Acorns Rare As Gun Hunters Set To Hit The Deer Woods

North Georgia oaks are not producing acorns this fall.

GON Staff | October 17, 2013

With gun season opening across the state Saturday morning, lots of hunters will be heading to the woods for their first deer hunts of the year. Some may be in for a surprise, particularly those who hunt in north Georgia.  

If hunters haven’t done their scouting, that surprise won’t be deer meat for the freezer—it’ll be a lack of acorns (mast) and less chance of even seeing a deer.

Biologists and GON Hunt Advisors are reporting a serious lack of acorns in the Mountain and Blue Ridge Valley regions of north Georgia. In the Piedmont, acorn numbers appear to be better, but coveted white oak and red oak numbers are reportedly below average, and some areas don’t have many at all. However, the Piedmont region has plenty of water oaks again this fall that are already dropping acorns.

The state doesn’t survey mast in middle and south Georgia, but Hunt Advisors are finding acorns, just not as many as the last couple of years.

In the mountains, both red oaks and white oaks are very sparse. Hunt Advisor Richard Von Scherr said there’s definitely a poor acorn crop so far in Lumpkin and Dawson counties.

"Red oaks seem to be dropping some, but that is about it,” Richard said.

Dale Thomas, of Clarkesville, said the lower elevations in the mountains are particularly devoid of acorns. He said the very tops of the mountains are your best bet to find white oak or red oak acorns this year.

Both Dale and Richard attributed the acorn shortage to too much rain in the spring and summer. Lots of undeveloped, rotten acorns fell early.

Wildlife biologist John Bowers, chief of the Wildlife Resource Division’s Game Management Section, said the state’s 2013 North Georgia Mast Survey did not find good results.

“According to biological staff in north Georgia, this year is pretty much being chalked up as a mast failure,” John said. “Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any (acorns), just that trees that may have acorns are few and far between.”

During the annual mast survey, WRD personnel check trees on the traditional routes, and a rating system can compare mast production from year to year. A poor rating is a value of 0.0 to 2.0, Fair is 2.1 to 3.0, and a value greater than 3.0 is considered Good. The overall North Georgia Mast Survey value for oaks was 0.82.

Here are the acorn survey results broken down by region and oak species:

Mountain Region (Berry College, Blue Ridge, Chattahoochee, Cohutta, Coopers Creek, Lake Burton, Rich Mountain, Swallow Creek and Warwoman WMAs): white oak rating, 0.69; red oak rating, 1.09; chestnut oak rating, 0.38; overall oak rating, 0.79.

Ridge & Valley Region (Coosawattee, Crockford/Pigeon Mtn., John’s Mtn., Pine Log Mtn. WMAs): white oak rating, 0.91; red oak rating, 0.65; chestnut oak rating, 0.29; overall oak rating, 0.67.

Upper Piedmont Region (Allatoona, Dawson Forest, Sheffield and Wilson Shoals WMAs): white oak rating, 1.24; red oak rating, 1.13; chestnut oak rating, 0.29; overall oak rating, 1.05.

There’s good news for those who have time to scout. In years of mast failure, a rare oak tree that is dropping acorns is a hunting gold mine. Also, food plots will be even more productive than usual.

Wildlife in the mountains, particularly deer and bear, rely heavily on acorns, more so than wildlife in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain regions of middle and south Georgia where there’s much more diversity of food.

A big story in the Atlanta news the past couple of days was a mother bear and cub both hit and killed on I-575 near Woodstock, which is well south of the typical range for bears, especially in the fall. WRD biologists interviewed for the story said a lack of acorns in the mountains could be forcing bears to roam far in search of food. Deer should be on the move as well… that is until they find that white oak that’s dropping.

GON‘s Hunt Advisor Team will be out scouting the next two weekends to provide timely updates on food source, deer movement and rut reports—by county—from across the state.

Make sure your subscription to GON magazine is up-to-date to get those reports a week before magazines hit the newsstands.

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