With three days of the 2008-09
squirrel season under our belts, an addendum to my first report on the
mast crop is in order. Spotty is the best way to describe this year’s mast
crop, but that doesn’t fill the bill.
Having observed the most important
producer of mast since last spring’s bloom, I had more or less accepted
a so-so mast year statewide, but that is not the case.
It does hold true for the hickory
trees I have checked in the central part of the state, but it now appears
that there will be some mast – especially for hickories and oak. Some contacts
even speak of good crops. There are plenty of seedpods (those green-bean-type
things) and other minor seed producers. But in areas I have checked and
been told about this form of mast does not appear good, nor do the hickories.
Black walnut, on the other hand,
appears to be doing well. Some are falling prior to maturity, but this
always happens. I think squirrels often cut walnuts for moisture at this
time of summer. The walnut species nuts are full of moisture, and it stains.
In hand, squirrels cutting on black walnuts are easily identified by their
brown-stained mouths and faces.
Incidentally, in yesteryear,
it was easy to tell which pupils collected and hulled
walnuts with a cursory
view of the hands. Some were even expelled for such wonderful activities.
Walnuts and butternuts were
hulled of the moist, green outer hulls before the dark, hard inner nuts
were allowed to dry and cure in the fall sun.
Incidentally, there seems to
be a scarcity of tulip tree seedpods (this is the state tree). Hunting
squirrels on yellow poplar is an interestingly tricky thing because the
little whirligig seeds make almost no noise as they descend through the
leaves. However, swaths of sunlight highlight the whirling seeds as they
are stripped from the elongated bud. Each bud houses dozens of seeds (even
hundreds) and leaves no doubt that Mother Nature is a past master at packaging.
This, of course, becomes obvious in many other neat, little seed species.
There is little unused space.
Beechnuts also will be spotty
and will not ripen until September is upon us. But this too is a marvelous
experience, especially when several squirrels converge on the same tree
and produce a facsimile of a rainstorm as the empty hulls and shells fall
through the leaves. Little wonder that man places such a high snack value
on the solid little pyramid kernels.
Incidentally, a good thumbnail
is an invaluable implement for shucking out a treat of beechnuts in the
In conclusion, I would have
to say (as I always say) that there is no substitute for scouting for mast.
Find it, and you have a great shot at finding squirrels.
Likewise, my pre-season mast
scouting tours, also point to a good crop of paw-paws, the elongated fruit
that ripens in the fall, to provide a sweet, custard-like bait, if one
can slurp through those big black seeds--and if the squirrels and raccoons
don’t beat us to them.
Incidentally, paw-paws make
a fairly good wine, and a cream pie of like qualities, not to mention cookies
and other goodies.
– Scotty Wilson, of Paragon, reminds me of yet another fish bait.
Here’s Scotty’s message: “Remembering
your article on wasp larva, I thought I'd drop you a line about using what
was at hand when fishing. My daughter Mahalah and I had a chance to go
bluegill fishing last Friday evening. With just a few crawlers left in
the fridge, we went digging and found but a few worms. On the way back
to the house Mahalah spotted the tent caterpillars' in a walnut tree in
the barn lot. “What about using them?” was her thought. I had never used
them but it was worth a try, since our shortage of worms. Other than being
small and having to use 2-3 at a baiting, they helped us catch enough for