It’s hunting season… for morels

Michigan Department of Natural Resources photo More than a handful of beautiful Michigan morel mushrooms.

ESCANABA — Warmer temperatures and rain is typical spring weather, but it’s also the perfect formula to have morel mushrooms pop up in wooded areas. Morel hunting season is here and an avid morel hunter from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources provides tips for a successful and safe hunt.

Andy Evans, of the Gaylord Customer Service office of the DNR, said with his job, he ends up talking with a lot of mushroom hunters and provides guidance about the best areas to look.

“Morels are weather dependent. So, when you’re looking you need a combination of moisture and soil temperatures in the 50s,” he said.

According to Evans, in the beginning of the season, which varies year to year, black morels tend to pop up first with the false morels. He said once it starts to get warmer later in the season, gray morels, then yellow and white morels start coming up.

Evans explained a popular spot for morel hunters to check out is areas where a forest fire occurred the year before. He added wildfires that took place in areas with pine trees are especially popular for finding fire morels, a type of morels that favor where there had been a fire previously.

Other places to look are in hardwoods with lots of ash and aspen trees, the south side of hills, low spots between hills, where two types of forest cover types meet, and along a border between hardwoods and swamps, Evans said.

“Avoid areas where there’s pure clay soil or sand soil with nothing but pines. That’s why I favor hardwoods. Hardwoods typically are in a well drained soil and that’s what you want,” he said.

A way to help hunters find the right areas is an interactive map application maintained by the Michigan DNR called Mi-HUNT.

Evans said he often recommends it to the customers that stop in or call his office.

Mi-HUNT, www.mi.gov/mihunt, is a mapping tool that provides customized maps of state-managed land, showing the types of trees as well as tree cover types.

Another helpful website for Michigan morel hunters is located www.michigan.gov/mimorels. Evans said the website provides information on where fires have occurred and other helpful tips for morel hunting.

When out in the woods looking for morels, it is always important to be safe.

Evans suggests always bringing a compass and to take precautions to ward off ticks and black flies.

False morels are popping up too, so it is very important to be sure what you’ve picked is edible and not poisonous.

Evans said if you’re new to morel hunting, you should to go with a more experienced hunter. If you can’t, there is information online on mushroom identification readily available.

When it comes to handling morel,s there are also some tip and tricks.

“I always try to use mesh bags (such as an onion bag) for collecting morels,” Evans said. “It allows air to get to the morels so they don’t get all mushy on you.”

He also suggested to always cut or pinch the mushrooms off at ground level. He explained this is to protect the lower portion of the fungus to ensure mushroom re-growth in future years, as pulling them out can do permanent damage.

Morels are popping up, but they won’t last forever. Evans said once the weather starts really warming up, usually by the late June, the ground temperatures will be too hot and morel season is over.

He said the successfulness of the hunt and season is dependent on how much ground is covered.