Due to unexpected complications, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources was late in getting out their annual mast survey report for 2008. I usually get mine in late September, but this year the DNR did not get them out until middle October.
In 2008, 295 locations, covering all six ecological regions of the state, were surveyed. This compares to 326 in 2007. This report is an estimation of the mast produced by 18 different plant species. Many forms of wildlife are dependent on the mast produced by the trees and shrubs. Seeds and fruits are necessary not only for winter survival, but to assure that wildlife will be in good physical condition to reproduce. The majority of mast species increased in 2008. However, the oak mast declined this year with the exception of scrub oak.
In Region 2, which includes Greenbrier, Pocahontas, Randolph, Tucker, and Webster counties, beech, hickory and walnut were the big hard mast producers this year. Most people I talked with are seeing a bumper crop of beechnut in this region, up considerably from last year. The soft mast is also good in this region with blackberry, black cherry and crab apple being the best producers. This should be good news for the bow hunters.
As far as wildlife sightings in the region are concerned, the best reports for deer are coming in from Randolph and Tucker counties. The DNR thinks the archers will have their best chances close to apple trees and next to open field edges. The DNR anticipates a higher deer harvest in all regions than last year.
Good reports of bear sightings came in from all counties in Region 2 except Pocahontas. Bad weather is about the only factor that could prevent a good bear harvest. Gun harvest should increase because of the additional week added in September.
Fall turkey hunters could have a problem. The summer rains in June and July may have hampered some of the wild turkey hatching. Brood counts and sightings appear to be lower in the region from last year.
The outlook for ruffed grouse is not good in Region 2. The steady rains in May and June had to be hard on the chicks. The abundance of soft mast indicates that the birds will be well scattered. This means lower flush rates and poorer hunting. Grouse hunters may do well to wait until the late season when the birds will be concentrated in the beech groves, grape arbors and greenbrier thickets.
I have been out about three or four times since the first week of squirrel season. I have seen several deer, but no large bucks, two turkeys and a large bear with a cub. I have not been able to add any more squirrels to my freezer. It has been just too windy on the afternoons I have been in the woods.
Randolph County has gotten some snow this week. This should put most of the leaves on the ground. This is when I like to squirrel hunt. However, I have a busy schedule for the next few days so it may be a little while before I can get into the woods.