These are a little harder to spot, that is the key to my truck to show just how small this morel was.
Mushroom hunting is a wonderful activity to enjoy with the entire family, young and old alike. Kids generally have an easier time seeing the mushrooms due to the fact that they are a lot closer to the ground than an adult, and if you watch a veteran mushroom hunter in the woods you will notice that they walk through the wood in almost what you could call a crouch. Kind of like Groucho Marx, if you can imagine that! This is because it makes it easier to see the morels against the background of leaves, and if you have ever hunted morels, you know how well they blend in with their surroundings, just look at the above photograph!
I always carry a walking stick when out looking, helps you get up and down the hills and you can use it to flip over leaves without bending down. It is also a good idea to carry a compass if you are in unfamiliar territory. As you are wandering about looking at the ground, it is easy to get turned around and the ridges never run in a straight line, so don't count on them taking you back to your car. Carry a good compass, know how to use it, and you will greatly decrease your chances of getting lost.
I always use an onion sack to collect morels, this helps to spread their spores around as you are looking for them. 10# orange or onion sacks are the best, and when they get full we empty the mushrooms into a sack or cooler at the car or camp, then go back out. If they get too heavy in your sack, the morels on the bottom will get crushed, that is why we use smaller bags to collect with.
The season starts around the month of May but sometimes as early as the last couple weeks of April. You need some warm days and nights, with a warm rain tossed in to make the ideal conditions for the morel to start growing. They grow rapidly so one day there may nothing in the woods but the wildlife and you, and a couple of days later your filling your onion sack!
For the blacks I like to hit the hardwood forests in this area. We look for ash trees, the larger the grove the better. The old woods seem to be the best, but you came make a killing in the poplar groves after a good rain. I have picked black morels out of poplar woods as big as a pop can, and not just one at a time! Look in 3-6 year old clear-cuts also.
I find whites also on the edge of the "two tracks" driving along, but don't forget the power lines that are cut through stands of hardwoods. You can walk these with ease, and you can really find some BIG white's at the edges of these areas. Also apple orchards and stands of dead elm seem to give up white morels also. The BIG problem is finding these spots!
This is how I hunt in this area. I have never looked for morels in any other place than Northern Michigan, but heck, my wife has found morels in the yard every spring, so I guess maybe I'm lucky!
Here is what I have learned over the years finding and picking morels about how to harvest them to assure that there will be some there to pick the next year and many more to come.
I use a knife and cut the mushroom rather than the method of pinching them off at the ground. The ball or "root" that is just underground is the plant and the mushroom you pick is the fruit of the plant. If you take care not to disturb the plant it will produce again, but if you pull it out of the ground it will die and you will not see it produce another morel. This is one of the first things that I tell my groups I take out and I pass out small razor knifes to those who would like to use them.
I always use an mesh bag to collect mushrooms, the mesh allows air to circulate around the morels to keep them fresh and the small pieces fall through the mesh and you seed the woods as you walk. Never use plastic bags, and paper only if you have to. I will take morels back to the car and put them in a paper sack there to hold them until I get home.
Many times you will find morels that have been up for a spell and are starting to turn, these I leave to help "seed" the area. Remember, it takes about 5 years for a morel spore to mature into a mushroom so every little bit helps. When I dump the morels I pick out at home I do so on a sheet of newspaper and collect the small pieces that break off the mushrooms and take them back out into the woods the next time I go out toss them in a good morel producing area to also help seed the woods.
I also will hunt an area one year then skip a year before I go back, sometimes more. This helps prevent over harvesting of an area but on state land there isn't much that doesn't get hit hard every year. Most of the places I rotate are deep in the woods and not too many people wander around in there.
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