Monday, August 13, 2012

2012 - A Good Mast Year

We finally got a break from the summer heat last weekend. With morning temps in the high 50's and afternoon highs in the low 80's, it was time to hit the woods for the first time in months. After several hours of chainsaw work clearing trails, I got to do a little pre-season scouting.

At this time of year, my scouting plan is not about trying to figure out where the deer are. I'm focused on trying to narrow down the locations where they will be when bow season opens - about six weeks from now.  Basically, I'm taking an inventory of the food sources that will be available starting in late September, identifying the spots that have a high probability of becoming dominant trees, and marking those spots on a topo map so that my scouting time will be more efficient when the season rolls around.

If you aren't familiar with the concept of dominant trees and how to find them, take a look at this article and the four followup articles on dominant trees.

Chestnut Oaks

My first stop was at a grove of very large chestnut oaks.  Bumper crop!  The acorns pictured at the top of this page were laying on the ground and there were thousands in the trees.  There is a very good chance this is where I will be opening day.

I've heard lots of hunters say that deer won't eat chestnut oak acorns.  That is half-true.  They won't eat them if there are other species of acorns available, but in middle Tennessee, the chestnut oaks usually start dropping a week or two before the white oaks kick in.  During that time, when chestnut oaks are the only game in town, the deer will hammer them.  Witness this deer i killed on his way to feed on chestnut oaks.

White Oaks

It looks like we will have a good white oak crop this year.  I found that most of the white oaks that regularly produce acorns where I hunt had good quantities of nuts.  It seems like the acorns are a little less mature than I would expect for this time of year, so it may be a late drop - another reason why I'm excited to have good chestnut oaks this year.

Red Oaks

In my area, we have several species of trees in the red oak family - northern red oak, southern red oak, scarlet oak, and black oak are the most common.  Most of them start dropping after the white oaks have finished.  I don't expect as good an acorn crop as we had last year, but there look to be enough trees with nuts to provide fresh acorns well into gun season.  This southern red oak had a good crop of immature nuts.


This looks to be the best year for persimmons  that we have had in quite some time.  Just about every female tree I checked had fruit in good quantities.  This green persimmon I found on the ground was obviously not ripe yet, but it was developed to a fully mature size already.  If the white oaks are late in dropping this year, persimmons could move to the top of the deer's feeding list if they are on the ground before the white oak acorns.


I'm looking forward to hitting the woods for squirrels in a couple weeks and I have a couple spots picked out already.  The hickories are loaded and the squirrels are already cutting on 'em.

I hope this little scouting report is helpful.  Leave a comment and let me know what you are seeing.