 2014
According to the most recent National Survey of Fishing, Hunting & Wildlife Recreation, the average hunter spends about $2,484 a year on hunting related purchases. That's a good amount to spend on hunting gear, but what does all that spending get us? For the typical whitetail hunter, that cash is probably spent on new bows, guns, treestands and a whole host of deer hunting gizmos and gadgets.
But what if I told you there was a piece of equipment — one you probably already have — which could improve your chances of whitetail hunting success even more than these other expensive deer hunting items?
That piece of equipment is a chainsaw. With this single tool you can improve the habitat on the property you hunt to hold more whitetails, and improve your hunting set-ups to result in better chances of killing those whitetails.
Here are three ways that the chainsaw sitting in your shed right now can change your whitetail luck.
Benefit No. 1: Improving Cover
If you want to change your whitetail luck, a great way to start is to increase the likelihood of mature bucks wanting to spend time on your property. A surefire way to do this is to improve the available cover.
Deer, especially mature bucks, crave thick and nasty security cover to bed and to evade humans. If your property doesn't have much of this kind of habitat, you need to create some. Luckily, a project like this takes nothing more than some sweat equity and a chain saw.
There are several ways to improve cover using a chainsaw, but the most popular are clear-cutting, selective harvest and hinge cutting.
Clear-cutting, as most know, involves the indiscriminate cutting of every tree in an area. By doing this, you completely open the canopy, allowing 100 percent sunlight to hit the ground and bring a large number of tree trunks and tops to the ground.
This new sunlight encourages extreme amounts of new growth, which in addition to the downed trees become a mess of tangles that deer will flock to. A typical hunting property application might involve an acre or two clear-cut used to form a bedding area.
A similar but more moderate result can be produced by using the selective harvest method. This practice involves the cutting of only specific "low value" trees, those that don't produce food for whitetails, and then leaving high value trees such as oaks standing.
This allows more sunlight to reach the ground and to encourage new growth, while still maintaining the benefits of certain standing trees. Just like clear-cutting, this can be easily accomplished with a chainsaw. That said, take a little time before hand to learn how to properly identify the trees you'd like to cut versus those that should stay standing.
The final option is a practice called hinge cutting. Hinge cutting involves the cutting of small trees, usually smaller than 6 inches in diameter, just enough of the way through so that the tree top can be slowly bent down to the ground.
By not cutting all the way through, the tree can continue to survive and produce leaves and new growth from the trunk in the future. But now that the treetop is on the ground, you have a wealth of new cover at deer level. Again, just like the other two options mentioned, this also opens the canopy and sunlight induced new growth will burst forth.
Whether you clear cut, selective harvest or hinge cut, the goal is the same: You want to bring tree tops to the ground to create immediate new cover, and then open up the canopy to allow sun to nourish new growth in the future.
Whichever route you take, make sure you're strategic in your creation of new bedding areas. Consider how these bedding areas might change deer behavior, and how that might impact your ability to hunt the area and/or access it.
Benefit No. 2: Food Creation
The aforementioned tree cutting projects with a chainsaw aren't only valuable for their ability to create cover; on top of that, they also can help provide food for your whitetails.
This chainsaw-created food source comes in several forms. First, by cutting down or hinge cutting trees, you'll be bringing tree tops down to the ground. These tree tops will be quickly browsed by local deer, and in the case of hinge cutting these trees can continue to produce new shoots, buds and leaves for years.
In the longer term, by cutting these trees down and allowing more sun to hit the ground, new growth will emerge from the forest floor. I've already discussed the benefits this can bring in the form of cover, but these shrubs and grasses also provide tremendous amounts of food.
By removing competitive "low value" species of trees with selective harvest, you allow more sunlight to hit high value trees such as oaks or apple trees, which can in turn improve their mast (food) production for whitetails in the future.
Benefit No. 3: Funneling Deer Movement
Chainsaws don't just create habitat improvements for deer, they can also create hunting improvements for you.
When it comes to hunting mature bucks — and especially bowhunting — one of the greatest challenges can be getting a deer to close the final few yards into shooting range. With a chainsaw and some strategic cutting and moving of trees, you can help negate this challenge by manipulating how and where deer can move.
To illustrate this concept, let me share a few examples. If you're hunting a field edge and there are two main trails that lead out of the woods, use your saw to drop a few trees across the trail that's not within shooting range. This will naturally encourage more deer to use the trail within shooting distance.
If you're hunting a major travel corridor in the woods but face multiple trails that weave throughout, you can use your saw to cut trees down and lay them lengthwise along the trails. As they near your stand location, neck down the route and funnel them closer to your stand.
Maybe you're hunting a big woods environment of old growth trees with not much ground level cover. In this scenario, it may be difficult to pinpoint deer movement, so use your saw to give them some cover or structure to relate to.
By creating cuts of cover by chainsawing a strip of timber through the middle of the woods, deer will naturally gravitate towards it and travel along its edges. You've now got a great stand location.
The applications are endless, but the moral of the story is simple: The goal is to use your chainsaw to strategically drop trees and then use those felled trees to manipulate deer movement. It's amazing how much this can help.
All that said, chainsaws can be very dangerous tools if not used properly. I'd highly encourage you to properly review safety protocol for chainsaws before taking to the woods.
This year, when considering what hunting gear can help you kill the big one, don't forget about your chainsaw. It's probably already sitting in your garage, just waiting for some action.
So get it revved up this spring and improve the cover, food and hunting set-ups on your property. It's time to make your own luck.
Mark Kenyon runs Wired To Hunt, one of the top deer hunting resources online, featuring daily deer hunting news, stories and strategies for the whitetail addict.