After years of hunting for morel mushrooms, Eric LaPaugh, owner of Leelanau Adventures, has a lot of experience looking for the tasty morsels. Try these six tips for finding morel mushrooms in Northern Michigan.
Timing is everything
Morels grow best in spring, mid-April to late May, when the daytime temps reach around 60–65 degrees while the evening temps stay above 50 degrees. This helps to warm the soil to 50+ degrees, which is important for morel mushrooms and many other fungi to grow.
Just like deer hunting, pre-season scouting is key
Early spring is the best time to take a hike and find potential spots. You will want to look for southwest facing hills where the suns warm rays heat the earth in the early season. On your drive, you might spot a hill that faces the southwest and can explore later. Walk up and down the hill in a pattern so you can cover a lot of ground without missing any morels.
Check out a great habitat
Morels are notorious for being difficult to track down but if you look for tree groves mixed with living, dead and dying ash, elm, oak, and aspen trees your chances of success will increase. I have also found morels under pine trees and in fields of old apple trees. Some people have found them in their backyards around woodchip piles.
Having a trained eye is a must
If you’re a beginner mushroom hunter I suggest printing a color picture of your prey (morel mushroom). This will aid in training your eyes to spot these camouflaged delicacies. You will also have a useful reference when you think you have located a morel mushroom. There are a few other mushrooms that look similar to the morel and you don’t want to make that mistake. In addition, there are different colored morel mushrooms, so looking up pictures to study before going out could save you from missing out on an opportunity.
Covering ground is essential
You are probably not even going to find a mouthful of morels if you only go out looking in your backyard for an hour or so. Just like fall grouse hunting, you need to keep moving slowly keeping your eyes focused on the ground. You may find one or two morels in one spot and not again for an hour then come across a dozen littering the forest floor. Keep moving and keep looking.
If nothing else, have fun!
Even if you don’t find any morel mushrooms you are bound to discover something else that is pretty awesome. Once I found an old ’30s era car in the woods. I have almost stepped on baby fawns hiding perfectly still in the grass. On another occasion, I spotted an owl in a tree hole and I often sneak up on small herds of deer roaming the timbers. Make sure to bring a camera along with you to capture these discoveries.