This year is really moving along faster than most adults realize, particularly for us old geezers. Next week, the kids will be going back to school. West Virginia University will open its football season on Aug. 30 against the powerful Alabama Crimson Tide, and the youth squirrel season will be Saturday, Sept. 6, which is only a measly four weeks away. The statewide squirrel season will open the following Saturday, Sept. 13.
Last week, I got my papers from the State Division of Natural Resources requesting that I be a cooperator in the annual mast and hunting outlook survey. I have tried to help out with this idea or program for several years. However, I think that Randolph County has more cooperators than any other county in the state.
Last year, the DNR received reports from 214 locations statewide. While this is down from what it was in 2012, it was still valuable. Like all years in the past, the DNR would like to have at least four reports or surveys from each county.
I believe the retired personnel from the DNR are the biggest help in this survey. For all the reports in past years, the DNR has been able to test mast conditions that are related to all the variables that affect wildlife and forest ecology.
Since 1970, the DNR Wildlife Resources Section has conducted this fall mast survey to determine the abundance of mast from 18 species of trees and shrubs. All serious hunters should try to be a part of this program. Finding out the amount of food that is available each year can aid the game biologists in determining future hunting season dates and bag limits.
It's very important for all serious hunters to scout and consider the type and amount of food or mast that is available in the areas where they plan to hunt. When the results of this survey are printed up, hunters will find a wealth of information that could help them before heading into the woods. Copies of the "Mast Survey and Hunting Outlook" will be mailed to cooperators who send in a report.
The Mast Survey can be found on the DNR website at www.wvdnr.gov under "Hunting". Here is another service the DNR is providing for sportsmen and women.
In 2013, the index for just about all of the mast species was up about four percent. Beech was quite abundant, while hickory and walnut produced very well. Oak or acorns mast was somewhat sparse in the lower elevations but was better than expected in the higher elevations. The DNR is hoping for a good oak crop this year, but I have some doubt about this. The past week, I have talked to a few people from the Valley Bend and Mill Creek areas who have told me the acorn crop is not producing well at all.
Apples were plentiful last year, but this year people have told me this crop will be very spotty. I was talking to a good friend this past Wednesday who told me that he was seeing a good bit of hickory and wild black cherry in southern Randolph County.
Today, I plan to be out Files Creek to help out with the Mountaineer Chapter Izaak Walton League's Youth Conservation Day. Maybe I will be able to do some scouting in this location if the weather cooperates for my report to the DNR. The deadline for getting this report to the Elkins Operations Center is Aug. 31.