My heart wasn’t beating, it was humming. I pulled my boots on, grabbed my jacket, and hurried out the door. I ran toward my dad as he threw a gunny sack in the back of his pickup truck. I was reaching for the door, ready to climb in the passenger seat, as my mom opened the front door and called for me to come grab my gloves.
I saw my dad wasn’t wearing his so I complained that I didn’t need any gloves. But I took them anyway. I was going on my first “grown up” morel hunt and I couldn’t be more excited. Morel hunting is a right of passage where I come from. Like going to deer camp for the first time, or fishing your first salmon run.
I learned a lot about morel hunting that first year, and I still go every year. It’s one of the best times you can have in the woods and if you want to learn how to hunt morel mushrooms you came to the right place.
How To Hunt Morels
Every spring comes the hope of a great year and along with the rain and flowers, there is no better sign of spring than heading out to find morels.
Morchella esculenta (the fancy name for morels) grows in almost every part of the US. They taste amazing and are incredibly fun to hunt for.
When To Go Morel Hunting
In my neck of the woods, the Midwest, morels pop up and are ready starting in May. In the South they start to come up a bit earlier and in the colder northern areas they usually start a bit later on.
The general rule of thumb is once the oak trees begin to leaf morels will be sprouting. If you live in an area where hunting morels is popular you will definitely start to hear chatter once people start mushroom hunting.
Morels grow to their full size (for a particular specimen) almost instantly. This means the old wives tale that says to leave early spring morels to “grow up” is false. Early spring morels may not be all that big, so when you find a little one go ahead and pick it.
As the season goes on, morel size will increase. Their color will lighten as well.
Where To Find Morels
The most common place to find morel in the beginning of the season is at south facing hillsides. The middle of the season tends to find clusters of morels on east and west facing hills, and finally late season you will find them on cool north facing draws.
Outside of these general guideline, it’s important to understand that morels can grow nearly anywhere. They are frequently found growing in yards, ditches, and even roads.
Anytime you are outdoors during the spring you can find morels but if heading out for a morel hunt, focus on the woods and even pastures.
The best soils for locating morels are heavy, and sandy areas do not produce many mushroom. Even if you find a morel growing in the sand, it may not taste that good so focus on heavy soils.
When you hit your morel spot, start looking at southern slopes and work your way to the cooler sides as the day goes on.
When scoping out your location, look for prickly ash and red oak, as morels thrive in the same conditions. If you happen to be near any remaining elm trees, these locations are also great for finding morel.
When you look for morels, keep your head up and scan your area. You will find far more mushrooms than you would if your head is just looking in front of you. Work the entire area that is ripe for morel. Check the base of oak, elm, and prickly ash then move on to open sections of slopes.
That first day out hunting morel with my dad produced quite a haul and we followed the same strategy outlined above. You do the same and you’ll have a sack full of morels too. Just don’t forget your gloves.
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