Hunting Morels

Caleb looks back on time spent hunting morel mushrooms with family, and looks forward to future hauls.

  • One thing about morels: Where you find one mushroom, you’ll likely find a bunch. When you’re on them, it’s not unheard of to end up down on hands and knees.
    Photo by Olga K. Cotter

I recall clearly the moment when I realized morel mushrooms were a big deal. I must have been between 6 and 8 years old at the time, but the memory keeps like a photograph in my mind, and that speaks to the joy and excitement with which my mom always hunted morel mushrooms.

My brothers and I were playing whiffle ball in the front yard like we so often did, and Mom had jumped on a horse with a friend to run and check one of her “honey holes”; it was evidently a success. I remember the horse with her on its back, standing right in the midst of our whiffle ball game, a bounty of mushrooms clutched in her fist. We promptly stopped the game and saddled the horses, and off we went to look for more of these seasonal delicacies. (Unless I’m mistaken, that’s also the time I first learned about poison ivy.)

My mom always knew of a few morel honey holes, and she kept them secret. As a young adult, soon after I’d met my wife and brought her home to meet the family for one of the first times, we were in on the secret, and it resulted in one of the most fun and successful days of morel hunting I’ve ever experienced.

A few years later, my father-in-law and I were out fishing for spring crappie at a creek on public land, and we saw a truck pulled over to the side of the road. We noted the morel mushroom sticker on the back window of his truck. Walking back to our truck after we were done fishing, the morel pursuer asked me if I might have some tobacco, and I took note of his mesh bag three-quarters full of morels. That’s been a pretty good public-ground honey hole ever since, in the years where we can stay on top of it. Obviously, we’ve seen our share of already picked morel stumps at that location too.

But there were a couple of moments in reading Tradd Cotter’s article on morels when I thought, Man, amen! Redbuds bloom at two different times, depending on whether you are in town or out in the sticks. I’ve made the mistake of getting overly excited about redbuds blooming in town, only to find the morels aren’t popping and the fish ain’t acting like they should be. The second thing is the tight window involved with the soil temperature sweet spot.

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of sitting next to Tradd for dinner at one of the various Mother Earth News Fairs. I can’t imagine what the server must have thought, two grown adults getting so excited talking about dead elm trees, cedars, and other secrets of morels.

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