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Mast Survey & Hunting Outlook report shows favorable conditions for 2021 hunting in local area

Hunters getting ready for the fall hunting seasons can now review the 2021 Mast Survey and Hunting Outlook publication available on the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources’ website at WVdnr.gov.

“Beech, walnut, hickory and black cherry production was up dramatically above last year and the long-term average,” said Chris Ryan, supervisor of WVDNR’s Game Management Services. “Oak production improved over the last year but is still below its long-term average. 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.”

According to the survey, soft mast production was very good in 2021. Apple and hawthorn were especially productive this year and should attract numerous wildlife species. Hunters are encouraged to do plenty of scouting. Locating good, natural foods can increase a hunter’s odds of success.

Since 1971, the WVDNR Wildlife Resources Section, in cooperation with volunteers from numerous other agencies, has conducted a fall mast survey to determine the abundance of mast produced by 18 species of trees and shrubs.

The 2021 Mast Survey and Hunting Outlook may be found on the WVDNR website.

Results of the mast survey are broken down by region, variety of fruit and nut, with special sections focusing on how mast production should impact each hunting season.

For example, the hunting outlook for black bear is expected to be a lower bear harvest due to a general scarcity of the foods bear prefer. Experts expect bears to forage most on black cherry early in the season before going in search of nuts.

DNR officials expect the white-tail deer harvest to be similar to that of 2020.

“Increased mast abundance across the state will mean that deer do not need to travel as far in search of food,” the survey notes.

The report notes that weather conditions will be just as important to the deer harvest as the availability of food in the forest and fields.

Report authors note that squirrel harvests are expected to be lower this year because poor mast supplies last year resulted in a lower number of litters.

Wild turkey are expected to be higher, in part because of the ample food supplies by the cicada brood over the summer, especially in the Eastern Panhandle. More food means that turkey brood production was better than last year.

In the Eastern Panhandle region, surveys found a 178% increase in beech, 40% increase in walnut, 20% more hickory. There was a 34-40% drop in chestnut, white, black, scrub and scarlet oak.

Hawthorn, apple, grape, black cherry, sassafras and poplar production all increased over 2020, according to the survey here. In total, there was an 8% drop in hard and soft mast production in the Eastern Panhandle.

This year’s Mast report was authored by Christopher Ryan, Linda Ordiway, Colin Carpenter, Holly Morris and Eric Richmond.

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