The Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife annually surveys oak trees for acorn abundance at 38 wildlife areas. This year’s survey results showed an average of 40% of white oaks and 49% of red oaks bore fruit, meaning white oak production is slightly above average and red oak production is slightly below average.
“Many of Ohio’s native wildlife species depend on oak trees and the acorns they can produce by the thousands,” said Division of Wildlife Chief Kendra Wecker. “More than 90 forest wildlife species depend on acorns for survival. A small sample of these species includes deer, squirrels, wild turkeys, woodpeckers, blue jays, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, mice, ruffed grouse, and wood ducks.”
Division of Wildlife employees scan the canopies of selected oak tree wildlife areas to determine the percentage that produced acorns as well as the relative size of the acorn crop. This is the 17th year the Division of Wildlife has completed the acorn production survey. The proportion of white oaks bearing acorns increased 13% from 2020, while red oak proportion decreased 20%. The long-term average for white oak acorn production is 37%, and 55% for red oak acorn production. All results, including tables and historical numbers, can be found at wildohio.gov.
Acorns come in two basic types: red and white. They are divided into these groups 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.
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 to move around more and search for food. In areas with poor acorn production, wild animals are more likely to feed near agricultural areas and forest edges.
Oak trees have value beyond food and shelter for wildlife. Collect mature acorns in the fall and place them in a bucket of water. Keep the ones that sink and discard any that float, as those won’t germinate. Store the remaining acorns in the refrigerator or outside for at least eight weeks in the winter months. Plant the acorns under a shallow covering of soil in the early spring, water regularly, and enjoy seeing your new oak trees start to grow!
• Ring-necked pheasant releases at wildlife areas and other public hunting locations are scheduled to begin during Ohio’s youth hunting season on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 23-24, according to the ODNR Division of Wildlife. Pheasant releases will continue into late October and November.
Rooster pheasants are released at 25 public hunting areas, providing hunters with multiple opportunities to pursue this timeless game bird. More than 14,000 ring-necked pheasants are scheduled to be released in Ohio to provide put-and-take opportunities for new and veteran hunters.
The Division of Wildlife will release pheasants for the following dates: Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 23-24 (first youth weekend), Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 30-31 (second youth weekend), Friday, Nov. 5 (opening day), Saturday, Nov. 13, Thursday, Nov. 25 (Thanksgiving Day). Locally, the pheasants will be released at Delaware Wildlife Area and Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area.
A valid Ohio hunting license is required to pursue pheasants and other game birds. An Ohio apprentice hunting license is available to individuals of any age who want to try hunting but have not yet completed a hunter education course. The apprentice hunting license is a great way to introduce someone to hunting and provide a positive experience in the field.
Ohio’s pheasant hunting season is open from Friday, Nov. 5, to Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, with a daily harvest limit of two birds (males only). No hens (females) may be harvested. Statewide hours for pheasant season are sunrise to sunset.
• Ohio’s 2021 white-tailed deer archery hunting season is off to a strong start with 16,095 deer harvested through Sunday, Oct. 17, according to the ODNR Division of Wildlife. The average harvest total for the same date during the past three years is 20,112 deer taken. Locally, Richland and Knox counties were both in the top ten counties for total harvest during that stretch.
Deer archery season began on Saturday, Sept. 25 and is open until Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022. I am guessing the unusually warm weather has deterred some of the hunting but I have noticed a major increase in buck movement during the past week so expect things to improve as colder temperatures move in and more corn gets harvested.
Until next time, Good Hunting and Good Fishing!
Ken Parrott is an Agricultural Science teacher with Northmor High School.