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How Timber Stand Improvement (TSI) Will Enhance Your Hunting Property

TSI feature
Whitetail Dreams

If you're passionate about deer hunting like me, you're always thinking about ways to improve the land you hunt on. TSI is one solution.

Though deer seasons are over, it's never too early to start thinking about preparing for next year if you truly care about the land you manage. Timber Stand Improvement (TSI) is one of many very effective and affordable land management tools to use in your arsenal.

Luckily, late winter is one of the best times to conduct TSI activities. Study up now and get out in the woods. You'll appreciate the hard work once everything greens up and your deer herd starts using it.

What is TSI?

TSI is simply the process of removing undesirable trees from the forest, but it can be done with multiple purposes or goals in mind. For this article, we'll focus on TSI to improve the condition of mast trees, provide additional browse, and enhance cover habitat.

TSI general
Wildlife Management Trees

Focus on locating and thinning out undesirable trees, which include:

  1. Those that don't produce hard or soft mast (e.g., boxelder, basswood, maples, elm, etc.).
  2. Those that are crowding such mast trees.
  3. Those that have clear diseases or damage.

TSI Methods

There are several TSI methods that can be used to great effect and for different purposes.


The most obvious method is strictly removal, and useful for thinning out thick areas or addressing an invasive species infestation. A side benefit is that you can fill up your woodshed with logs to dry over the following year.

Hinge Cutting

For situations where you want to increase the browse and simultaneously create more bedding and security habitat, you need to open up the canopy and let more light in. Use a method called hinge-cutting to accomplish this. With hinge-cutting, you only want to cut a little more than 3/4 of the way through the tree and then allow the tree to topple so that the remaining section stays attached. Make the cut at about waist-level to really increase the habitat component.

First, this allows more sunlight to hit the forest floor, which encourages additional browse to sprout at deer level. Plus, the tree top stays alive and provides more nutrition over the next couple years. Second, the addition of horizontal cover (tree trunk and limbs) and new browse provides great bedding cover. Third, the downed tree tops can protect new seedlings from browsing until they can escape predation.

TSI hinge cutting
Wildlife Management Trees


If you just want to open up the forest floor or create snags (dead trees) for wildlife, girdling is a great option. Simply saw a ring around the tree about one half to one inch deep, which will cut off the tree's ability to receive water or nutrients from the root system. You can also double girdle, by cutting another ring a few inches above the other to be sure. Generally, this will kill the tree top the following season.

Hack and Squirt

A similar method involves using an axe to hack cuts at a downward angle around the tree, and then spraying an herbicide into the wound. The herbicide will enter the tree's vascular system and kill it, having the same result as girdling.

Strategies and Locations

There are some classic locations to use the TSI methods listed above.

South-Facing Hillsides

Sunny hillsides are excellent locations because they already likely serve as bedding areas. The newly-opened areas will sprout back very thick, offering browse and security cover in the same place. You can also leave the slash and tree tops in-place for additional visibility obstructions.

TSI locations
MW Properties


You can either enhance existing funnels or create new funnels using TSI. For the former, locate pinch points and open up the canopy to encourage thick regrowth. Simultaneously pile the slash along the corridor to create dense cover. For new areas, pile up the slash in key linear areas to direct deer movement.

There are many other methods and strategies to use, but hopefully this introduction to TSI practices gets you thinking about what you can do now to help your deer herd and enhance your hunting land. Maybe it will pay off with a giant buck on the wall.

Follow me on Twitter @rjlisson

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How Timber Stand Improvement (TSI) Will Enhance Your Hunting Property