Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mast Survey

Red Oak Acorns
September is the time for completing a mast survey.  This does not refer to counting sailboats on Lake Stockton.  A mast survey means tromping through the woods assessing this year's production of walnuts, acorns and hickory nuts.

Armed with a clipboard and binoculars, the plan is to closely observe mature black walnuts, hickories, and red and white oaks, then grade their mast (nut) burden in four categories, ranging from heavy to few/none.  The binoculars are needed for the tall trees whose branches reach high above the understory.

Why should you care about mast?  Mast is necessary for the winter survival of deer, turkey, and squirrels.  The amount available helps predict population health and reproduction the following year.  This helps wildlife managers plan the next hunting season.  Hunters are interested as a predictor of how much game will be on the move.

Surveys are done by the Missouri Forestkeepers Network which mails out the recording sheets to members each fall.  There is also an annual tree assessment done by members in October.  Both of these reports can be done on your land or a nearby park or forest of your choosing.

Membership in the Missouri Forestkeepers Network is free to any interested individual, family or organization. You may report on your land or adopt any site you want.  It could have one tree on it or many trees.  Click here to download the enrollment.  Mast and tree assessments provide a great excuse to stroll through the forest with a purpose and the gifts don't hurt a bit.  You can even get some binoculars for the next hike.

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