You may have heard bush hogging called brush hogging, rotary cutting or rough cut mower; it all refers to the same thing. The term “bush hogging” originated with the company that invented the first rotary cutter, the Bush Hog®. We use the brand name to describe this type of mowing much in the way we might call performing an Internet search “Googling.”

Rotary cutters are heavy-duty mowing decks that you tow behind tractors. It’s not a clean-finish process you would use to cut a golf course or football field. It’s most effective to clear overgrown land that’s reasonably level and not strewn with large rocks or tree stumps.

Bush hogging will chew up and spit out high weeds, brush, and saplings up to 1 inch in diameter. Like a mower, it will fling debris in all directions at high speeds, so it is important to make sure people and animals are well out of projectile range and you’re not bush hogging a field next to a full parking lot or a Sunday church service.

Do I Need a Big Tractor for Bush Hogging?

No, you don’t! There are bush hog attachments available that can be towed by an ATV, UTV, or riding mower. Some can even be towed to the side of a lawn tractor, allowing you to bush hog the first swath, then finish mow at the same time you bush hog the next row….cutting your mowing time in half if your goal is a finished lawn.

If you do have a bigger tractor, you can tow a bigger bush hog attachment.

How to Bush Hog

Choose a rotary cutter the right size for your tractor. Choose your rotary cutter using these criteria:

  • Horsepower – Maximum 10% difference in horsepower ratings between the tractor and the cutter. If you have a 50 hp tractor, you’ll need a 40-50 hp cutter. Similarly, if you have a 30 hp tractor, buy a 20-30 hp cutter.
  • Cutting deck width – Typically if you have a  25 hp tractor, choose a mower no larger than 5 ft wide. A 40 hp tractor can handle a 6 ft wide cutting deck.
  • Connector – If your tractor does not have a hydraulic system and PTO shaft, your options are a bit limited. You may want to consider a 3-point conversion kit. Or a new tractor.

Modern tractor implements are pretty easy to hook up. Once you’ve got the cutter attached, make sure the stabilizer chains don’t have too much slack. You don’t want the cutter to swing too loosely on turns.

If you’re towing with a lawn tractor, raise the tractor deck before venturing out. Lawn tractors are not well equipped for heavy brush. Don’t make the mistake of engaging the tractor cutting deck unless you’re going over a row already cleared.

Start your tractor, depress the clutch, and engage the PTO. Let the clutch out slowly. The bush hog blades should start turning.

Adjust the hydraulics to raise the cutting deck to the right height and choose the gear most appropriate for the job. The heavier the brush you’ll be cutting, the slower you’ll need to go. The amount of power diverted to your PTO changes as you change gears.

You’re good to go! Just drive as you would normally, either in a circular cutting pattern or in stripes. Watch for hazards, like large holes, rocks, or stumps that will damage your bush hog. If you do hit something, stop immediately and inspect the cutter for damage.

And remember, safety first! Bush hogs are made for mowing down tall, thick grasses and weeds. You won’t always see what you’re about to run over.  And never never never get on or near the cutter if the blades are still spinning!