Plentiful autumn mast in W.Va. should influence hunting for years

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State officials say 2017 mast should influence hunting for years. Photo courtesy David Sibray

The production of acorns, apples, walnuts, and hickory nuts is significantly higher than in 2016 and will have noticeable effects on the 2017–2018 hunting seasons in West Virginia, according to the state Division of Natural Resources.

Deer, bear, and turkey harvests should all be influenced by a season of plentiful “mast”—the seed and fruit produced by trees or shrubs that wildlife species consume, according to Chris Ryan, supervisor of the Game Management Services of the division’s Wildlife Resources Section.

“The availability of fall foods has significant impacts on wildlife populations and harvests,” Ryan said of the season.

Since 1971, the division, in cooperation with volunteers from other agencies, has conducted an autumn survey to determine the abundance of mast produced by 18 species of trees and shrubs in the Mountain State.

“Our biologists have used the mast-survey data to demonstrate a strong correlation between mast conditions and deer, bear, and turkey harvests. In addition to the impacts on harvests, the amount of food available each year can affect the reproductive success of numerous species which will affect population sizes in following years.”

Production of acorns, walnuts, apples, and hickory nuts is significantly higher than in 2016, he said, and will have noticeable effects on the 2017–2018 hunting seasons.

Most species produced mast well above the 46-year average.

“It is very important for hunters to scout and consider the type and amount of food available in the areas they hunt,” Ryan said.

“Hunters can find a wealth of facts in the Mast Survey and Hunting Outlook, and it should provide them valuable information before heading into the field.”

The 2017 Mast Survey and Hunting Outlook may be found on the division website at wvdnr.gov under the Hunting section. Information analyzing mast conditions and wildlife harvests also is available on the site.