Acorn Production vs. Elevation

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RidgeGhost
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Acorn Production vs. Elevation

Unread postby RidgeGhost » Sat Sep 22, 2018 12:42 pm

The season is upon us, and most of us are making note of available food sources in our areas. For big woods guys and hill country and mountain guys like myself, that probably means acorns. Getting out and checking for mast production this week has me thinking about a topic that I have been observing for years. Specifically, variation in acorn production based on elevation. For anyone that hunts hill country or mountains, what are your observations? Do you find acorn production varies annually based on elevation or is it some other factor?

I have noticed a trend of oaks producing acorns along the same elevation in a general area. The elevation range may be +/- 200 feet or so. And I may see the same trend hold for an area of a few hundred acres up to tens of thousands of acres.

Last year in particular I noted red oaks producing acorns only at elevations of 3200' to 3700' in an area of a few thousand acres. Outside of that area there were very few acorns and above or below that elevation range there were very few acorns. Most of my hunts in VA last year were in areas where there were no acorns, simply because there weren't many places that produced.

There may be many factors influencing this observation, so I want your opinions and observations. Include any ideas you have about what causes oaks to produce, or not, on a given year.


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elk yinzer
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Re: Acorn Production vs. Elevation

Unread postby elk yinzer » Sat Sep 22, 2018 1:05 pm

Great observation!

I key in on Chestnut oaks mostly. They were loaded on ridgetops last year. Drop 100 feet off a high ridge and they were nil. I've seen that some years, and other years they are just loaded everywhere. I've never not been able to find acorns somewhere.

I live down in the valley and the white oaks in my yard are absolutely bonkers this year. I haven't been out yet scouting recently. Going to speed check a bunch of spots Sunday.

I think frost and probably other climatic factors determine production. Probably wind for pollination to a degree. Elevation is just one piece of that equation. But im the ridge and valley topography we hunt, I think it is especially relevant because of the consistent long running ridges.
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brancher147
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Re: Acorn Production vs. Elevation

Unread postby brancher147 » Sun Sep 23, 2018 12:49 am

It seems like the key thing that influences acorn production for me is late frost. Some years there is late frost up high and some years there is late frost down low. I hunt mostly above 2000 ft but the deciding elevation of acorns being up high or down low seems to be about 3500 ft and varies. I have seen years where red oaks will be loaded above 4000 ft and there are no other acorns anywhere-the reason for that is there was a late frost but the oaks at that elevation had not flowered yet so were not affected by late frost. But within elevation, aspect can also have an affect on acorn production on a micro scale. And of course red oak takes 2 years to produce acorns so that can create more variation.

This year there was no late frost but acorns are still variable. There is no red oak up high but there is some down low. White oak and chestnut oak are dropping good everywhere but is still highly variable. This is an unusual year.
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Re: Acorn Production vs. Elevation

Unread postby RidgeGhost » Sun Sep 23, 2018 1:09 am

brancher147 wrote:It seems like the key thing that influences acorn production for me is late frost. Some years there is late frost up high and some years there is late frost down low. I hunt mostly above 2000 ft but the deciding elevation of acorns being up high or down low seems to be about 3500 ft and varies. I have seen years where red oaks will be loaded above 4000 ft and there are no other acorns anywhere-the reason for that is there was a late frost but the oaks at that elevation had not flowered yet so were not affected by late frost. But within elevation, aspect can also have an affect on acorn production on a micro scale. And of course red oak takes 2 years to produce acorns so that can create more variation.

This year there was no late frost but acorns are still variable. There is no red oak up high but there is some down low. White oak and chestnut oak are dropping good everywhere but is still highly variable. This is an unusual year.


Great information! I believe frost is the main culprit too, but I'm glad to see you guys confirm that.

So far this year, I'm finding no acor a anywhere. White oaks that didn't produce last year, again failed to produce this year. And I have not found any chestnuts or red oaks yet either.

I don't know that we got a late frost here, but it did stay cold longer into spring than usual. I wonder if that potentially affected flowering and production for the year.
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Re: Acorn Production vs. Elevation

Unread postby Divergent » Sun Sep 23, 2018 4:07 pm

The acorns around where I hunt usually start dropping at higher elevations first. I think it might have something to do with the amount of moisture in the ground, but I could be wrong. The white oaks along the creeks start dropping later.
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Re: Acorn Production vs. Elevation

Unread postby Lockdown » Mon Sep 24, 2018 5:30 am

Great observation. Being a flatlander, that’s something I never would have thought of.
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Re: Acorn Production vs. Elevation

Unread postby BigCedarJack » Mon Sep 24, 2018 8:39 am

This is one of the biggest factors for determining the general "where" I hunt. And has become one of my more favorite subjects to talk about. In the area that I hunt I break it up into 4 general areas; Top, Middle and Foothills, Flats, and "On the river." The deer make small migrations to these different areas mostly based on food (usually acorns abundancy or lack of) and water from my observations. The top is usually 2ish weeks ahead of the river seasonally depending on moisture levels. And the acorn crops varies greatly depending on rain, wind, and temps on the 4 differently elevation levels. I have found that the deer bed quite differently based on which of these 4 lvls they are hanging on in as well.

So just a few general scenarios I have noticed as examples. If the acorns are middle or high but the only water is low than I'll see the general deer populations move big distances for food and water. Hidden/secret water holes up higher are great in these circumstances. The deer will usually bed lower than the food if the food is on the tip-top. If the food is in the middle the deer will usually follow "hill country" bedding very close, but if highly pressured they will move side ways inbetween the fingers and into the thick steep ravines and visually watch the acorn shelves/benches. If food is in the flats and there is plenty of water the deer will usually bed above the food in typical "hill country" fashion. If there isnt plenty of water they may bed below, on the river, and move up to the food.

I have found that most fully mature/older bucks I have chased stay at home no matter what and if their home isnt near the food (where the does have gone) they go into a deep hermit mode and become VERY difficult for me to see in daylight. So I try and choose a target deer that the general migration is within his normal home area.

Where I live the top offers mostly only north/south bedding due to wind consideration, and the middle offers most of the east/west but also plenty of north/south due to wind consideration.

I enjoy having the variety of bedding and movement challenges based upon food/acorn harvest changes due to elevation but my favorite is right on top. :)
However I usually kill my biggest bucks when it is down low...
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Re: Acorn Production vs. Elevation

Unread postby RidgeGhost » Mon Sep 24, 2018 9:26 am

BigCedarJack wrote:This is one of the biggest factors for determining the general "where" I hunt. And has become one of my more favorite subjects to talk about. In the area that I hunt I break it up into 4 general areas; Top, Middle and Foothills, Flats, and "On the river." The deer make small migrations to these different areas mostly based on food (usually acorns abundancy or lack of) and water from my observations. The top is usually 2ish weeks ahead of the river seasonally depending on moisture levels. And the acorn crops varies greatly depending on rain, wind, and temps on the 4 differently elevation levels. I have found that the deer bed quite differently based on which of these 4 lvls they are hanging on in as well.

So just a few general scenarios I have noticed as examples. If the acorns are middle or high but the only water is low than I'll see the general deer populations move big distances for food and water. Hidden/secret water holes up higher are great in these circumstances. The deer will usually bed lower than the food if the food is on the tip-top. If the food is in the middle the deer will usually follow "hill country" bedding very close, but if highly pressured they will move side ways inbetween the fingers and into the thick steep ravines and visually watch the acorn shelves/benches. If food is in the flats and there is plenty of water the deer will usually bed above the food in typical "hill country" fashion. If there isnt plenty of water they may bed below, on the river, and move up to the food.

I have found that most fully mature/older bucks I have chased stay at home no matter what and if their home isnt near the food (where the does have gone) they go into a deep hermit mode and become VERY difficult for me to see in daylight. So I try and choose a target deer that the general migration is within his normal home area.

Where I live the top offers mostly only north/south bedding due to wind consideration, and the middle offers most of the east/west but also plenty of north/south due to wind consideration.

I enjoy having the variety of bedding and movement challenges based upon food/acorn harvest changes due to elevation but my favorite is right on top. :)
However I usually kill my biggest bucks when it is down low...


Some great input there. I definitely agree with water sources up high being killer. I have not noticed the shift myself but I will be paying attention to that. It makes sense the way you described their bedding in relation to the changing sources. I typically bank on hunting the best prescouted buck bed closest to the food source.

For reference, what elevations are you typically hunting?
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Re: Acorn Production vs. Elevation

Unread postby Scratchman » Mon Sep 24, 2018 12:36 pm

Ill bet the hardiness zone ties to specific elevations. If im not mistaken reds take two years and whites take 1 year. So the production of either would depend on those respective springs. The last frost date may also have something to do with elevation specific production.
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Re: Acorn Production vs. Elevation

Unread postby jwilkstn » Mon Sep 24, 2018 2:23 pm

Divergent wrote:The acorns around where I hunt usually start dropping at higher elevations first. I think it might have something to do with the amount of moisture in the ground, but I could be wrong. The white oaks along the creeks start dropping later.


Do the white oaks up higher start dropping before those down low where you are? How much elevation difference is that?
I think I agree with you that it's moisture, but I think it's more site specific than just elevation. In other words, trees on the top of a steep ridge tend to have a little less available moisture than those at higher elevation but down in a valley along a creek.
This is something I thought about alot in the past couple weeks that I really want to pin down more this fall and study in future years. Typically where I hunt, chestnut oaks drop first, and I see those at higher elevations dropping first. They aren't as preferred as the white oaks, though, and I think in the past I haven't pushed in enough to find the first white oaks to drop.
I'm in an area ranging from 900-1900' elevation. Nowhere near as high or as much change as some of y'all...
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Re: Acorn Production vs. Elevation

Unread postby BigCedarJack » Mon Sep 24, 2018 4:15 pm

The lowest areas are 500ish and the high points are from 2200/2400 to 2700. I don't think that is big elevation by any means. But those areas are still very different in most every way.
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Re: Acorn Production vs. Elevation

Unread postby Divergent » Mon Sep 24, 2018 8:45 pm

jwilkstn wrote:
Divergent wrote:The acorns around where I hunt usually start dropping at higher elevations first. I think it might have something to do with the amount of moisture in the ground, but I could be wrong. The white oaks along the creeks start dropping later.


Do the white oaks up higher start dropping before those down low where you are? How much elevation difference is that?
I think I agree with you that it's moisture, but I think it's more site specific than just elevation. In other words, trees on the top of a steep ridge tend to have a little less available moisture than those at higher elevation but down in a valley along a creek.
This is something I thought about alot in the past couple weeks that I really want to pin down more this fall and study in future years. Typically where I hunt, chestnut oaks drop first, and I see those at higher elevations dropping first. They aren't as preferred as the white oaks, though, and I think in the past I haven't pushed in enough to find the first white oaks to drop.
I'm in an area ranging from 900-1900' elevation. Nowhere near as high or as much change as some of y'all...


You’re right. I don’t think it has to do with overall elevation...just steep terrain. I find that the top of a ridge doesn’t hold the moisture like in a valley, along creeks. The white oaks along a spine tend to be brown while the ones along the creek seem to be green a lil longer.
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Re: Acorn Production vs. Elevation

Unread postby RidgeGhost » Tue Sep 25, 2018 1:18 am

Thanks for the input here guys, keep it going!

I have checked at elevations ranging from 3200' to 4000' so far the past few weeks and there is nothing. Literally no acorns at all of any variety. I will continue to update this thread with what I find. If we can get enough info together, we might be able to draw some conclusions about this topic.
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Re: Acorn Production vs. Elevation

Unread postby bowfreak8 » Tue Sep 25, 2018 2:13 am

Great stuff guys. This kind of stuff is what makes the Hunting Beast so awesome.
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Re: Acorn Production vs. Elevation

Unread postby BigCedarJack » Wed Sep 26, 2018 10:43 am

I find that a lot too. A lot of years there are no acorns at some or several elevation levels. Here it seems to be the norm. I dont have to chase the acorns up and down much just sideways with a few exceptions. I can generally always count on the wet oaks. Those can be a gold mine when the rest on that level are not bearing.


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