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.

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