Mushroom hunting

Mushroom hunting

Mushroom hunting

If we can get a light shower and then it turns warm for a couple of days then it should be mushroom season, yippee!! The problem is, you think it’s about to bust loose and then it gets cool. I don’t know what to think and I don’t think the poor lowly mushrooms do either. 

In an effort to really lower your self-worth, think about it this way. It’s embarrassing enough to get outsmarted by a fish with a brain the size of a pea, how much more is it when you get outsmarted by an inanimate object for instance, a mushroom!

As alluded to above, to kick off the mushroom season we need a light rain and then for the temp to get warm for a day or two.

With this magic formula, it seems they can pop up overnight. Being a mushroom hunter is the most frustrating and at the same time rewarding outdoor activity there is.

I’ve been a mushroom hunter for 43 years. You’d think that I could write a knowledgeable article on the subject but some years I feel like a beginner. It drives me nuts to see some bozo write an article on finding morels.

According to their article you just have to go out in the woods, look around old logs and then proceed to fill a pillow case. I read an article like that and want to brand BOZO on their forehead. 

They’ve obviously gone out one time with someone that knows what they’re doing, found a mess and are instantly setting themselves up as the world’s leading authority on mushroom hunting.

Granted my mushroom picking self-esteem is a little low right now. I went out for a little bit yesterday afternoon to see if any were out yet, even though I knew they wouldn’t be but I don’t want to take a chance of missing the short season. I found zero. Zilch. I feel like Punxsutawney the ground hog. I stuck my head out, didn’t find any mushrooms and am ducking my tail and going back down in my hole for another week or so.

But despite painting such a doom and gloom picture, surely any day now they are going to start popping up. And when they do, you want to be there. Morels are the tastiest fungi in the world next only to the truffle in England. They are not only my favorist (is that a word?) outdoor food but probably my favorist food ever. 

Mushroom hunting gives you an excuse to go hiking in the mountains and if you’re up there bear/turkey hunting why not kill two birds with one stone? To my knowledge there are about 8-10 edible mushrooms in Idaho. I only feel safe picking two species.

One time I thought you know, this is dumb. I’m up there going to all of the expense and spending time hunting so why not learn to identify all of the edible species? 

So I found out about a Mushroom Picking club and started attending their meetings. Unfortunately, I still only feel comfortable picking my original two species.

So, to get you started, the first season go with an experienced picker that can train you. if you don’t and make a mistake and pick the Angel of Death….

Let’s just say, you and God had better be on pretty good terms because you will be in the judgement room muy pronto.

So, where do you find them? I’ll tell you some generalities but as soon as I say that, I’ll find them in some random spot. When you find them at one elevation everyone will tell you to move higher after a few days. I do find some by old logs but I also find plenty just randomly throughout the woods. I find a few on the uphill banks on old logging roads.

I don’t recommend looking on grassy slopes but one year I found a ton on a grassy hillside in the forest. But haven’t found them there since. Usually it’s smart to go recheck the same good spots every year. 

Check out old stump holes, especially in old burns. My old buddy Roger Ross said to look under firs. Problem is, I can hardly differentiate the difference between a pine tree and an aspen.

I’ve got one spot on an old logging road that isn’t a low spot but slightly so. I find them there every year. I find them in semi open areas that are somewhat shaded.

The undisputable word’s best scenario is last year’s forest fires. They can be magical. I remember at one such old fire I found 17 almost underneath a fallen lodgepole. The stump holes had a million. The open burn area had a quadrillion. So if you know where old burns are from last summer/fall, hit them. If you don’t know of any, go check with the Forest Service.

One year I knew where some prescribed burns had taken place. No one else had hit it yet. I thought that I had scored big time. Unbelievably I didn’t find a one there.

If you find some on a steep hillside, check above and below. The spores will flush downhill and I’ve found a bucketful in one spot in this scenario.

I’ve never actually done this but one time I was theorizing with a lady at the Forest Service office.

We were kicking ideas back and forth and she said she’d always been tempted to check the soil temp but kept forgetting to. I bet she is onto something. I bet their popping up is directly linked to the temp of the soil.

Well, we’re out of room. Good luck.

Tom Claycomb is a hunting enthusiast and writes a bi-monthly column for Winnemucca Publishing.