The Hunt for the Elusive Morel Mushroom by Tim Morgan, Park Superintendent
I love to Morel mushroom hunt. Its a fun activity the whole family can enjoy. But be forewarned: Morel hunting requires skill and is extremely addictive once you know what to look for. But even then, knowing your target doesn’t necessarily guarantee a successful mission. After all, it’s the hunt in Morel hunting that makes it all worthwhile. But if you’re looking for a fun activity the family can enjoy during spring, this scouting mission might just be for you.
Hunting for Morels requires training and experience to become a pro, and even a pro gets skunked on occasion. It always helps to quiz any seasoned hunter you might meet. They most likely will refuse to reveal their secret hunting spots (as this is considered sacred and most will take this prized information to their grave), but many will reveal their techniques. Reconnaissance is half the battle.
The best place to look for Morel mushrooms is in the woods. They are often around dead or dying trees (specifically Elm trees). They can also be found around Ash, Apples, Conifers or Evergreens. It is important that you can identify trees when you hunt mushrooms, and really, that is where the family-fun activity comes in.
Be sure to dress in long pants to help protect from poison ivy and use a spray to keep the tick away. A walking stick comes in handy to move around the understory plants so you don’t have to bend over. No other specialized tools are required, but you should bring along a grocery bag to collect your bounty. For beginners, a picture to help identify your target is also a good idea.
I cannot stress enough the importance of not eating what you find until an expert confirms that they are in fact Morels. While Morels are edible, most mushrooms are poisonous. Some are even deadly. So be sure to have a Morel expert confirm that you have actually found Morels before you “put a fork in it”.
I will end by stating some of the warning signs that you may be developing Morel madness:
1. Inability to walk in the woods in spring without staring at the ground.
2. Inability to drive or walk past a dead or dying tree without wanting to stop and snoop around.
3. The most telling of all is once you have completed a day of More hunting, you continue to see them even after you’ve closed your eyes to go to sleep. Like counting sheep, you dream the mother load.