By Jason Houser
Hunting mushrooms in the spring is an activity that can be enjoyed by the entire family. This falls into the same time frame as turkey hunting, camping, and other outdoor activities. Carrying a bag with you while in the woods and coming home with it full of edible mushrooms will quickly make you the most popular person amongst your family and friends.
When the mushrooms start popping up, a hunter will only have about 10 days of hunting before they are gone for another year. If you happen to catch the tail end of mushroom season, go ahead and harvest those mushrooms you find that have some dry spots on them. They can easily be cut off, saving the rest of the ‘shroom.
It was not all that long ago that mushroom hunters had to walk through the woods to see if mushrooms were up yet or not. I still do it that way, but the internet can help you out if you need it. Hunters post mushroom findings on one of the many mushroom hunting blogs. It is a good way to find out if mushrooms are up in your area. Just do not expect to be told what woods they are in. That is totally up to you to figure out.
Mushrooms can be difficult to find. They seem to pop out of the ground overnight. Actually, they do. If you do not find them one day, the next day they could be everywhere. The key is to keep looking. If you are new to the sport, expect to do a lot of walking to find them unless you are lucky enough to have someone show you. Normally, when you ask a mushroom hunter where to find mushrooms, the best answer you can expect to get is, “in the woods”. Once you find a patch of mushrooms remember where you found them and keep it a secret. You will likely have the same patch for many, many years.
For reasons known only to them, morels are very particular about where they grow. A good number are often found in a small patch with none in a large surrounding area that appears to be identical.
Always respect the property of others. Mushroom hunters are a serious bunch when it comes to their mushrooms. Just like any other hunting adventure always ask permission before entering another person’s property. It is also a good idea to share some of your harvest with the landowner if you have enough.
Public land offers possibilities for the mushroom hunter. The problem is that everybody has access to this ground. If you are not one of the first hunters of the season you might do a lot of walking for nothing.
Check with park officials before picking mushrooms. I know that state parks in some states do not allow mushroom hunting. Do not forget to be mindful of spring turkey hunters on state ground. At times, mushroom hunting might coincide with turkey season. During turkey season always wear bright colors on your exterior clothes so you are noticeable, but stay away from colors of red, white and blue (those are male turkey colors). They are too similar to the colors of a gobbler. You do not want to be mistaken for a longbeard.
If you do not know what a morel looks like I would advise you to purchase a field guide. If you pick the wrong one and eat it, you could become very ill. Never eat any mushroom until you know exactly what it is. A fellow mushroom hunter can be a good source to whether or not the mushrooms are edible. It is likely if your friend tries to talk you out of your mushrooms, they are the real thing.
An edible mushroom has a hollow stem and the bottom edge of the sponge-like cap is attached directly to the stem. Colors vary gray, yellow, tan or nearly black. Always cook morels before eating.
Just like any hunter, mushroom hunters need to be ethical in their hunting practices. Do not pull a mushroom up with its roots intact. Pinch the stem off one-half inch or more above the ground. This will help with re-growth the following year. Always use a mesh bag to carry your mushrooms in. I use an old onion bag. This allows the spores to fall to the ground throughout the woods. Again, this will help with growing mushrooms the following spring.
- An edible mushroom has a hollow stem and the bottom edge of the sponge-like cap is attached directly to the stem.
- For reasons known only to them, morels are very particular about where they grow