Hunting Morels

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Hunting morels is a time-honored tradition for a lot of outdoor-loving families. Enjoy these tips to help you locate one of nature’s most delicious delicacies.

The first time I found a morel, I did so by accident. My son and I were riding the four-wheeler through some trails we had ridden and walked thousands of times. I happened to glance into the woods and about a yard off the path were two morels! It was late in the season and I never found any more that year but I now knew it was possible and I was hooked!

I started to do some research about when and how to look for morels. Although my tips below mainly apply to Arkansas, these can be adjusted to your area based on the growing season.

Lots of morel mushrooms found on a mushroom foray

Tips for Finding Morels

  1. Imprinting. Morels are designed to camouflage with their surroundings. They are not as obvious as other mushrooms out there and it’s very possible that you may just be overlooking mushrooms that are right in front of you. Before you go out hunting morels, look at images of morels in the woods and learn to spot them. The more you become familiar with images of morels, the easier it will be to spot them in the wild.
  2. Soil Temperature. Morels will not grow if the soil temperature is not warm enough. They prefer soil temperatures that range between 50 and 60 degrees. Soil temperatures are usually warmer than the air.
  3. Look near the right trees. Since I have been regularly hunting I have located the most morels around elm trees. I know people who have also had success around sycamore, hickory, ash and even cedar. Although I’ve never tested the theory there are rumors that old apple orchards can offer some good yields.
  4. Follow nature’s signals. Watch for the mayapple leaves to open like umbrellas, for lilacs to bloom and for oak leaves to be the size of squirrels ears. I have also heard that you will have luck once the redbuds start to bloom.
  5. Check after a warm spring rain. Morels love warm temperatures and spring rains. If all the other signs are in place and you still haven’t found any — now is your chance!

A morel mushroom found in the woods.

How to Collect Morels

I like to cut my morels just above the surface of the ground. You can get a special foraging knife like this one or use a pocket knife.

Morels like to breath and they can spoil quickly in plastic. I recommend collecting your find in a mesh bag or basket and avoid using a plastic bag when possible.

Avoid collecting old morels. Morels should have an earthy smell. If they smell bad or the caps and stems have large dark brown bruises, they are probably past their prime.

Note: Morels are good whether they are large or small as long as they haven’t passed their prime. Morels take about 15 to 21 days to grow to full size. If most of what you are finding is fairly small and you are not worried about someone else stealing your find you may want to leave them for a few more days.

photo by George P. MacklinCC by SA 2.0 via Flickr

Bonus Tips

Watch out for snakes! Morels show up about the same time that snakes start becoming more active. Around here we have several venomous species that we need to watch out for. Always be aware of your surroundings. And PLEASE do not kill snakes! You are in their home. Just leave them be. Most snake bites occur when someone is messing with or trying to kill a snake. Just back away and move along.

Watch out for poison ivy. Be able to identify poison ivy – including in its dormant state. Avoid it when possible. If you come in contact with poison ivy, scrub well with soap and water when you return home and be sure to wash any clothing that may have come into contact with the vine or leaves.

Watch out for ticks. Tick bites are a pain and they can causes diseases. Wear an insect repellant and be sure to check yourself over when you get home.

sauteing morel mushrooms in butter is one of the best ways to cook them.

Cooking Morels

Morels should not be eaten raw so you will want to cook them before consuming. Check out my post about cooking morels for some delicious tips.

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Hunting morels is a time-honored tradition for a lot of outdoor-loving families. Enjoy these tips to help you find one of nature's most delicious delicacies. 

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