Apples galore this season

Steve PiattI'm not sure why, although I have the same theory as a lot of other hunters, but apple trees are loaded this year everywhere I've been and, from what I'm hearing from others, everywhere across the state.

It was clearly that way in the Northern Zone before we relocated back to the Southern Tier, and the apple crop is just as incredible down here. Apples trees are bending over from the weight of their fruit this season, almost like trees weighted down from a heavy, wet snow or an ice storm. It's incredible, really. I've taken plenty of pictures of the bumper crop and have had some sent in by hunters as well.

I haven't talked to any horticulturalists yet, but the general theory I'm hearing, and one I subscribe to for lack of a better one, is the apple crop exploded this year because of what happened last season. If you recall, much of the state had a frost right after the apple trees blossomed in early May and it pretty much killed last year's crop. The general feeling is those apple trees stored up so much energy in light of last year's failure that things just took off this year.

And it's not limited to apples. I've seen plenty of acorns and while fishing in the North Country earlier this month encountered plenty of beechnuts, which doesn't happen too often. That bodes well for wildlife and could mean several things, not the least of which is that black bears might not go to their dens early because of the abundance of food available well into the fall.

It could, too, be one of those hunting seasons where it's difficult to pattern whitetails because they have so much food available they can pretty much go anywhere. In addition to the hard and soft mast, most areas have agricultural offerings in the form of corn, soybeans or other crops, and whitetails won't have to key in on one location. It may leave hunters scratching their heads and wondering just what food source the deer are keying on and where they're feeding. I've seen seasons like this before, and it can be a lot tougher than those in which food is scarce and the deer are funneling into very specific locations.

Regardless, we'll be out there giving it our best effort. Chances are the deer and bear will lock in on different food sources at different times. I know if I was a Northern Zone bear hunter I'd park on a beech stand once the regular season opened. DEC biologists are predicting a tough early season because of the food availability. The bruins won't be very mobile because there's a meal virtually everywhere they turn.

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