Mast surveys are important

Each year in August, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources would like to get at least four mast surveys from every county in the state.

I got my mast survey forms from the DNR on July 31, and so far I have not yet been in the woods.

This past Sunday I went to the Izaak Walton League Summer picnic out on Files Creek and observed a few of the nut trees near the picnic pavilion.

Most of these looked favorable. I wanted to go up on the hill behind the club house after I finished eating, but the humidity was just too intense.

The only thing I wanted to do was find a cool place and lay down.

All of the various oak trees have a high interest with the DNR. Just how many are bearing mast can have a significant impact on the hunting season for the next year and in future years.

The spring weather is the primary factor in this case, because it decides on when each tree can flower.

This is often affected by spring freezes along with heavy rain and wind. We have had an ample amount of rain this spring and summer. I have not received any reports of spring freezes this year.

Chris Ryan, a wildlife biologist for the WVDNR says, “looking at the mast trees this time of the year can say a lot about the upcoming hunting season.”

I know I need to get outdoors and do some more observation in the next few days. The deadline for returning this mast survey report is Aug. 31, which is less than two weeks away.

Last year the acorn crop was well above the average since the DNR started doing this survey in the early 1970s. This influences not only the deer hunting season, but the bear and Fall wild turkey seasons as well. Since the food supply was high last year this has to be good news for this year. A large percentage of the deer that were not harvested last year will most likely be bigger this year. This means bigger racks and more reproducing does.

The WVDNR goes on to remind sportsmen and sportswomen if they want their hunting season to be successful, it is a good idea to participate in the annual mast survey.

If mast conditions are spotty across any region or even across the state, it usually pays off in the long run to get out and scout the location where the individual would like to hunt. Finding the trees that have produced mast will increase the chances of having a good hunting season.

I enjoy squirrel hunting in the early fall, because while I am going after the bushy tails, I can also scout the same area for how the deer conditions will be for the firearms season that opens in the late fall.

Most conditions can vary from area to area each year. Hard mast includes beech, hickory, oak and walnut just to mention a few.

Soft mast includes apples, blackberries, raspberries, wild grapes and many others.

One of the best mast years in West Virginia was in 2014. All mast conditions throughout the state were well above the average. When conditions are like this, just about all of the game animals will be well scattered and difficult to hunt.

This is because the animals don’t have to stay in any one location for very long. After all, food is everywhere.

This is another reason why it is important to scout a hunting location and carefully plan a hunting season for each year.

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