The Red Oak Tree Facts
Red Oaks are native to North America. They have been growing since the beginning of time.
They were first found in England during the Roman Empire era. The Romans used them as lumber and they grew well there because it was warm and dry. The trees had many uses including building their homes, making furniture, decorations and even food items such as wine or cheese! During the American Revolution, British soldiers planted red oaks to make themselves feel patriotic. After the war, the trees became valuable commodities. The French tried to take them away from Britain but failed due to British military might. However, the Americans did succeed in taking some of these trees back home after the War.
In 1812, President Andrew Jackson wanted to use them as firewood and started using them for that purpose. He gave out free woodcutters’ licenses so anyone could cut down a red oak tree if they had enough money to do so.
These free licenses allowed people to cut down red oaks without paying any money. Some people began cutting down these trees for other reasons too. Many people used them as firewood or to build houses.
It wasn’t until the Civil War when the United States government decided to protect its forests by putting a tax on all trees over six feet tall (some argued that only six footers were really true American). This new tax prevented many trees from being cut down.
The American Indians used acorns from the oak trees as a food source for thousands of years. Acorns were very important to their diet.
The nuts from the oaks were ground up and then eaten as a paste by the tribes in California, Oregon, Washington and Arizona.
Acorns are still used today in pesto recipes, added to breads and even sometimes cooked into cakes and puddings!
One oak tree can produce up to 1,000 acorns a year. Acorns are one of the most nutritious nuts in North America.
Red Oak Tree Facts: Interesting Information About Red Oak Trees
The red oak tree is a large tree that grows from 80 to 100 feet tall and typically grows up to 20 feet wide. You can often find them along roadways or in fields near waterways in the eastern part of North America, especially along the Atlantic coastal region.
The acorns from these trees are a favorite food for squirrels, chipmunks and deer. Gopher snakes and turkey oaks also eat the acorns, as do the larvae of the black swallowtail butterfly.
These trees provide excellent garden ornaments and shade trees because they typically live up to two centuries. The wood from the red oak tree is used to make furniture and flooring.
The leaves from the red oak tree are between three and five inches long and have a serrated edge. They remain on the tree for about one year.
The acorns from a red oak tree are small, only about one-half inch long.
The bark from the red oak tree is a dark gray color. It has thick ridges and patches of smaller furrows.
The wood has a tannish-white color.
The sweetgum tree is very similar in appearance to the red oak tree, but it has sweet-smelling wood and its bark is a bright orange color with thick, smooth ridges.
The leaves from the swamp white oak are triangular in shape and the acorns grow directly out of the trunk, rather than at the top of a stalk.
The leaves from the black oak are between three and eight inches long and have jagged edges. The bark on these trees is a dark gray or black in color and has thick, deep furrows.
The leaves from the Spanish oak are very large and have sharply pointed lobes. It has one to three inch long acorns that grow in clusters.
The leaves from the chestnut oak are between four and ten inches long and have three primary lobes that are cleft to varying degrees. They also have rounded secondary lobes.
The bark on these trees is a cinnamon color with thick ridges.
The leaves from the willow oak are between three and nine inches long and have rounded lobes. They are bright green in the spring and summer and turn a golden yellow in the fall.
The bark is a gray color with thick ridges.
Acorns: Interesting Information About Acorns
The acorn is the fruit of the oak tree and grows from a cupule, which is a leathery casing that surrounds it. Acorns are the only fruit type food that grows on a tree.
Acorns are very nutritious and were often ground up to make bread for Native Americans in the past.
Acorns are still very popular today and can be eaten raw, but many people prefer to roast them first in a frying pan until they are brownish in color. Then they peel off the outer covering and eat them.
They are often used as a substitute for nuts in meals such as pancakes and cakes.
Acorns can also be crushed and used as a replacement for coffee in cakes, breads and puddings. Acorns can also be ground up to use as a milk substitute for cooking and baking.
Acorn meal is often substituted for flour in recipes, especially in places where wheat does not grow because it makes the food heavier and helps stave off hunger longer.
Acorns are often found in natural food stores or camping supply stores and can also be ordered online.
Tracking: How to Find a Trail Using Acorn Shells
If you find a large number of fallen acorn shells under a tree, it is a sure sign that you have found an area where animals come to eat, because many of them like to eat acorns too. This is especially true of hogs, which will eat almost anything and are not as particular as other animals about their food.
However, if you find a large number of shelled acorns on the ground under a tree but no acorn shells, it could be a sign that animals have brought the unshelled acorns there to eat. When animals eat acorns, they generally do not shell them first.
Instead, they tend to swallow them whole. They then either pass the shells through their digestive system or cough up the shells without having digested the acorn. Either way, both the acorns and their shells end up in the same place: wherever the animals are eating.
To determine what type of animal is eating in this area, look for other signs.
Is there a clearing with lots of animal tracks? Are there lots of animal droppings? Are there multiple types of animal droppings or just one type?
A mixture of different types of animal droppings or feces is a sure sign that you have found a trail.
If you only find one type, you have narrowed it down to a single type of animal. If you find lots of different types of droppings, you have probably found a feeding area or watering hole where animals come for food and water and not a trail.
To find the trail, look along the ground on both sides of the clearing for indentations in the ground about the size of an acorn. If you find a lot of them, you have found the trail.
Check the indentations for acorn shells. If you find a lot of them, you have successfully found the trail.
You can follow this trail to where the animals are feeding and set up your trap or you can follow it another direction. You can either try to find where they are bedding down or where they are going for water.
Remember when catching animals that are more likely to be nocturnal, such as opossums or raccoons, it is a good idea to set up near where they sleep during the day so you don’t have to waste time checking around for their night time trails or feeding areas.
Find Their Watering Hole
If the animals you are trying to catch are nocturnal and you can’t find where they sleep, you can try finding where they go for water. Most animals need water every day and if you can find the watering hole, you can set up a trap there.
To find the watering hole, you will need to either follow animal trails or acorn shells. Both of these will lead to where animals go for water.
If it is a stream, you will have to choose a place narrow enough that they can’t avoid the trap but wide enough that your traps aren’t swept away in the current.
If it is a pond or still water of some sort, you will have to choose a place where the water isn’t too deep for your traps to sink into the mud. It also needs to be narrow enough that your traps don’t get swept into the middle and stuck in the mud at the bottom.
Once you have found the watering hole, it’s time to start checking it out. Set up your traps and check them frequently.
This is a time consuming process, but it is the best way to catch animals. You may not be able to catch everything that comes for water, but if you check your traps often enough, eventually something will go in.
Scare Them Into Your Trap
One good way to catch animals is to scare them into your trap. This works especially well for animals that are otherwise hard to trap, such as bears.
The best way to do this is to start shouting or banging two pieces of wood together. After you have scared all the nearby wildlife, start moving towards your trap.
The frightened animals will probably be running towards your trap as well once they realize there is no real danger.
If you don’t have a trap set up, you can try throwing a rock in the direction of the frightened animals to chase them into your direction. Be careful though; you don’t want to accidentally hit one of them.
Smell or Sound Attractants
Another method for catching animals is using smell or sound attractants. For example, you can use fish or meat to lure cats.
If you happen to catch a fish, gut it and rub the insides on the trap you want the cat to step in. The smell will attract the cat close to the trap where its paws will be covered in fish guts. After a few seconds, the cat’s paws will start to smell just like the fish making it impossible for it to walk down, or even stand in the stream without becoming trapped in your traps.
You can also use bait to lure animals into your traps. Most animals are attracted to foods that are high in fat or protein, such as nuts, seeds, fruit, and eggs.
Try placing the bait at the back of your trap so the animal is tempted to enter. You should also put the bait on a small pile of wood chips or leaves so the animal doesn’t see the tripwire.
The most effective traps are multi-pronged ones that work in a variety of ways. Here are some examples of effective traps:
Dead Fall Trap – This is a log placed over a hole that has had its underside sharpened and hardened. The log is balanced so that it falls on whatever steps on the “tripwire” (in this case, the piece of vine across the hole).
The force of the heavy log falling on whatever step on the vine kills or at least traps the animal. You can add weight to the vine so that even small animals are trapped. Be careful when setting this trap as the log can break your legs if it falls on you.
G-Trap – This is a pit trap with sharpened branches pointing up from the bottom of the pit. These sticks impale the prey so that it can’t get out of the pit.
A simple trigger system causes a large rock or log to drop onto the sharpened branches and hold them down.
Net Traps – These are traps that use a big net to catch animals. You can make nets by tying several lengths of vine or rope into a large cube and weaving sticks through it.
You must place these carefully over streams or other natural wildlife paths (such as animal trails). The best time to do this is at night as this is when many animals are naturally more active.
These are just a few of the many different traps you can set. You can get really creative with traps and there are many ways of using the environment to your advantage.
Always make sure that your trap is big enough to kill or at least severely wound the animal so that it cannot free itself. An injured animal is a desperate animal and will attack if it feels threatened.
You can also prepare snares. Snares work by using a length of rope or cord to strangle or choke the prey as it moves through the noose.
You can make snares fairly easily, but they require a lot of time to set up and tend to be fairly indiscriminate. They are more suited to catching rabbits and rodents, but if large enough can also catch larger animals.
Some examples of snares include:
The Bow Trap – A bow trap is a great way to kill prey. It is made by placing a horizontal bow (a curved piece of wood) attached to a stout wooden post buried in the ground.
Pull the bow back and affix a cord or stick running through both ends so that when pressure is applied to one end of the cord, it releases the tension on the other and fires the bow. Tie this cord to the top end of the bow and place a catch stick (a little horizontal piece of wood) between the bow and the cord. Tie a heavy stone to the bottom end of the cord. Find a game trail and cover your trap with leaves and dirt so that it is hidden and wait. When an animal steps on the catch stick, it will release the tension in the cord and fire the bow at lightning speed, shooting whatever is tied to the other end of the cord through the air and into the animal’s body. For this trap you should use a large rock tied to the bottom of the cord. The shot doesn’t have to kill the animal, the goal is to merely wound it so that you can track it easier. To increase your chances of a one shot kill, make sure to aim your trap along the path that the largest animals in the area use (goat, sheep, deer).
The Pit Trap – This trap is a hole dug in the ground along a path with the edges steepened and camouflaged with dirt so that it is hard to see. Dig the pit deep enough so that an animal will not be able to jump over it, but not so deep that you injure it too severely.
When an animal falls into the pit, it will be unable to jump out, but can easily be dispatched by throwing darts or shooting arrows at it. Make sure to cover the pit so that other animals do not fall in as well.
The Spear or Dart Trap – This trap consists of a small hole dug in the ground with a sharpened stick (dart) perched over it, balanced so that when something steps on a specific point it will fall and impale whatever is in the hole.
Your second option is fishing. You can find a suitable body of water and fish to put food in your belly and maybe even trade.
This method is very slow and requires a lot of patience, but it’s relatively low-stress. It also doesn’t require a great deal of equipment. All you really need is a fishing pole and some fishing line, maybe a net, and you’re set (and maybe a few worms).
You can catch and eat most fish, although some may make you sick or even kill you (like the Red Lionfish). Still, treat anything that looks like a pest to be safe.
While it is possible to live off the land through foraging, plant identification is a science and art form all on its own, and many edible plants can also be toxic. For the purposes of this class, I will not be going through plant identification.
Instead, I highly recommend that you find a copy of “The Forager’s Harvest” by Sam Thayer and work from there.
Also, check out this website:
Eat The Plants before the Plants Eat You! A Beginner’s Guide to Identifying Edible Plants
Finally, be aware that there are many plants all around you. Some can be eaten, some can be used for healing and first aid, and some can be used for making tools, art, and other things.
Toilet Paper: One of the biggest things people forget about when they’re surviving is toilet paper. While it may seem silly to learn how to rough it and not have toilet paper, sometimes you need to remember that in a survival situation, you need to make sacrifices if you want to come out alive.
Toilet paper is moisture-absorbent, which means if you’re using it, you should be changing your underclothes and socks daily.
Manual Scavenging: This method can be used in a pinch without the worry of dealing with other people’s waste. First, dig a small hole in the ground.
Next, go “number 2”. After doing so, use some nearby leaves and wipe yourself. Finally, bury your waste. This method should only be used in emergencies and is not very sanitary, but if you have no other choice…
Tips for Gathering Food
When you’re gathering food, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Snares and traps work better when they’re set at eye-level.
Trees are a good place to find fruit.
Roots can often be found near the base of trees.
Just because a plant smells good doesn’t mean it’s edible. Things like poison ivy and poison oak not only have a pleasant smell, but also an appealing look (i.e., the leaves are green and pretty).
The further away from roads and highways, the better. Game trails often lead to food sources (whereas roads simply go…well…everywhere).
Remember that gas stations and rest stops are usually close to main highways.
When you’re foraging, it’s possible to come across people’s farms. If you do, stay away.
Sources & references used in this article:
Relationships among defoliation, red oak phenolics, and gypsy moth growth and reproduction by MC Rossiter, JC Schultz, IT Baldwin – Ecology, 1988 – Wiley Online Library
Quercus rubra L. Northern red oak by IL Sander – Silvics of North America, 1990 – dendro.cnre.vt.edu
Population dynamics and growth patterns for a cohort of northern red oak (Quercus rubra) seedlings by TR Crow – Oecologia, 1992 – Springer
Influence of climate on tree rings and vessel features in red oak and white oak growing near their northern distribution limit, southwestern Quebec, Canada by JC Tardif, F Conciatori – Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 2006 – NRC Research Press
Planting northern red oak in the Missouri Ozarks: a prescription by PS Johnson, CD Dale, KR Davidson… – Northern Journal of …, 1986 – academic.oup.com