The spring morel mushroom season is a huge event for many people. I learned to hunt them over 30 years ago from my boss. He had been raised in Iowa and he took vacation to go back and hunt them every year. He was a fanatic. Being raised in Texas I had never heard of them. I thought he lived a boring life to get that excited about a mushroom — until I ate one.
They are worth getting excited over. This past weekend was nice, warm and sunny. I knew that the mushrooms had to be popping up. They come out in Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska somewhere around the third week of April as soon as there is a shower and warm weather. In Idaho and the mountain states where I live I usually start finding them around 5,500 feet elevation the third week of May.
The other day we went out here in Kansas, where I'm visiting, and got a good mess of them. I forgot how big they are here in the Midwest as compared to the mountain states. My buddy Brandon Nuckles found some huge ones. The main bodies were 3 1/2 to 4 inches on a lot of his. In Idaho mine normally average probably 2 inches.
In the Midwest I usually find them near the rivers. They like to pop up after a rain but I don't find them in swampy terrain. In fact most of the time I'll find them on somewhat of a berm. The ones the other night were more of a brighter yellow color compared to the ones that I find in the mountainous states that are more of a brown to greyish color.
|Tip: "False morels," while sometimes can be consumed without ill effects, have been known to cause acute toxicity. The cap of the false morel appears wrinkled or "brainy," while real morels have honeycomb or net-like caps. An easier way to determine their difference: When the stem is cut open, false morels contain a cotton ball-type substance, while stems of the real kind are hollow.|
The year following a forest fire is the absolute best place to hunt. But also go back to where you found them last year. I usually find them year after year in the same spots. Whether it's because the spores are there or it's the perfect terrain for them to grow, I can't say.
Many hardcore hunters carry a paring knife and cut them off above the ground. They also use a small mesh bag to carry them in. This allows the spores to fall out so more grow. Myself, I use a plastic grocery sack. Double bag because they rip easy.
A lot of times when you find them it will seem like you will find a bunch within a small area. We got all of ours within a 200-yard area. Back home on a small hillside where I bear hunt, I find morels on one side and cauliflower mushrooms on the other. They're all within 200 yards of each other. This isn't always the case of course. Many times you'll find a single here and a single there.
Tip: Check out this revealing paper on SPRING MORELS AND FALSE MORELS OF MIDCONTINENTAL U.S. by H uffman & Tiffany, December 2001
In mountainous country many times the spores wash downhill so look up and down when you find one. Many times they're somewhat in the shade under a small tree which allows some sunshine but also shelters them some. Then other times I'll find them out in the grass. I don't think that there are any absolutes. Make sure you hunt with an oldtimer the first season so he will show you the ropes so you don't pick poisonous ones.
For more info on how to find and cook them read my article Hunting Morel Mushrooms.