Also known as dry-land fish, true morel mushrooms make for some fine eating. Here’s how to (hopefully) find more of them
Hunting morels and dry-land fish isn’t easy. It takes time and effort to get it done. But it also takes knowledge. Here are 15 tips that can help level up your morel mushroom game.
1. Time the Pop
These things often seem to appear out of thin air, but there are certainly times when they tend to pop up more often. Generally, this is in early to mid-spring just after a rain shower. Soil temperature is also important, as either end of the spectrum is inhospitable to mushrooms. But once you start easing into the 50s, it’s game on.
2. Listen to the Old Timers
A lot of older mushroom hunters say the best time to hunt morels is when the oak leaves are the size of a mouse ear. That’s a general rule of thumb, and can be wrong at times, but is oftentimes right. Also, heed most of their other tips, too. They’ve played the game longer than you have.
3. Look the Right Way
It’s easy to miss something as small as a morel mushroom. Because of this, it’s important to train your eyes to find them. Know what you’re looking for, and focus on that. You almost have to block out everything else in order to adequately pick out the small glimpses of partial mushroom parts that you’ll see.
4. Have Ground Game
The status of the ground, and the vegetation towering (or not towering) over it can have influence. Places that were treated with prescribed fire (or wildfires) are potential hotspots. So are other places that have more open canopies. These are especially more common along clear cuts, select cuts, and cultivated ground.
5. Find the Right Trees
Mushrooms feed off of certain trees, and can be found closer (and more abundantly) around certain species. Apple, ash, cottonwood, elm, hickory and sycamore are some of these. Dying, dead and decaying trees are great spots, too.
6. Hunt for the Right Soil
As with anything, you want good ground. When it comes to dry-land fish, that’s soil that receives plenty of rainfall, but that also drains well. Standing water and active flooding won’t do.
7. Search the Slopes
Great places to look for morels are southern slopes, especially earlier in the spring. These are great locations because they receive more sunlight, and offer better conditions for these tasty morsels to pop out of the ground.
8. Find One, Find Them All
It’s pretty common to find morels in groups. These things are herd plants, it seems. So, if you find one, chances are pretty good you’ll find more. If you locate a couple, keep searching in that general vicinity.
9. Phone a Friend
It can pay off to invite other people into the fold. Or, ask a morel veteran to show you the ropes. Ask them to go with you. You might even learn a thing or two.
10. Tell Off Those Ticks
A bad tick bite (or bites) can ruin a mushroom hunt. To help prevent this, start wearing something safe that repels these pesky buggers.
11. Walk … A Lot
One of the best things you can do is simply put on miles. The more you walk, the higher the odds of finding these tasty treats. Spend time searching in high-odds areas, and using high-odds tactics, and you’re more likely to find these delicacies.
12. Slow It Down
While putting on miles is important, it’s crucial to do it the right way. Going too fast can skip over quality ground without covering it completely or correctly. Take a few steps and stop to look. Use optics. Do whatever you can to land eyes on these things.
13. Change Elevations
While it isn’t as attainable in flatter terrain, hunting morels in hill country offers a distinct advantage — elevation change. This factor influences air temperature, soil temperature and moisture. Sometimes, morels might not be growing at lower elevations, but are growing at higher ones, and vice versa.
14. Bring a bag (and the right one!)
Those who don’t find mushrooms won’t mind, but there’s a chance of getting it done, and those who find a big mess of mushrooms will want a bag. Who wants to carry the haul by hand? No one. When possible, avoid plastic bags. Find the old onion or potato bags that are an open netting. Citrus bags work also. This allows spores that may drop off of the mushrooms to actually land, as opposed to going home with you in a sack. It might not help much, but if it helps at all, it’s worth it.
15. Remember Safety
There are plenty of mushrooms out there that look similar to the real morel mushroom, but these certainly aren’t the same, and many of them are poisonous that you cannot eat. Educate yourself so that you’ll recognize these false plants when you see them. Being able to separate the safe from the poisonous is an important skillset.