Make summer assessments for autumn gathering

White oak acorns, including bur and swamp whites, are already recognizable. (Photo by Jerry Davis)

Deer hunters, in particular, often make it known of their due diligence prior to the approach of archery or gun deer seasons.

Shouldn’t the same thing apply to most forms of gathering, not just gathering venison? Why wait until the black raspberries are ripe to find out that very few have developed in a patch a mile hike off the road? Wouldn’t it have been better to find a new patch a few weeks before picking commenced about July 4? Or to know where the best acorn crop is prior to squirrel, turkey, deer or wood duck seasons?

It is not too early to be thinking about harvesting natural foods and the animals that eat them. While most edibles are not mature or ripe and seasons for hunting those animals are not open, there is direct evidence of how the “crops” may turn out this autumn.

Summer rains have given many early fruits the best fertilizer possible for black raspberries (blackcaps) and blackberries. Mulberries, too, are nice and plump. Only complete shutdown of the faucets in the sky is likely to convince berry-pickers to put their buckets away.

The jury is still out on hard mast, acorns, hickory nuts and walnuts, but rest assured that there is not likely to be a nut crop similar to 2017. Those bonanzas come along about once a decade or two, if that.

Hickory nuts look fair at best, walnuts seem similar. White oak acorns, including bur oaks, seem to be doing fine. These are one-year nuts, whereas the black oak acorns are on a two-year scheme.

Black oaks are more difficult to judge, in part because their nuts are two years old when they drop. Still, the immature nuts are already hanging to be counted, including those that began development last spring as well as this past spring.

Tree fruits, including wild apples, should provide deer and other animals plenty of munching in September and beyond. Earlier, the juneberries (serviceberries) provided a dozen or so species of wild birds great packages of ready energy.

Rabbits, squirrels, deer, turkeys and geese had good recruitment springs in some locations, but not all. Now the food is waiting for the young to grow up and begin eating like an adult.

There is no way to predict the fall mushroom crop – sulfur fungi and hen-of-the-woods – because the fruiting bodies are the only part to emerge from the tree stump or soil. Ample summer moisture is a sure plus, however.

Jumping beyond autumn, now is a great time to pick out dead and dying elm trees for next spring’s morel crop. Remember, too, morels do their underground growth in summer and fall, ahead of the spring when they fruit. This year’s rains can have a positive impact on next spring’s morels.

Call it scouting for gathering, be it fishing, hunting, picking, digging, or collecting. If the intent is to fill the freezers and larders or just to be more informed about the future, one way is to assess the status of nature’s development.

Categories: How To’s, Wisconsin – Jerry Davis

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