"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
About Bayou Bill
Recent Rambles
DNR Doings
Wild Recipes



Good Mast Crop Seems Likely
Copyright © 2005 by Bill Scifres

In the wake of last year’s mast crop of zilch proportions, it was almost a given that when Mother Nature tilted her cornucopia again a goodly supply of nuts, acorns and other seeds would come rolling out in good numbers.

It has to happen before the celebration can begin, but a good mast crop seems likely as the dog days of summer set in.

Squirrels already are cutting (feeding on) black walnut, and early-maturing hickories will be next on the bill of fare for bushytails. I have not yet observed cutting action on poplar seedpods, but this will happen before the squirrel season opens less than a month hence (August 15). 

I have recently observed some interesting behavior involving the feeding habits of fox squirrels, and my findings seem germane in this discussion of the mast crop, feeding habits of squirrels, and sundry other topics that creep into this column.

For many years when I have been asked if fox and gray squirrels use the cones of conifers as food, I have said: “certainly not.” Piney (red squirrels) will cut the cones of conifers (a k a “pine cones”), as well as most of the nuts and seeds that gray/fox squirrels depend upon for food. But that gray/fox squirrels would not be caught eating whatever the so-called pine cones have to offer.

This, of course, is similar to my theory of many years that morel mushrooms do not occur around patches of May apple.

In any event, when I awakened one day last week, my view through the double-glass doors revealed a fat fox squirrel sitting on the railing of the deck outside eating what appeared to be a twig.

“Why” I asked myself, “would a fox squirrel be eating a twig when I keep a steady stream of shelled corn and sunflower seed available?”

The mystery was only heightened when I sneaked closer to see that his squirrel had removed (and apparently eaten) the little seeds of the cone.

This occurred before the recent round of rains, so I theorized that this was a case of a squirrel seeking water, and dismissed it as a one-time thing.

There are times when would-be wildlife experts have to be beaten over the head to be convinced that strange behavioral occurrences are not always exceptions to rules or characteristics.

And so it was, that a day or two later I walked out the front door to be bombed by a partially-eaten pine cone as a fat fox squirrel scampered off through the tops of redbud trees that shield my house.

Now, back to the mast crop.

Bob Hawkins, supervisor of the Indiana Division of forestry nursery at Vallonia, says there is a big crop of black walnuts developing in that area and Hickory will be much better than last year. Hawkins adds that bur oak, red oak, and white oak are developing a good crop of acorns and that numerous other oaks could do well.

We have not yet had reports from the northern tier counties, but oaks seem to be doing well there. Reports from observers in the north would be much appreciated. 

Our own observations in the central part of the state show good hickory and black walnut crops, but we have not found great production in the oaks.


Little old jam, jelly and winemakers will be pleased at reports of very good blackberry crops in both southern and central precincts. First ripening came last week in the south and berries are turning now in central parts of the state. 


All columns, essays, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

 Return to beginning of document
Return to Bayou Bill's Home Page