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2013 Mast Crop Survey

Oct 09, 2013

As the leaves on the trees begin to turn, another fall mast survey has wrapped up on Duck Creek. I was surprised to look back and see that we started publishing these mast surveys for Duck Creek five years ago. Accordingly, you all have come to expect this information and have made inquiries about the status of this year’s acorn crop. Instead of just giving you the annual report, I thought I’d also compare it with the previous four years.

Forest for the Trees

There is a saying that goes, “one can’t see the forest for the trees”, which means that someone is too focused on the details to see the big picture. However, with bottomland forests this is typically not the case, but the exact opposite. You could say most of the time “one can’t see the trees for the forest”. People often see the timber, but don’t realize the differences among the trees. Species of red oaks in the bottoms, which include cherrybark, pin, and willow oak, are less flood tolerant than other trees like, overcup oak, maple, sweet gum, tupelo, or cypress. Because of these differences, you will find the healthier red oaks at higher elevations in the floodplain, which aren’t flooded as early in the fall. The “wetter” species commonly occur in lower positions where water begins to collect first as the water table begins to seasonally rise in the fall.

Father Time

One of the challenges in managing natural resources is not only the variability across space, but also the variability that occurs over time. Since trees live a long time, they don’t put the same effort into reproduction every year. To ensure that the family genes are passed on, an old tree has plenty of time to make sure that one little nut germinates and begins to grow up in the understory to replace it one day. This is why we can’t expect to have a bumper crop of acorns year in and year out. Sure, the trees will produce nuts in most years, but the density is highly variable. As a rule, foresters that manage these slow-growing communities have to be patient because they aren’t going to see results overnight or even within a year or two. Sometimes they have to wait ten or twenty years to see if things work out like they had planned.

Weathering the weather

Throw in the spatial and temporal variation along with the weather and you’ve got a dandy mess to try and make some sense out of. In the past five years we’ve had almost everything you can imagine ranging from tornados and straight-lined winds, late spring freezes, summer floods, to droughty falls. Unlike ducks that can migrate to where the resources are available, trees have to stay put, try to survive the rough patches, and flourish when conditions are right.

2013 Survey Comparison

When looking at the 2013 mast production at Duck Creek, nothing really jumps out and grabs you except the fact that there were very few trees that were a complete bust. Only two percent of pin oaks and eight percent of overcup had few to zero acorns. Among the hardwood species and individual trees the density and distribution of acorns varied. Cherrybark oak may have been the most notable because even though 89% fell in the light crop category, many of these were on the line of being considered a medium crop.

When looking at the past five years it is kind of interesting to see how the acorn production has varied among species over time. Overcup oak had a banner year in 2009. Last year would have been similar if it hadn’t been for two wind storms that knocked down a lot of the overcup acorns prior to becoming mature. Cherrybark oak mast production was strong in 2010 and 2011, but was down last year. Also in 2011, pin oak acorn production was the strongest within this five year window. Finally, in 2012, we saw the best Willow Oak mast production from this dataset.

While this short span of data doesn’t tell us why one species did better than other, it does help us rein in our expectations from one year to the next and gives us an idea of the variability that occurs among species and across years. Thanks for tuning in over the years and showing interest in what is going on up in the tree tops. Hopefully, this will give you something to think about as you hear the acorns plunk into the water beside you as you hunt the forest this fall.


2013 Annual Acorn Survey
2013 Annual Acorn Survey
Annual surveys inspecting the acorn production across several bottomland hardwoods is valuable information about the timber at Duck Creek.


Acorn Production Comparison
Acorn Production Comparison
In the last five years at Duck Creek we’ve seen that the amount of acorns produced varies among species and across years.


I realize some of you all might be just checking in for the first time.  In the previous article Keith answered that question in the comments section.  That is a bit buried now so I’ll copy and paste it here.  There will be a draw for Youth Weekend, October 26 -27, at the Duck Creek HQ in the gravel parking area under the tent.  Draw time will be 4:45am.  Number of available positions should be 23: Unit-A (12); Unit-B (4); Fishponds and Kinder Pool (2) Dark Cypress Swamp (5).  Thanks for the interest.  Good luck this season.  

How many positions will there be for the you waterfowl hunt and which ones?

In the comments section on the previous post, Keith had stated that flooding Pool 2 will begin sometime between October 25-28. 

Well, I’ll try to keep writing and posting information as we continue through this process. It has been a unique opportunity and I have enjoyed it. We do have some more work slated for the next construction season or two. We’ve got plans to do some work at Greenbrier, the Fishponds, and the field at Kinder along with some infrastructure work.  These are on the periphery of the area and will enhance the current condition, but not interfere with the overall use of the area as much as what we’ve experienced over the last couple of years.  So I’m with you, in that we’re over the big hump and things are coming together, but there are still a few things we’re going to do to benefit the area.   

What is the next step in the renovation process? Also, when do you plan on beginning flooding the woods? Thanks!!

Seems as if the area is coming together. Only to let the gov shutdown Mingo, but that is out of our hands. Will pool 8 be unhuntable if the shutdown continues? Also, what is the future of this blog now that the renovations are almost complete? I enjoy the updates and staying in-touch. Thanks.

What fields are gonna be rotated the year and have set a schedule for which days they will be hunted?

Thanks Keith, you're the man.

Reservations start with 6 and increase to 20 as the season progresses and more positions become available.

I’m sorry you missed our previous post, “What to do, teal season is through”.  In it, we outlined the deadlines you are asking about. Last night at the stroke of midnight the lake closed down to fishinig and Units A and B are now off limits. In regards to question about reservations, I’m not sure.

Did duck creek close to fishing today or sunset on the 15th? Are bowhunters still allowed in unit A and B after the 15th? Do you know how many reservations were given out for opening day duck season?

Rode my mountain bike around Duck Creek today. Everything is looking great! Found a lot of ducks on the north end.

good cant wait for duck season

Glad to see the acorns just in time for the flooded timber......keep up the good work guys!! See you in duck season!!

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