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Good mast crop is bad for hunters

November 06, 2005|By Bill Anderson

If you have spent much time in the woods this fall, you have probably noticed that the mast or nut crop is very good in most areas. So good, in fact, that deer, turkey, black bear and other woods animals have a choice of which acorns they want to feed on - white oak, red oak, chestnut oak - while other nut crops, such as hickory, are being ignored.

A very good mast crop is a great situation for woods critters, but you may be surprised to learn that the news is not all good for hunters. When the mast crop is this good, the game animals have a lot of options. This, in turn, makes patterning more of a problem for the hunter.

This week, I was talking with a friend who hunts some prime bottom land on the South Branch of the Potomac. This year, the fields on his property are in corn and soy bean. When the mast crop is poor in the mountains, his fields are terrific for deer traffic. This year, deer activity in the fields has been spotty so far.


"In some areas in the mountains, the acorns are so heavy you can hardly walk on them," he said. "I don't expect the deer to really start hitting the crop fields here until the nuts are mostly gone and the weather turns really cold. Just hope it happens before deer season is over."

Some of the poorest deer seasons of the past decade have come in years in which we have had banner nut crops. But West Virginia's firearms season for bear is another story. When food is plentiful in the mountains, the bears delay going into hibernation and the result is usually a good bear harvest during the December gun season.

Even though a great crop may complicate things for hunters, the overall story is quite positive. Does that will be carrying fawns over the winter do better, as will the fawns that will be born next spring with good birth weights. Antler development for carry-over bucks is also improved for the following season when there is a good mast season. Bears go to den in better shape and the game animals, such as turkeys, squirrels and grouse, will be better prepared for the winter months.

Successful hunting - particularly in the mountain regions - is all about preparation and adjusting to the conditions each season. This year is no exception.

Bill Anderson writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Mail.

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