Nuts to Know

Every hunter knows that the availability of natural mast such as acorns and other nuts is vital to the overall health of the wildlife in any given area. From year to year the amount of mast produced varies due to pollination and weather factors. While you can’t control either of the aforementioned factors, you can work to enhance the productivity of the mast producing trees on your property. Create an overall goal for your project and focus on small areas at a time. 

Important Trees to Save
The most important trees to identify and save are the oaks. White oaks, red oaks and black oaks produce the most palatable acorns for wildlife. Of those three species, white oak is the king. Identifying and protecting these trees will greatly improve feeding options. The acorns have a magnetic appeal for wildlife and contain important proteins and fat. The American Beech tree produces one of the wild turkey’s favorite nuts, and on a good year these giants can produce amazing amounts of food. Deer and other wildlife feed on the beechnuts as well. American Beech trees can become towering giants. For squirrel hunters the various varieties of hickory trees are important, however if you are intending on improving oak stands for deer and turkey, the hickory can hinder mast production. 

Trees to Remove
Trees such as maple, poplar, dogwood, and even some varieties of hickory should be considered for removal. The crown of these trees can crowd your mast producing trees and rob them of valuable sunlight. If they are growing in the understory, they deprive the other trees of valuable nutrients and water. Even some oaks that are mature, badly damaged, overcrowded, or dying should be removed. Identify and mark these trees. Many state forestry divisions have assistance programs to help landowners with such timberland improvement projects to identify trees for removal. Once these trees are removed your mast producing trees can thrive. 

Enhance Mast Production
Mark the trees that you intend to remove. The larger trees can be used for firewood or even be sold. If you have a mature stand of timber, you can have a logging company select cut the larger trees and leave the younger, more vigorously growing trees. Leaving some fallen trees on the ground can create much needed cover for hen turkeys to create nests in. Using felling methods such as the hinge cut can allow the fallen tree to actually become a living brush pile for wildlife cover while not robbing surrounding trees of sunlight. You can even consider scattering granulated fertilize around mast producing trees to enhance mast production.

Improving mast production by removing nonessential trees and fertilization can be an ongoing project and does not have to be finished in a short period of time. Whether you maintain a small or large plot of land, you can make simple and inexpensive improvements to your plots to improve mast production and the overall health of the wildlife on your land. Your goal may be to improve feeding options for wildlife; however, you’ll also be improving the quality of animals that you hunt and harvest on your property as well. 

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