Though considered difficult to open, cracking the shells of hickory nuts can be done in a way that allows easy extraction the nutmeat.
If you hit a hickory nut on the "bull-eye," a point about 1/3 of the way down from its stem, the husk should fracture approximately along the lines drawn on the sample pictured here. (The nut on the right has been cracked, and glued back together.)
PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
The sequence of steps used in opening one of the tough nuts.  Lay the nugget on its side and raise your hammer several inches above it.  Aim for that optimum impact spot.  Whack the nut sharply... and  it'll break cleanly into several pieces, from which you can extract the meats.
MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
Hickory nuts are delicious either raw or roasted and can be used in place of other nutmeats in recipes, such as this Old-Fashioned Hickory Molasses Pie (which is based on a traditional pecan pie recipe).