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You’ve secured a new deer lease for the season, and you’d like to put a small shelter on the property. You’ve already taken the first step, clearing several trees from the plot. The second problem is more of a hassle: getting rid of the stumps after the trees have been cut down.

To remove a 30-inch-diameter tree stump, I rented a stump grinder from a local dealer for $125 per day. (Half-day rentals are usually available.) The powerful machine has a 25-hp gas engine, sophisticated hydraulic system and 16-inch cutting wheel armed with wood-chewing teeth. The machine is relatively simple to operate but weighs nearly 1,000 pounds, so you’ll need a trailer hitch to tow it home. (Most rental dealers will deliver it for an additional fee.)


Use a pointed shovel or mattock to dig out any rocks or stones from around the base of the stump [photo 1]. Next, check to see how high the stump sticks out of the ground. If it protrudes more than about 4 inches, cut it close to the ground with a chain saw [photo 2]. You could skip this step, but it takes much longer to grind off the excess wood than it does to saw it away.

Start the stump grinder and use the appropriate hydraulic lever to raise the cutting wheel a few inches above the stump. Drive the machine forward until the wheel is over the front edge of the stump [photo 3]. Use the levers to slowly swing the cutting wheel from side to side to clear out a circular swath of wood. Lower the spinning wheel another few inches into the stump and repeat this side-to-side cutting action.

Once the stump is gone, rake up the wood chips and fill the resulting crater with screened topsoil [photo 4]. Sprinkle grass seed over the area [photo 5], and lightly rake it into the soil.

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DIY TIP Grind the stump with a side-to-side motion. If the blade is spinning, don’t let it touch the ground.