Q: Our home is surrounded by many hardwood trees. This year we are experiencing a proliferation of hickory nuts. It is basically a solid mass of nuts underneath. Do you know of any explanation for this?
A: Nuts such as pecan, walnut, and hickory are referred to as “mast”. Hunters study the yearly mast crop to predict how easily they will find game. Usually, a low mast crop means good hunting for deer, turkey and bear as they must travel more to obtain food with a lack of acorns and other nuts on the ground. Years with a high mast crop mean game animals’ movement patterns slow down as they concentrate in areas of good mast.
Several theories have been advanced for why mast yield varies so much. The phenomenon is not always regular nor is it always connected to weather patterns. There’s no good way to remove hickory nuts from a landscape so I guess you’ll just have to walk carefully until they decompose.