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Hack and Squirt for Better Forest

Hack and Squirt

What an interesting title to a simple solution to a very real problem. The technique of ‘hack and squirt’ is not new to many land managers, but to others it is a very new concept. It is basically a method of ridding your property of unwanted woody plants and vegetation.

Like many places across the country, we have some invasive and otherwise unwanted species competing with our desired trees and shrubs for nutrients. Many techniques are available to rid these including, bush hog, or mowing which works well for temporary relief of smaller vegitation. Prescribed burns which can be very effective in mature stands of forest. Cutting or logging operations also works well to remove mature trees and create edge and openings for crops, or replanting of trees. But where is the solution for those trees that are too big to mow, and the forest is not mature enough for a prescribed fire? What is the best method to eradicate unwanted trees and shrubs? This is where the ‘hack and squirt’ method comes in. While it is rather labor intensive, this is by design. In this method, the forester, land owner or manager enters the forest with a small hatchet or machete and a bottle of herbicide (Arsenal is a good choice) this herbicide is designed to kill the trees and shrubs by entering through the cambium layer of the tree for a fast and complete death.

Trees that are anywhere from three inches to eighteen inches in diameter can be controlled with this technique. It is simple, taking the hatchet on a four inch tree make one good ‘hack’ into the trunk about waist height and squirt the poison into the opening. One or two squirts is all it takes. Move on to the next tree and so on. This method allows the landowner to be very selective of the trees he or she wants to remove and leave other trees. Typically if the tree is under five inches one ‘hack and squirt’ will do the trick. Trees from six to nine inches, I make two hacks on opposite sides and squirt into each. Bigger trees get three or maybe even four hacks. The idea is to place enough to kill the tree completely.

A good application should show results within a few weeks. Later inspection will show leaves starting to weep, then turn brown and drop off completely. Trees that have been killed by this method can be left to stand and act as habitat for birds and other cavity dwellers or can be cut down. My personal preferred method is to hack and squirt now, and this winter cut them down and leave on the ground for either compost of to add fuel for the prescribed burn. Either method is fine. This method is great for cedar, locust, sweetgun, or any other unwanted trees or shrubs in your area.

“Hack and Squirt’ is a very cost effective method of controlling unwanted species and maintaining a healthy stand of trees. Its very selective nature allows for better control and allows the landowner to establish a desired forest while eliminating the competition.