October 1, 2008

It’s Time for Hunters to Do Some Preseason Scouting

The recent cool mornings are a sure indication that another hunting season is just around the corner. With the youth squirrel season starting Oct. 4, it's time to begin preseason scouting by checking out the local woodlot for mast and wildlife sign.

Each year the mast conditions vary from species to species. Mast conditions are some of the main factors determining where wildlife will be found. West Virginia wildlife biologist and avid squirrel hunter Keith Krantz stresses that "large numbers of squirrels may be hard to locate due to the abundance of hickory we have this year. However, in areas with fewer hickories, squirrels may be either concentrated or have completely consumed the nut crop. In most areas, the oak mast seems to be spotty and sparse."

October is one of the most pleasant times to be afield in West Virginia. It's a wonderful time to take the whole family for an afternoon walk. It's also a great opportunity to introduce youngsters to the outdoors. Identifying wildlife sign and learning tree species can be very beneficial. Take the time to explain the reasons for buck rubs and scrapes you may find on your journey. Be sure to check for soft mast, also. Soft mast is sometimes overlooked when searching for available foods. However, when hard mast is scarce, many animals rely on the berries of these species. Turkeys and bears are especially fond of grapes, gums and dogwood berries.

"The fall hunting season is soon approaching and the time for scouting is now. It's quite simple to find the wildlife - follow the food," Krantz advises. "And just remember that taking youngsters afield may spark their interest in nature and lead them toward a career in forestry or biology."

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