Few things look as glorious as baskets overflowing with morel mushrooms. Here are more tips to help you fill your baskets and have a great year.
It's getting close to that amazing time of year again: morel season! It's never too early to get yourself ready for what many folks consider the most fun time of year. We shared 1o awesome morel mushroom hunting tips in a previous article. Be sure to review those 10 morel hunting keys before you head out.
Here are another 8 tips to help you have a great time in the woods this spring as you search for morel gold.
1. Detective work
Whether you're a newbie or an experienced 'shroomer, it pays to be on the prowl for clues to new areas and when morels start appearing. Join foraging and morel mushroom groups on social media, and be a part of regional outdoors chat forums. Pay attention to posts from your Facebook friends who are into mushroom hunting, and use Google Alerts to stay on top of morel news in other areas. You get the idea.
Although mushroom hunters are, as a group, notorious liars about their haunts, they are also eager to show "trophy pics" or tell of their latest haul, even if the "haul" consists on a single morel. You surely won't get any direct information on where to hunt, but you might get a fair idea of loosely where and when morels are showing up, which could in turn help you plan your own outings in early spring.
At the very least you'll become part of the fraternity, maybe make a few online friends, and motivate yourself when you see someone share a picture of a table filled with morels.
2. Dress the part
Of course you don't need anything other than a container and a place to hunt to pursue morels. There were times when I'd leave work and head right for the woods for a quick 'search and pluck mission' wearing my work shoes and using the cap I was wearing to carry any morels I might find.
But I believe we also enjoy ourselves more when we're dressed for the activity. Light colored shirt and pants sprayed with Permethrin, with pant legs taped, rubber banded or tucked into your boots are a smart choice in heavy tick country. Although when the weather is warm I tend to go with shorts and ultra-light walking shoes, but make sure to still give myself a good dousing with a natural anti-tick spray or lotion.
I've got a few county maps I use just for morel hunting. I've got spots marked on each one that have been consistent producers over the years. My own rule of thumb is to give a location three or four years of either good or poor showings before declaring it worthy or unworthy of my time.
Of course some locations you just know will be good or no good right off the bat. Others will be "iffy." I once had a location that had consistently produced very little to nothing for me for three years. I just didn't want to give up on it. Then one year it blossomed and I filled my basket with morels of significant size. That location has become a favorite though inconsistent performer. Sometimes it pays to stick with an area.
I'm always trying to explore new areas too, adding to the archive of locations.
4. Journal or Notebook
It's not a bad idea to carry a journal or notebook with you to jot down things you see when hunting morels. You may surprise yourself with information you collect over the years. One location might produce a bonanza of morels - certainly a noteworthy entry - but may also be a good location for squirrel or grouse hunting. Another might be a solid producer of chaga or pheasantback mushrooms.
The point is that using a journal forces you to look a little bit more closely at your surroundings. Almost every location has something to offer and if you're out in the woods it pays to pay attention. What may seem like a bust for morels could be a boom in something else.
I once had a place I checked for morels and never found a single one, but I did find that it was great for autumnberries later in the year, which I never would have seen had I not been paying attention and writing in my notebook.
5. Rucksack of Tools/Essentials
Of course you want to carry the basics of what you'll need to bring home the gold, like a basket. But if you're planning on making a day of it or if you're some distance away from your vehicle, then a small pack with a few essentials might come in handy.
- Water - Always carry water with you. Dehydration is no fun. Bring an extra bottle in addition to the one you carry on your person, and keep it in the car.
- Cook kit - I often bring along a cook kit, the kind that backpackers carry with them, with the little stove and fuel cannister. Also, I take a small frying pan and a few essentials like butter, salt and pepper, maybe even a chunk of cheese. Sometimes I use it, sometimes I don't. But it never hurts to have the option of cooking something to eat, especially when that something is morels. It's nice to enjoy the fruits of your labor right there in the woods. And don't forget the matches.
- Brush and knife - This is just a small brush, like a paint brush, to clean your morels, and a knife to cut them in half to make sure the insides are clean as well.
- Extra bags - You might just hit the motherload. You'll need something to carry all of those mushrooms in.
- Butt cushion - This doesn't have to be a cushion. It could just be a small section of tarp to keep your butt from getting damp when you sit down against a tree.
- Field guide - You never know what you might run across.
- First aid kit - Never hurts to be prepared.
It's always a good idea to have some extra clothes, a towel, light shoes and socks back in the car too. Getting caught in a down pour once was enough to teach me a lesson on that. And as long as we're on the subject of safety, be smart and tell someone where you're going and when you expect to return.
6. Other Wild Edibles
Regardless of how well you do with morels, you could also hit it big with other wild edibles. Be on the lookout for pheasantback mushrooms, fiddleheads ferns, ramps, basswood leaves, nettles, and so on. Knowledge of what other wild edibles may be found growing at this time of year can turn a day when the morels aren't cooperating into a productive outing.
Being able to make some stinging nettle soup or ramp pesto upon returning home can help make the day worthwhile after all.
7. Double Up with Trout Fishing
One day in May I was hiking back to a trout stream and happened upon a morel mushroom. I was of course excited by the find and began looking around to find more. I found around ten or twelve additional morels. I made a mental note to return by the the same path after I had finished fishing. That evening I enjoyed a few brookies and morel mushrooms sauteed in butter. It was one of the best meals I've ever had.
Now, whenever I happen to be trout fishing I make a point to carry an extra bag with me just in case I happen upon any morels. Of course the morel season is shorter than the trout season and you only have a limited time to take advantage of the two coinciding with one another, but it's worth being aware of the calendar and taking advantage of the two if possible.
8. Bring Your Dog
Ok, this is one that isn't really a tip to help you get more morels. But it is a tip to help you enjoy your day a bit more. Usually when I go morel hunting I'm hunting alone. That's great, I like the alone time. But there's something about having a good dog with you that makes that time a little more enjoyable.
Having that companion to share the day with, even if she doesn't say too much, is indeed a good thing. The drive home, with a basket or two of morels in the back seat and your dog in the front...well, that's about as good as it gets.