2018-09-15 / Outdoors


Acorn bounty bodes well for hunters

To many people, an oak tree is an oak tree. However, more than 400 species of oak exist worldwide. Half of them can be found in North America and there are 17 in Pennsylvania.

In the Sinnemahoning Creek Watershed where I consider home, I have encountered populations of six species—northern red oak, black oak, scarlet oak, scrub oak, white oak, and chestnut oak.

Most oaks are classified into two general categories, the white oaks and red or black oaks. White oaks have rounded lobes on their leaves and have lower tannin levels making their acorns more palatable and desirable for wildlife.

The most common white oaks found in Cameron and Potter counties are chestnut oak and white oak. However, there are some scattered swamp white oak trees along the flood plain of the Allegheny River.

Furthermore, burr oak and chinkapin oak are members of the white oak family that are found in adjacent areas to Cameron and Potter counties.

White oak acorns take only one growing season to develop. Their acorns also germinate in the fall soon after they drop from the tree, sending a deep taproot into the ground prior to winter.

Species in the red or black oak group have pointed leaf lobes with bristles on the tips of the lobes. Their acorns have higher tannin levels, making them more bitter.

Red oaks in Cameron and Potter counties include northern red, black, scarlet and scrub oak. Pin oak and shingle oak are two other species of red oaks whose populations can be found growing in adjacent areas of the state.

The acorns of the red oak group do not germinate until the following spring. Also, it takes two growing seasons for their acorns to develop. Any acorns on these trees this fall would be from oak blossoms pollinated in the spring of 2017.

This year, our white oak trees have produced an abundance of acorns. Everywhere I have been I have seen heavy crops of acorns. The white oak acorn mast crop will be the most important food source for large game animals this autumn. Find the food sources, and you’ll find the deer.

Small quantities of green ripening acorns have begun to drop. The deer are already keying in on this food source and do not seem to be frequenting our fields and openings to feed as much as they were a few weeks ago.

Acorns will continue to drop throughout this month and will reach their peak in late September, just in time for the start of archery season. This will be one of those years where there will be areas so littered with acorns that it will be like walking on marbles.

Besides white oak acorns, chestnut oak and black oaks have produced acorn crops to a lesser extent. Chestnut oak acorns, just like those of white oaks, are preferred by deer, while black oak acorns are higher in tannins and are more bitter. They will likely not factor in as a major food source this fall.

Return to top