MetroNews staff photo
Oak was a disaster, but hickory and beech nuts are falling like rain in West Virginia forests this fall

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Hunters who base their fall hunting around oak trees may want to rethink the strategy for the upcoming big game seasons in West Virginia. The 2013 Mast Survey publication from the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources finds all species of oak mast had a poor year.

“We’d been getting early reports the guys weren’t seeing very much at all,” said Chris Ryan one of the survey authors. “It’s basically the worst oak year in the 43 years of doing the survey.”

Ryan chalked up the poor acorn crop this year to two things. First the derecho. Although the storm struck two summers ago, it’s important to consider red oak trees take 18 months to develop acorns. The crop which should be on this fall would have been vulnerable when the unusual storm tore through West Virginia. The white oak mast was impacted by heavy rains all spring and summer and to a lesser degree by the impact of Hurricane Sandy.  West Virginians will remember Sandy struck here in the form of a very early snow storm and caused a lot of forest damage.

All is not lost for the West Virginia critters however. Where the oak was a bust, all other mast species seemed to soar in production this fall.

“We’re calling it basically the year of the beech,” Ryan said. “It’s the best beech year and the hickory is also tremendous. Good beech, good hickory, and good black cherry.”

An abundance of hickory and beech will keep squirrels satisfied well into the winter months. Deer will probably work on those beech and cherry or will find soft mast which was another big winner.

“Apple is tremendous.  Apple trees have limbs practically breaking,” Ryan said. “Any place guys have access to apple trees on a farm or in an old orchard, they should be checking that out.”

Additionally crab apple and hawthorn were also in abundance in this year’s survey.

Ryan admits the survey is an overview and has already received e-mails and phone calls from guys claiming to have plenty of acorns in their patch of woods.

“My advice, if they have acorns, hunt there.  The deer will be in them,” he said. “Overall statewide however, it’s considered a mast failure, although technically it’s not because hickory, beech, and other species did so well.”

bubble graphic


bubble graphic


  • ed chelchowski

    I live in perry hall in Baltimore county Maryland. I did not know about the acorn shortage this year. I thought it was unusual that I've seen almost no acorns fall from my three large oak trees in my yard. Last year I had to sweep up piles of them every few days because there were so many. I would sit on my deck and listen to them bouncing off my pavers. I thought that there was less squirrel activity causing this. What a surprise. Good luck squirrels.

  • 68gto

    No acorns in King George county (Va). Not a single nut. I have never seen it like this in the 20+ years I've lived here. Must have something to do with the record rainfall this spring that went into early August.

  • Andrew

    No acorns in Fairfax County, Virginia. The deer are eating everything that doesn't move.

    • ben

      Indeed... there are a dearth of acorns in Orange, Virginia too. It's like the great depression for squirrels... toal mayhem! The Squirrels are piling up in ditches because they are running out in the street - committing squirri-cide.
      I did see that derecho-event, but derechos sound incorrect... the 17 year cicada's split the tips of the oak trees here. Nearly every oak limb tip is destroyed. I remember when gypsy moths had a similar effect on acorns many years ago.

  • SamWV304

    I live next to the Garrett co. Md. line. There's no shortage of ACORNs around here. The forest floor is literally coated with them. and my chestnut trees are loaded also. The storm had nothing to do with it because we got hammered by it here.IMO .

    • tennie wells

      There is no acorns here in Georgia. I hunt on Cohutta Wilderness and it was a very disappointing season.

  • Allegheny

    Acorns are very scarce in areas I've been along the allegheny front and lower elevations. Some beech. Hickory and walnut seem about average as are grapes, black cherry, and apples.

    On the other hand the chinese chestnut tree in my backyard has never been so full of nuts.

  • tony

    All I know is new York an Pennsylvania ruined there deer hunting for all ! An West Virginia I say is 2-5years away from a total bust ! That's why we should all stand strong as hunters an stop buying hunting licences. An take back our sport away from the liberal yuppies that hate us ! The coyotes an bears an the cougar takes plenty of our fawns an adult deer ! They brought the heards way down , now stop an let nature maintain what you did to our lands by reintroducing predators once again !

    • thornton

      The Alt Deer Plan in Pennsylvania was a resounding success that only needed to go farther in reducing the herd. Well done....PGC!

      Hopefully, other states will see the blessings that the Alt Plan delivered and act accordingly. Fingers crossed.

      • Chuck Reeder

        The Alt deer plan was a total failure in our area by Mercersburg, PA. We saw this first hand as we have owned and hunted this property since 1978. In years prior to this, we had no problem seeing a lot of bucks aged 1.5 and older. After the antler restriction was put in place, we saw a lot fewer bucks and even less mature bucks (over 2.5 years). In addition to this, they over hunted the does in the area as well.

        • thornton

          No doubt a few areas got hammered.....much as the deer hammered the early successional over a much larger area.

          The Alt Plan was a fine idea with positive results....the USoP disagreed but those fellas see nothing but deer...and filing frivolous lawsuits against the PGC...failed lawsuits as Time happily proved.

          Again, well done Gary Alt!
          Kill does!

  • leroy jethro gibbs

    sorry acorns

  • leroy jethro gibbs

    nuthin like them yellow acorsn tho

  • Cory Boothe

    Thank goodness the soft mast will be good for grouse.

  • thornton

    That should make the deer-feeding folks happy as hunters at a trough.

    Oh, and mast quantity and quality is all about deer....right?

    Too bad on the akerns though.

  • Charleston,WV

    Chris L: Do you know if or when the WV DNR will provide a copy of this mast survey?

    • tony

      Yea , after we shoot all the does !

    • Chris Lawrence

      Supposed to be up on their website late this week. That's what I was told last week.

      • Charleston,WV

        Much appreciated!

  • Dave

    Just went hunting this past weekend on Short Mountain WMA. Very, very little acorns on the ground...what I did see was hickory and beech nut cuttings...NO DEER sign at all, except for some very, very old tracks and trials....We covered probably 200 acres that day...very slowly looking for signs..

  • longbeards

    Very little mast here in Hardy County, I have been in the woods a good bit, from the valleys to the top of Branch Mt, some hickory, a little(very little) jack oak. Almost no Red or White Oak. There is still lots of green brouse from the great wet summer we had, but mast is almost non-exsistant.

  • JJ

    I guess you weren't looking in northern Pocahontas County

    • Bondo

      I'm in Randolph county and acorns are laying everywhere. Also Cherries.

  • DonaldH

    Glad went on beyond the picture of Hickory and the caption about Acorns.. :)

    • Chris Lawrence

      Yeah. Sorry about that. The system adjusted it differently than I had it set up. Computers apparently aren't too good at nut identification.