Early Season Food Sources | Soft Mast Production

A persimmon tree hanging with fruit not yet ripened
A persimmon tree hanging with fruit not yet ripened

Last week’s blog was on the topic of hard mast and how understanding the production and identification of particular tree species can be beneficial to your hunting and land management. There are also other types of mast that can have the same impact on your property. Soft mast-producing tree and plant species are very similar to hard mast-producing species. The difference lies in the type fruit. The tricky part about soft mast is that there are typically less soft-mast producing species than there are hard mast-producing species on your average hunting ground.

Just about every hunting property has some sort of oak tree on it, while a persimmon or crabapple tree may be quite rare. The good thing about soft mast trees are that while the fruit is typically short-lived, the general area around these trees will be a hotspot when the fruit is dropping. This is why scouting your property thoroughly will benefit you when hunting season rolls around. Trees such as persimmons only produce fruit every other year, so just because you may not have noticed any hanging fruit last year, doesn’t mean there isn’t a persimmon tree on your property. This is why you should learn to identify the bark and leaves of mast producing trees. On a couple of occasions I have been checking out a property for management plan purposes and found small bunch of persimmon trees or a few crab apple trees scattered on a hardwood ridge and the landowner, who had hunted the property for a few years prior, never knew they were there.

Scouting and knowing your property is critical when it comes to soft mast. After setting up many cameras around soft mast trees, I have found that all wildlife, from red foxes to black bears, will seek out the fruit. This is why you should be aware of these trees and hunt them hard when the opportunity presents itself. They produce much less fruit than hard mast trees and will disappear much quicker once they drop.

On the other hand, you are perfectly capable of planting your own soft mast trees on your property. Every soft mast tree species fruit ripens differently and the key is to plant various trees that will drop fruit throughout the fall, not just for a couple of weeks in early October. While these trees can be purchased relatively inexpensively, it is best to consult a professional when navigating this channel. By planting the trees in wrong locations you are wasting time and money. Also, some trees such as persimmons need a male and female trees to be planted close in close proximity in order to pollinate and produce a fruit.

For assistance choosing a soft mast-producing tree check out Mossy Oak Nativ Nurseries or give me a call at 252-904-3184 or email at awalters@mossyoakproperties.com

 

Andrew Walters