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In this video, Mike Hartges, who has been doing hinge cutting for deer habitat longer than anyone I know, shows us a tree that he hinge cut in 1995. Recently, I have been hearing from a number of supposably educated sources that hinge cut trees don’t survive well.
While it is true that some species don’t survive well, and it is true that many practice and teach methods that do not promote good survival, it is also true that most hardwood species can survive indefinitely after hinge cutting, if the conditions and methods used are appropriate. I normally see twice as many bucks per hour of sitting in December asĀ I do in November or October. I think it is a combination of three things, a lack of perceived hunting pressure by the deer, great cover and browse, and ample food sources adjacent to heavy cover. The centerpiece of my effort of course is the habitat I have created on my property, in this case my 130 acres in Hillsdale County. Hunt this area for a day with poor scent control, and you will probably see it clear of mature does for several days afterwards. My buck this year finally came on the last day of the Michigan archery season, November 14th. Sure enough, as 6 hours went by on the morning of November 14th, I observed zero deer using the food plot that snakes along that deer funnel. Here, in a presentation I did a few years ago to a steelhead fishing group (all of whom were deer hunters) I describe the stages of life of a whitetail buck in terms that I hope will make it easy for people to understand.
Based on my background as a scientist studying genetic diseases and gene therapy, I furthermore discuss the subject of what genetic traits might help a whitetail buck survive to adulthood under extreme hunting pressure like we experience here in southern Michigan.
In human terms, you can look at a youth and spot personality characteristics such as shyness or boldness, but you cannot look at him and determine if he will have male pattern baldness because that trait is not fully expressed until later in life (like antlers). I have known Jim for a number of years and consider him to be one of the best habitat consultants in the country.
I put together this video so that other whitetail habitat enthusiasts can share in the experience. After hiring Jim, Andy went from a frustrated guy who seldom saw a mature buck to a happy, successful hunter who consistently kills great bucks.
If you’re up for the challenge of a high-country adventure, then mulies are the deer to hunt. Extreme elevation, sheer vertical terrain, and high alpine basins surrounded by rimrock are what mountain mulies call home. While on a hunt, I often stand in amazement, looking up at the majestic chiseled peaks that lie above me.
If you want to hunt true mountain mulies, you’ll need to focus your efforts on the highest peaks exceeding timberline. During the months of late summer and early fall, mule deer bucks are very easy to spot in open areas above the timberline, where they travel in small bachelor groups. Until the bucks shed this velvet cover, the antlers are very soft, tender and extremely susceptible to injury.


Later, as their horns harden, deer will revert to their normal behavior patterns and prefer thicker brush to conceal their whereabouts.
Later on in the season, these same big bucks will split from the others and become solitary creatures that eat, sleep and travel alone. Another reason why they move to higher elevations is to escape the fierce population of bloodthirsty insects that relentlessly attack their velvet racks. These nutritional areas provide deer with the minerals and proteins essential for antler growth. It’s common to find a big buck bedded above timberline at the base of a rocky bluff or in the shade of a boulder. In the video I describe some of the reasons this myth about poor survival of hinge cut trees continues, even in the face of tremendous success by those who are practicing appropriate techniques. Yes, habitat is important, but Scent Control is the X-Factor that can undo all your good habitat efforts. This is the first time in countless sits I have not seen deer using that food plot and that now tarnished travel corridor. In the case of antler development, since the true potential does not arrive until adulthood, it is not possible for antler development to influence survival under selective pressure.
It is almost two hours long so is not for the casual viewer, but instead, is aimed at the serious whitetail habitat enthusiast. He has no sponsors to cater to and freely shares whatever he knows with anyone interested in hearing it.
In this video I demonstrate the importance of stopping the cut before the tree releases, and then slowly falling the tree using a hinge pole.
These big bucks use every bit of the terrain to their advantage, astonishing you with their ability to circumnavigate areas where you would think only goats and sheep could survive.
I wonder if they harbor the mountain monarchs that have filled my dreams for so many months. This is a magical place with its own unique climate, ultimate views and unforgiving terrain. At this time of year, their well-disciplined survival skills are compromised, largely due to the following factors. The first and most important factor aiding your ability to spot these early-season bucks is their antlers, nearing completion of their growth stage and covered in velvet — a conduit of blood and minerals.
Thus the deer tend to steer clear of heavily treed and thick brushy areas to avoid obstacles like branches that could bruise and damage their antlers. Because the bucks are forced into the open and are now traveling in small bachelor groups, their ability to conceal themselves and their movements has been drastically compromised.
Big bucks enjoy an unobstructed view of the surrounding area below them and will almost always bed facing downhill. Given a high vantage point like this, it’s highly unlikely that an intruder could penetrate his citadel successfully without being detected far in advance.


I had hunted the area only three times previously in three different stands, and was convinced that with the amount of disruption that occurred, there would be little deer traffic through the prime central travel corridor of my property. But I believe most scent busts happen without the hunter ever seeing it or knowing they were busted.
So if he tells you to use a particular product or method, he really believes in it, and is not just selling you a load of horse puckey from a script written by someone trying to sell you something. Here you see a 20 year old hinge cut tree on the property of deer habitat pioneerĀ Mike Hartges in Hillsdale County MI.
Their sure-footedness and ability to detect the slightest movements miles away are what makes them so difficult to hunt and places them at the top of Western hunters’ lists. Now throw big mule deer bucks into the mix, and you’re ready for an adventure of a lifetime. To do so, you must be in ultimate physical condition, and prepared to match wits with some of the mountains’ wisest inhabitants.
Whether or not you’re successful in taking a buck, after this type of adventure we all share a true respect for the mountains and the majestic mule deer that call them home.
Over the years, I’ve observed many groups consisting primarily of bucks of 4 points or better, while others contain mostly forkhorns and a few smaller 3-pointers. Rising thermals provide them with a natural built-in air conditioning and a cooler climate overall. Here is the video describing my change of plans and video of the killing of my 11 point buck. The bachelor groups comprised of smaller bucks always seem to be located at lower elevations than those of the larger bucks. While not heavily used as a rule, it provided the best route to and from food and bedding without going through the central travel corridor. He learned about it from a guy named Bill Snyder from Wisconsin when he subscribed to Bill’s newsletter and video series produced by the company Radical Land Management.
I try to keep my boots in pristine condition and seldom have a deer react negatively to my trail in, although they are often aware (especially older does) that there is a ground disturbance.
In this case the deer is unhappy with the situation, and changes her mind about approaching me. Mike tried Bill’s techniques starting in 1995, and this is an example of one of those first hinge cut trees 20 years later. But from my research, I believe it is Mike Hartges who first popularized this killer method in Michigan.



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