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Mixed bag of wildlife food to affect W.Va. hunting

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A mixed bag of wildlife food is expected to affect where hunters in West Virginia will have success.

An annual mast survey by the Division of Natural Resources shows that cherries, acorns, chestnuts and other mast will be abundant in some areas and scarce in others.

Mast production is down in high-elevation areas such as Randolph, Greenbrier and Nicholas counties. But mast is abundant in the southwestern counties, said Curtis Taylor, chief of the DNR's wildlife resources section.

"It's just a hodgepodge across the state. It can be ridge top to ridge top, depending on where you're at,'' Taylor told the Charleston Daily Mail. "Your favorite hunting hole might not have anything in it this year. On the other hand, your favorite hunting hole might be loaded.

"There's no substitute for getting out there and looking.''

Weather is a major cause of the wide range in mast production this year.

Frost, which can reduce the amount of fruit that oak and hickory trees produce, occurred frequently in some areas. Other areas saw little frost.

Some areas experienced extended periods of rainfall that interfered with pollination.

"You have good years and you have bad years and you have average years. This year we're above average,'' Taylor said. "When you look at it on a graph, it's just up and down, up and down. There's no consistency to it because you can't rely on the weather.''

While the state's raccoon kill is expected to be higher than in 2011, the population could be limited in areas where acorn production is down, according to the survey.

Researchers predict that bear hunters will have success. In some areas, bears are expected to stay out of their dens in December because of the high number of acorns.

The wild boar and fall turkey seasons are expected to be similar to last year's seasons.

Deer hunters should exceed the number of kills in 2011 due to an increase in reproduction and last year's mild winter. But localized outbreaks of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease could reduce the number of deer in some counties.

"All of them that get it don't die. I wouldn't even say countywide. There may be pockets where there are fewer deer,'' Taylor said.

Cases of the disease were identified last year in Calhoun, Mason, Jefferson, Monroe, Pleasants and Greenbrier counties.


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