Looking for Mushrooms?

Outdoors with Forda Birds—By John Andreoni

Like everyone else, I watch a lot of television. I have some network favorites, but frequently I get involved with the treasure hunters who are trying to solve the mystery of Oak Island, find Civil War gold in Lake Michigan, or dig up lost WWII gold in the Philippines. So far, I haven’t seen any gold, silver, or the Ark of the Covenant displayed, but I’m still hoping somebody finds something. Regardless, I’ll still watch because the hunt is the exciting part; finding something is the icing on the cake. By the way, I forgot the Meteorite Men on the Science Channel. Taking all of this to heart, I have a great idea for a new “reality” show. If I was a little younger, I might take it on. At the very least, it could be a vodcast like the new local Rider Nation Station. I’d call it, The Mushroom Man. Probably, to give it more zip, The Curse of the Morel or Spongy Gold might be better. The show would have it all. It has secrecy since mushroom hunters seldom share their private spots. It has the excitement of the hunt since a person just can’t walk into a woods and find a bucket full. Finally, there’s a treasure involved, the black, grey, white, or golden morel mushroom.

Okay, maybe I’ve gone a little off the deep end, but I’d bet there are some area mushroom hunters who think the videocast idea has a lot of merit, especially around here. Since there probably won’t be a mushroom hunting show on television anytime soon, there is another option that might even be better. Get off your fanny, find a woods, and search. The time to hunt mushrooms it is now. The temperatures are right, there’s plenty of moisture, and somewhere out there are some tasty morels. All you have to do is find them, and that’s a problem. First, all of the treasure hunters I watch spend a lot of time investigating their search. Mushroom hunters have to do the same thing. For example, where does one look? In general, spongy ground on a slope around elm, ash, and poplar trees is a good place to start according to the books. Local hunters I’ve talked to also find them under maple trees, oaks, and pin oaks. Unfortunately, by the late 1960s most of the elm trees were wiped out by disease or bugs and ash trees by the millions were destroyed by the emerald ash borer fifty years later.

Today, from what I gather, the best way to search is to search. The old timers tell me that much of the good local mushroom hunting areas has been destroyed by clearing, land development, and urban sprawl. Instead of large wooded areas, countless small isolated spots have appeared. Fortunately, any of these places could produce morels in a given year and all are worth looking at. Unfortunately, dedicated mushroom hunters are also aware of the situation, and finding virgin mushroom territory is highly unlikely. Also, getting permission to hunt, even mushrooms, is getting more and more difficult, and smaller private woodlot owners tend to protect their privacy a bit more. You need permission to mushroom hunt, and that can get time consuming as well as frustrating.

Good mushroom hunters are observant and think outside the box. The book says that woods that have been timbered or have had other clearing activity are good places to look. Mushroom hunters I’ve talked to say it takes fifteen years for a woods to recover, but it could be even better than before. There are a lot of dead ash trees around, but the word is that morels aren’t being found around them. Other hunters are looking in thickets and around berry bushes. Railroad beds have been known to produce, but no-trespassing signs have kept people away. The theme I’m getting is that morels can be found just about anywhere, but these spots are rare and their locations protected.

I’m not much of a mushroom hunter and never was. The best mushroom hunting I’ve had has been by accident. I found four large mushrooms around a walnut tree in my back yard. They’re never supposed to be around a walnut tree. The little woods that used to stand across from the sailboat club produced a bunch of morels one day. I was catfishing, not mushroom hunting, and I didn’t step into the woods looking for morels. One day I was fishing in Prairie Creek and spotted a big yellow along the bank. I quit fishing, cruised the bank, and found more than enough for my effort. Others have told me about other isolated spots at not only Lake St. Marys but Lake Loramie and Indian Lake as well.

The best advice I have is no advice other than you won’t find mushrooms unless you look for them. Of course, there are other options. If you want morel mushrooms and don’t care to hunt them, you can always buy them on the market, if available. One listing I saw had them for sale at $38 dollars a pound. That’s about a buck a piece. I guess that really is a treasure mushroom hunters are looking for. Spongy Gold might not be a bad idea after all.