2010-02-25 / Community News

Constructing Half-Cuts for Cover

It is essential for all animals to have a place to escape to, whether it is from predators or from harsh environmental conditions. Smaller animals often get over looked when talking about this sort of habitat. Half-cutting is extremely simple and effective technique that can increase habitat for rabbits, quail, and other small animals. The goal of half-cutting trees is to provide a ‘living’ brush pile that provides cover near the ground where smaller animals can use it. This technique is most appropriate in areas where trees and shrubs have lost there lower limbs and low cover is sparse. This ‘low’ cover is used as escape cover and loafing cover for small game.

The technique is a practical, economical, and simple process to help increase habitat for smaller animals on your property. The practice of halfcutting is simply a process of selecting a tree, cutting half way through it with a saw or ax, and pushing it over until it lies prostrate on the ground while ensuring that at least a portion of the bark is still attached. The bark will keep supplying nutrients to the top of the tree and keep it alive. Since animals, such as cattle, will have trouble foraging on the grass under the limbs of the tree, over time grasses and vines will grow up within the branches and this where the small animals will find their shelter. Brush species that have thorns work especially well for the half-cutting technique. The thorns add an extra layer of protection from predators for the species hiding there.

Half-cuts should be used along woodland edges, fencerows, and in stands of trees that are in pastures. Ideally suitable cover would be no greater than 300 feet from one cover plot to the next cover plot, so adjust

half-cuts as needed. The ideal time of year to establish halfcuts would be during early spring, after the sap has risen. Trees that are flexible and won’t snap off are preferred and

typically smaller trees 2 to 3

inches in diameter are selected, although any species and size of tree can be selected. Mesquite, huisache, elm, oak, and hackberry are all good choices. When possible, select trees that also have vines such as grapes, greenbriers, and supplejack growing within them. This will increase the food availability at ground level.

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