A “mast year” spells acorn abundance

By Dan Armitage, host of Buckeye Sportsman, Ohio’s longest running outdoor radio show

Our log cabin has a green metal roof. It is shaded by the branches of a pair of huge white oak trees. In our two decades enjoying the small, rural getaway, never have we been routed out of our sleep or jumped from our seats on the porch as often by the gunshot sounds of acorns landing overhead. While we are used to the occasional “pow” of a nut impacting the metal this time of year, never have we witnessed a rain of acorns like we have experienced this autumn. And now we know why.

The Ohio Division of Wildlife (ODOW) annually surveys oak trees for acorn abundance at 38 wildlife areas, and this year’s poll results show 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. As they have for 17 years, 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. 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. 

In addition to determining the presence or absence of acorns, observers estimate the percentage of each tree’s crown that is covered with acorns. The average crown coverage of acorns for white oaks was 10%, up significantly from last year’s 6% coverage and near the long-term average of 

9.5%. The average crown cover for acorns for red oaks was 18%, a decrease from last year but near the long-term average of 20%.  

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. 

If you want to grow your own oaks, 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 next spring, water regularly and your efforts may someday bear some very popular ± if loud — fruit!

Roosters released statewide

The popular annual pheasant releases at wildlife areas and other public hunting locations are underway. Some 14,000 rooster pheasants are being released at 25 public hunting areas to provide put-and-take opportunities for hunters.    

The Division of Wildlife has/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).

Pheasants will be released in the following locations: 

• Central Ohio: Delaware Wildlife Area.

• Northwest Ohio: Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area; Oxbow Lake Wildlife Area; Resthaven Wildlife Area; Ringneck Ridge Wildlife Area (by permit only, find additional information from 

the Sandusky County Park District); Tiffin River Wildlife Area; and Wyandot Wildlife Area (no youth releases).

• Northeast Ohio: Camp Belden Wildlife Area; Charlemont Metro Park; Berlin Wildlife Area; Grand River Wildlife Area; Highlandtown Wildlife Area (no youth releases); Spencer 

Wildlife Area; West Branch Wildlife Area (no youth releases); and Zepernick Wildlife Area (no youth releases). 

• Southeast Ohio: Appalachian Hills Wildlife Area; Pleasant Valley Wildlife Area (no youth releases); Salt Fork Wildlife Area (no youth releases); and Tri-Valley Wildlife Area.

• Southwest Ohio: Caesar Creek Wildlife Area; Darke Wildlife Area; Fallsville Wildlife Area (no releases for Oct. 23-24 or Nov. 13); Indian Creek Wildlife Area (no youth releases); 

Rush Run Wildlife Area; and Spring Valley Wildlife Area.

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. 

Several reservoirs drawing down

As part of the flood risk management operation of the reservoirs and dams in the Muskingum River Watershed, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) conducts annual temporary drawdown of the normal pool elevation of the lake levels. The drawdown allows for additional flood storage capacity need during the winter thaw and spring rains. Drawdown will begin in early November and the return to normal pool elevation will initiate in February. Normal pool elevations will be obtained in time for summer recreation season. 

The temporary 2021 – 2022 drawdown dates and lake levels are as follows: 

ReservoirNormal PoolWinter LevelTotal Drawdown (feet)Begin 2021 DrawdownRelease Duration (days)Suggested intermediate refill schedule by March 15, 2022
Atwood928.00920.008.0November 842926.00
Charles Mill997.00992.005.0November 135995.00
Clendening898.00893.005.0November 1535896.00
Leesville963.00954.258.75November 1542961.00
Piedmont913.00908.005.0November 135911.00
Pleasant Hill 1020.001014.006.0November 15421018.00
Seneca 832.20824.208.0November 142830.20
Tappan 899.30891.308.0November 1542897.30

Shoreline projects planned for the Winter of 2021-2022 include:

  • Seneca Lake — 500-foot-long concrete block seawall at the Seneca Lake Marina.  This work is being done in conjunction with the Master Plan’s Marina deck replacement and ADA access project.
  • Charles Mill Lake — 1,800-foot-long project at the Yacht Point Cottage Area, and a 550-foot-long project in the Sites Lake Cottage Area off Pike Drive.
  • Atwood Lake — 450-foot-long project along Berwyn Drive in the Pines Cottage Area, 600-foot-long project along Menlo Drive in the Pines Cottage Area, and 400-foot-long project at the Park Camp Area 1 (which is right next to the Marina).

The MWCD, a political subdivision of the state, was organized in 1933 to develop and implement a plan to reduce flooding and conserve water for beneficial public uses in the Muskingum River Watershed, the largest wholly contained watershed in Ohio. For more information about the MWCD, visit mwcd.org.

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