A beech bonanza may make for tough hunting

This encounter with an incredible supply of beech nuts was amazing.

I hunted fall turkeys one day last week in Tioga County, visiting Pete Clare at his storied Turkey Trot Acres hunting lodge, where fall turkey hunting with dogs has emerged as an autumn tradition, albeit a shortened one given New York state’s fairly brief fall turkey hunting season.

It was an enjoyable albeit frustrating day as Pete and his dog “Shooter” took to the woods with me and Marlin Watkins, a legendary turkey call-maker from Ohio and a fine hunter and outstanding caller in his own right.

We logged a few miles, had a few laughs and finally, in late afternoon, broke a flock of birds. Well, Shooter, the star of the hunting show, actually did the work on the flock break. We simply set up and I allowed Marlin and Pete, no slouch with a call himself, to do the calling. We moved a couple birds looking to re-gather as a flock, but they stayed just out of shotgun range.

It was a tough day because the birds just weren’t traveling. And it was easy to see why. They didn’t have to. There was plenty of food available everywhere they pecked – acorns, grasshoppers, all sorts of seeds, dropped apples.

And beech nuts.

Never in all my years of hunting had I seen such a crop of beech nuts as I did on this glorious fall day. They were everywhere, in quantity and quality. While many times the nut doesn’t hold meat, nearly all of these did. I know – Marlin and I munched on them throughout the afternoon as we marveled at the beech crop. The turkeys, and undoubtedly the deer, were in hard-mast heaven.

It’s unusual in that beech trees typically produce nuts every two to four years, and it’s been my experience that it’s been closer to four than two, and the nut-producing years never really amounted to a massive crop as has been the case this year, at least in Tioga County.

My thoughts immediately turned to my time in the Adirondacks, where in 16 years, I recall just a couple years where I would describe the beech nut crop as being decent. This encounter with an incredible supply of beech nuts was amazing, and I thought to myself, if this were the ‘Dacks, I could park here and kill a bear.

The Quality Deer Management Association notes that beech nuts are high in protein and fat, which makes them very attractive to wildlife (and, apparently, to Marlin and me). All I know is that it was an incredible discovery and perhaps puts the turkeys and whitetails in good position heading into the winter, even though the food availability could limit their movement and make for tough hunting this fall.

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