The Secret to Morel Mushroom Hunting in Pure Michigan

Morel mushroom season is well underway in Pure Michigan! Like most mushroom hunters, guest blogger Joshua Nowicki prefers to keep the locations of his favorite spots to himself. We were able to get Joshua to share some tips and tricks of the hunt with us today.

Read about his adventures below and let us know if you’ve been morel mushroom hunting in Michigan this year. And don’t miss the Mesick Mushroom Festival, coming up this weekend in the “morel mushroom capitol.”

Elusive and delicious, morel mushrooms are a wonderful spring time delicacy in Pure Michigan. When you add hiking and the recent opening of trout fishing, you have more than a weekend of outdoor fun awaiting you. 

For me, it has become an annual tradition to spend at least a couple of weekends searching for morels somewhere in the thousands of acres of National Forest and State Forest land that surrounds the Cadillac area. Like most people, I will not tell you the location of my favorite spots, but I can give you a few tips on where you might look.

There are a variety of different theories on locating the best place to find morels. The easiest way for someone just getting started is to keep your eyes open as you are driving around and look for people slowing walking through the woods carrying mesh bags.* Though you are not likely to find a large quantity of morels in easily visible or popularly frequented areas, it is a great opportunity to familiarize yourself with the type of terrain that the mushrooms are likely to grow in and possibly talk with someone who has experience with mushroom identification.  

Morels are very unpredictable as to where they will grow year to year. I have found them in fields, forests, the edges of paved road and even in landscaping wood mulch in busy metropolitan areas. To make it more complicated, in places where I have found many one year, I will not find any the next. That said, my favorite areas to look include old orchards and areas that have been logged or been burned sometime during the last several years.

Once you have a location, the hunt really begins. I like to walk slowly scanning about a five to ten foot section of ground with my eyes. My father’s method, however, is to walk at a good pace with his eyes focused out about twenty or thirty feet. We make a good team with these two methods; he tends to find the largest morels and I find the smaller ones. When he spots a mushroom, I will often search the surrounding area and locate several small ones that he had overlooked. As for the time of day that I like to go, I have found that the lighting in early morning and evening makes for the best contrast for actually seeing the mushrooms. A friend of mine even carries a small wood carved morel and continually glances at it in an attempt to train his eyes to identify the morel mushroom shape.

When you have found a morel, be sure to pinch or cut the stem at the ground level. Please do not pull it from the ground; leave the root system intact.

Some weekends, I divide my time between morel mushroom hunting and trout fishing in the area’s rivers. Fresh caught trout with morels and ramps/wild leaks cooked over a campfire makes for a truly delightful day. 

After a tiring day of hiking the woods or when the weather is not cooperating, I head to downtown Cadillac which offers a variety of unique shops and locally own restaurants. 

Northern Lower Michigan also has several Mushroom festivals including the Mesick Mushroom Festival (May 10-12, 2013) which includes a flea market, craft show, “Biggest Morel Contest” and variety of other activities and events. A little further north, Boyne City hosts the National Morel Mushroom Festival (May 16 – 19, 2013) which includes a carnival, music, seminars on morels, food and much more.

A few additional words of advice:

  • To avoid picking and consuming false morels, I recommend that you purchase a good mushroom identification book or better yet, go with someone who has experience with finding morel mushrooms.
  • Be sure to carry a compass and/or GPS.
  • Dress appropriately for walking in the woods, keep your skin covered and wear boots or closed toe shoes.
  • Beware of ticks.
  • Do your best to avoid trespassing. 
  • Have fun, morel mushroom hunting is a wonderful family activity, kids are great at spotting morels.
  • When you find a good area, please let me know where it is; I will be sure to keep your secret. ;)

*Mesh bags are encouraged in order for the spores of the mushrooms to be dispersed as you continue your hunt, and therefore hopefully increase or maintain the morel population.

Have you been hunting for morel mushrooms this year? If you’re willing to share your tips or favorite locations, post them below!

Joshua Nowicki is a blogger for the Southwestern Michigan Tourist Council, graphic designer and photographer. Joshua’s interest in photography began while working in museums, photographing artifacts, exhibits, and events. After moving to St. Joseph, Michigan in 2011, he started taking nature photographs to encourage his friends and relatives to visit and enjoy the beauty and serenity of the area. Joshua’s inspirations range from Lake Michigan and wildlife to sculpture and architecture. You can see more of Joshua’s photos at http://www.facebook.com/startvisiting.

  • http://michiganbeerguide.com Steve Place

    I’ve been known to find a fair amount of Morels somewhere in Van Buren Twp. Good luck ;-)

  • Ken

    Are there any places in the central part of the state? I moved to the Lansing area a couple years ago and don’t have any idea of where to go and I don’t have a lot of free time to travel a long way….HELP!!!

  • Andy Evans

    Good evening, great article here. I’ve been told in the past that picking Leeks on State land is illegal, could someone look into that for me please?

    Thanks, and happy morel hunting!

  • http://lovetowriteblog.wordpress.com Jennifer

    We went hunting last weekend and didn’t find anything. We go to Fort Custer Recreational Park outside of Augusta. Personally, I think this will be a very quick season, since somewhere from last week until now, we missed spring. :)

  • http://TheTorg.com Torg

    Well done! I made a documentary film about my dad called The Mushroom Hunter. He will make several trips up your way from Indiana in the weeks to come. Best of luck to you!

  • Sally

    Already picking a second crop of morels here in Huron township. Picked the first On Wednesday and with the rain this morning I am finding more, good size too!

  • Darcy

    Still finding greys and yellows just south of Grand Rapids and in Greenville. This rain from yesterday and the heat from today should boost the yellow crop for this weekend.

  • fishmonger

    leelanau county i fond them on landscaping jobs where we mulch with red pine bark, anywhere there is red pine bark there are usually some morals, we found two pounds outside of maple city MI the other day and i found about 28 the next day in Leeland, happy hunting.

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  • Travis

    I love hunting mushroom with my dad. Unfortunately I have had to move up to the UP (Houghton) for college and I haven’t the foggiest idea on when they pop up here nor what they like as far as wood type. Down near Grand Rapids they like around Mother’s Day weekend and elms. But up here the ground was still too cold. Any ideas?

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  • george

    i find when the lilocks are in full bloom the yellow morels are up as well

  • mushroomama

    We love morrell mushroom hunting my one gripe that most bloggers do not seem to post is using state land is fine but please do not tred on private property without permission. We continually are chasing people off our wooded 6 acre property in the spring and I hear but we are only looking for mushrooms. Beeep wrong answer. It is rude and illegal!

  • 4leafDanny

    Unfortunately, this posted information was not well researched for our states website and will continue to cause more frustration for morel hunters. Pick morels however you wish.. Cut, pull, pluck etc. they are a fungus and have no vast root system. Spores!! You will not find them in the same area next year if you pick them all. My advice is to take a couple you picked and cut them up and spread them around so they can decompose and drop their spores (carry your other ones in a mesh bag for the same reason). It is improper hunting and wives-tails above that make morels even more elusive. Please do not pick them all in one area with a special pinching technique believing you will find them there next season. Happy Hunting

  • normaj

    Mother’s day weekend in Montcalm County had awesome crop of Morels. Best year I ever had.

  • DatMushroomHunter

    Morels like to grow in fertile soil areas, usually near shaded places (Trees, Tall grass, Etc.)