Asked January 13, 2021, 7:53 AM EST
Monroe County Michigan
Our fruit tree expert is out of the office. I am including some information that may help.
According to William Shane, MSU Extension District Fruit Educator, the best time to prune is February, March and April while trees are still dormant. Older trees can be pruned in February.
See pruning slides here- https://williamshane.weebly.com/uploads/2/7/0/7/27077603/shanebackyardorchardsoct2020.pdf
Dormancy is monitored by observing the buds. This description from Extensions says “true dormant (buds closed), to delayed dormant (slight green peeking from buds)”
Chill hours, temperature and dormancy- https://extension.illinois.edu/blogs/over-garden-fence/2016-02-29-degree-days-and-chilling-hours
I will send this along to Mr Shane for his advice.
Douglas, your plan seems good. A general rule of thumb is to not remove more than about 20% of the branches in one season. Waiting until late February for pruning is less harsh on the tree. It's also a good idea to wait for a forecasted dry spell to prune to help avoid canker problems, some varieties are more prone to canker than others (e.g., Hardy Giant, Lapkins).
Also, avoid pruning ahead of a predicted low temperature snap, or within a week after a low temperature event.