COLUMBUS — The 2023 survey of acorn abundance on select Ohio wildlife areas shows an average of 40% of white oaks and 54% of red oaks bore fruit, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife. The long-term average for white oak production is 37%, and 54% for red oaks.
Each summer, Division of Wildlife employees scan the canopies of oaks at 36 selected wildlife areas to determine the percentage that produced acorns as well as the relative size of the acorn crop. This is the 19th year the Division of Wildlife has completed the mast survey. All results, including tables and historical numbers, are available at wildohio.gov.
Acorns come in two basic types, red and white, based on the type of oak tree. Red oak acorns take two years to develop, and the acorns are bitter, containing a large amount of the chemical tannin. White oak acorns take only one year to develop and have a sweeter taste. These differences cause periodic fluctuations in statewide acorn abundance. Low mast production years are a normal part of this cycle, and wildlife adapt to find alternative food sources.
As a critical food source for many forest wildlife species, acorn abundance has been linked to body condition, winter survival and reproductive success. A year with low acorn abundance causes deer and other wildlife are more likely to feed near agricultural areas and forest edges.
Deer hunters can use acorn survey information to improve hunting success. In areas where acorns are an important part of the deer’s diet, mast availability can affect deer movements and ultimately hunter success.
In poor mast years, deer are forced to use other food sources, and travel distances between feeding and bedding areas may be longer. Hunters may key in on travel corridors and alternate food sources. In regions with a strong acorn crop this fall, hunters may find success hunting in or near oak stands.
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