When it comes to hunting areas with oak trees, we often wonder why some trees produce more acorns than others. Here are some of the reasons.
Hunters are outdoorsmen, and outdoorsmen like to concern themselves with the how and the why of way things in nature work. Nut-producing oak trees are one of the most sought-after areas to hunt because deer and bear, among many animals, love the highly nutritious acorns they produce.
Finding oak trees in your area is one thing, finding trees that regularly produce acorns is another. Hunters like to use the term "good mast year" to describe a big nut producing season.
Kim Coder, a professor of tree biology and health care at the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources at the University of Georgia says, not so fast.
Coder explained: "These cycles are weather-driven. They are also very localized."
The professor of tree biology went on to say that the primary weather factors that have an influence on nut production are spring frosts, summer droughts, and fall rains; the most important of these being spring frosts.
While a hunter in one location may have good production, another in a similar nearby area won't see them in equal proportions. At issue are the flowers that oaks produce.
"Most people have never seen the female flowers that produce acorns," said Coder "What they tend to see are the male catkins. The female flowers on oak and walnut trees are itty-bitty."
Here's where the science comes in. Oak trees like other nut producing trees have "internal timers" that go off telling the tree that it's time to open their buds in the spring. Flowering buds and their blooms only open for approximately a week which is when they can be pollinated by the wind.
If a late frost occurs at this time, the flowering process will cease. The results are usually obvious in the fall by the limited acorn production seen. If the spring season goes according to plan, nut production can now be affected by summer drought which can cause acorn fungal problems in some systems.
On a good note, significant fall rains can have a positive effect on trees the following spring which will show in the amount of flowers they produce. With a positive spring and summer, scenes like this can be common.
While these natural cycles take place, there are some things that hunters and other outdoorsmen can do. Trimming trees in your area of dead and decaying branches can provide for more sunlight penetration. Look for gypsy moth or gall infestation and remove when safely possible.
Simple tree fertilizer stakes placed in the ground under the main drip branches can go a long way towards giving an oak tree a fighting chance to grow tall and strong, but don't forget to check your local regulations!
Contact your Department of Environmental Conservation, DNR, or Forestry Service to see if placing fertilizer in a wooded area is within the environmental laws.