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Deadfall

A summer storm took out a lot trees, and this red oak was one of them.

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It is amazing what one comes across while winter squirrel hunting.

This ancient hardwood will now decompose, as its elements return to feed the soil from whence it came.

In the meantime, its wood will be home to termites and beetle grubs, which will feed the woodpeckers.

This is not the Forest Primeval. It is forest returned in land gone feral. It appears truly wild, but just decades ago it was pasture for sheep and dairy cattle or fields for oats, wheat, and corn.

Now it is home to the white-tailed deer, the hybrid coyote, shuffling black bear, and the slinking bobcat.

There are better lands to farm and settle and till and cultivate and domesticate.

So the red oaks will grow here, reaching high from the ridgetops into the summer sun, their acorns feeding the deer, wild turkeys, black bears, and squirrels.  Then some summer tempest comes and knocks them to the forest floor.

The acorn mast drives the patterns of the deer, the density of the squirrel population, and the survival of just about everything else.

Because they do not move and reach such massive sizes, one can be tempted to think that tree is like a boulder. It will be there forever.

But a simple summer storm breaks that illusion of invincibility.

From the ridgetop crown to the forest floor to be eaten by the termites and grubs, it’s an ignoble end to such a noble thing.

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The storm blew down tons of bows from the red oak trees near the edge of the yard.

Nearly every one of these bows had immature acorns on them.

That’s actually quite good news for most of the wildlife in this area.

The oak trees produce a huge percentage of the mast in every given year, and everything from deer mice to white-tailed deer rely upon acorns as a food source in the fall and winter months.

Of course, a good mast year also means that deer season will be much more challenging.

Deer will be able to stay deep in the woods near stands of oak, where they can easily forage acorns and stay hidden from most hunters.

In bad mast years, deer will be forced to leave the forested territory and wander out into the open, where they can easily be shot.

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