Mast Production Up for 2012


Since 1970, a group of trained forestry and wildlife professionals in West Virginia has diligently tracked the production of mast sources in the Mountain State.    The DNR’s 42nd Annual Mast Survey is out and the production for the fall of 2012 is overall up over that 42-year average, but the conclusion is the mast is very spotty.

"It’s a little on the upswing, most of our mast species are above average on our 42-year average," said Biologist Randy Tucker who co-authored the study. "Overall we’re about five percent over our 42-year average."

The species of greatest importance to deer hunters are the most improved over the 42-year level. 

"All the white oaks–particularly white oak and chestnut oak were really productive this year," said Tucker. "That’s usually the preferred choice."

White Oak acorns are up 43% above average.  Chestnut oak production is 86% higher.  Black oak/Red oak production is about 29% above average while scarlet oak is right at the average mark.    Other hard mast, walnuts are slightly down this year and the hickory is slightly up.  Beech production is the biggest problem for the year, down 29%.

Soft mast species took a beating this year.  A late frost which followed a couple of weeks of summer like weather was a killer to blossoms which were coaxed out early.  

"Particularly apple," said Tucker. "Personally on my route, apple was real spotty. Some trees were loaded and you go around the corner and you couldn’t find a tree with an apple on it."

Other soft mast was down as well.  The important black cherry is 23% below the 42-year average, blackberry is down 21%, Greenbrier down 13%, and crabapple is down 27% as is the aforementioned apple crop.

Cooperators try to run a route to take a gauge of 18 different species of mast in areas all over the country.   Each cooperator tries to select about a dozen trees in each area to get a true feel for how each species produced.     The survey breaks down ecological regions of West Virginia.  The eastern panhandle and southwestern counties say the best production of the year.  The north central counties had the lowest production of mast overall. 


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