I get giddy this time of year because I can get out into the Ozarks, enjoy springtime and all it brings – wild flowers, dogwoods and redbuds in blossom, turkeys gobbling and my favorite, morel mushrooms. I’ve already been out this spring, finding a few morel mushrooms here and there. Here’s more on morel hunting in the Ozarks.
Where to start?
So many people don’t even know where to begin. I recommend that you find someone who knows how to find morels and ask that person to teach you how to do it. Of course, that doesn’t mean you are expecting to be taken to their secret spots, the honey holes. That’s asking a lot of any friend, although I have introduced a few of my good friends to the right spots on our place.
We find success in our woods in a couple of locations, and that’s where we have sycamores, water and lots of leaf debris and decaying wood. We usually find morels on southern facing slopes and the temperatures must be in at least the 60s by day. The ground, supposedly, is supposed to have warmed to around 50 degrees.
The best way, though, is to use technology, namely Facebook, to find when morels have popped from the earth. For the Ozarks, this one, Missouri Morel Hunting, is really good. It even offers a map that shows where morels have been found statewide.
How to hunt for morels
My friend said she walked through her woods, looking for morels. Walking won’t do it. Of course, you have to walk, but also, you must stop and look — frequently. Make sure you check to see what you’re looking for before you go. I have only found 3 out of the 4 most popular morels — black, yellow and red. I’ve never seen a half-cap morel.
I have found that when I find one, there quite often is another 2 or 3 nearby. The best way to look is to get down at morel level, and after cutting it off at the stem with a knife and placing that mushroom into a net bag – such as a potato or onion bag or lingerie washing bag – then look around. Leaves hide smaller mushrooms that have not poked through yet, and also, they are so perfectly camouflaged in leafy debris.
What to wear while mushroom hunting
- Since mushroom hunting coincides with turkey hunting in several states, if you know you’ll be in a public area (or on private land where this could happen) make sure you wear some blaze orange so that hunters will recognize you as a person, and not a turkey, especially if you are on public lands. A baseball cap would be good for this purpose. Do not wear red, blue or just dark colors. Turkeys have red and blue heads.
- Wear sturdy boots. I prefer Danner High Ground 8-inch tall models, so that my ankles don’t turn. Believe me, I’ve been down an old logging road and blown out an ankle, and had to wait for an hour for retrieval.
- Wear pants with cordura built in, such as upland bird or brush pants. Or, invest in some bird-hunting type chaps. Mushrooms love to grow in briar-filled and thorny areas.
- Make sure you wear comfortable socks and have good insoles in those boots, too. Makes all the difference.
- Wear glasses, preferably safety glasses that wrap around. Again, you’ll need to protect your eyes. Polarized sunglasses will help distinguish patterns.
- Wear a long-sleeved shirt. Otherwise, you’ll wind up looking like a junkie with needle marks.
- Wear a pair of binoculars with a harness so you can check across creeks before you wade them, or look farther up a path.
- Wear work or gardening gloves.
- Always wear a hat, in case a rose bush decides to try to scalp you.
Carry these things with you while mushroom hunting
- Mesh bag so that spores will spread from the mushrooms (lingerie bags work well, as do onion or potato bags from the store)
- Sharp pocket knife to cut the mushroom off and leave some of the stem
- Phone with a GPS marking app, such as OnX, so that you can mark the spots where you found the mushrooms for next year’s hunt
Morel Mama says …
Don’t forget to put tick spray (I use permethrin) on your clothes before you go out. I have found that this concoction works the best. When I return from mushroom hunting, I peel off all clothes in front of the washing machine, and jump in the shower in our basement. Then, I use Dawn dishwashing detergent on a washrag, paying special attention to my face, hands, neck and arms – any place that I may have touched while out hunting. This method has prevented me from my annual poison ivy attack. Don’t forget to wash between your fingers and pay attention to your forearms.
After you get the mushrooms
I soak them in salty water for a little while and then, give them a light rinse and place on a tea towel to dry. Then, I put them into a paper sack in the fridge or cut them and dry them in my dehydrator to use in stews. They’re also great, I hear, sautéed in butter or bacon grease, and placed on top of a hot steak after it comes off the grill.
For an out-of-this-world appetizer, whip up an egg with milk in a bowl, then, slice the mushrooms in half vertically, and drag through the wash. Place crackers of your choice (saltines, Ritz, whatever) into a Ziploc bag and crush with a rolling pin. Then, drop the mushrooms into the bag and just like “Shake and Bake” once instructed, shake them like crazy and then, place each mushroom into a hot skillet with either bacon grease or butter. You decide. Fry till crispy.
Leftovers (if there are any) might be enjoyed mixed in with scrambled eggs the next morning.
You can always pop over to my Facebook page and tell me where you’re finding them, and how you’re eating them!