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The mystique of MorelsThe morel is probably the most mysterious species of fungi in the woods. Even though there are proven studies as to where morels may fruit, there is always the area where you may find morels growing that goes against all facts and is unexplainable. Generally Morels grow where they want and when they want. Usually when you find one morel there is usually more than one in that area. Morels tend to have a root system which causes them to fruit in bunches. This is not true in all cases. Sometimes there may be only one or two but most of the time they will come in flushes or as little as two's and threes. A lot of this depends on the weather also.
Common AreasThe most common place to find morels is in the woods. Morels like to come up around dead and decaying trees such as the Elm. Morels can be found near living Ash, Poplar, Aspen and maples just to name a few of the main hosting trees. Morels will grow in heavy leaf cover, dried creek bottoms and heavy foliage. Try hunting near edges of river banks and mossy areas. Look for areas that have a rich black and sandy soil. Morels seem to prefer sandy soils. Morels hate clay. The are should be well drained and no standing water. Shady areas are ideal for late season hunting and more open areas in the early season.
Searching out the Elusive MorelDuring the early season when the weather is still on the cool side it is a good practice to search the southern facing hill sides where the ground warms up first. Start at the bottom and work your way up. it is much easier to see the morels against the horizon than right under your feet. Early in the season when the weather is on the cool side it is a good practice to hunt in open sunny areas. The ground temperatures will generally be cooler in the shady areas, but as the temperatures outside warms up and the season progresses into the month of May, you will want to take to the woods more often and look in the heavy foliage with plenty of shade since morels cannot with stand extended exposure to the hot sun temperatures. Keep in mind that morels that don't have much protection (heavy foilage) The wind will dry out morels in a hurry.
Identifying Trees is a Must!Learning how to Identify Trees is probably the best way you can improve your morel hunting. If you only learn one thing from this website, learning how to Identify the main hosting trees is an absolute must and will determine your success at hunting the elusive morel. You need to know what types of trees serve as a good host to morels. Do your homework before heading to the woods.
Ash, Aspen, pine, and poplar trees tend to serve as good hosts for the early season Black Morel, but you need to exercise caution when hunting around these particular trees, for the false morel and beefsteak tend to fruit in these areas. I myself have never hunted by Eastern Cottonwood trees but they can be a good host for the black morel according to many hunters and information I have read.
Dead Elm TreesElm trees. Especially the dead ones. For some reason dead and dieing Elms can host a very nice flush of whites,yellows and greys. You can really take home a good load if you can find an Elm wooded area. You may spend 4 hours in the woods and find nothing but one good Elm tree could mean the difference in an empty or a full sack of morels. I haven't found very many around living Elms, just little here and there but that doesn't mean it can't happen. Morels don't normally come up near living Elms based on my experience and what others say.
Poplars & AspensPoplar trees and Aspen trees are a great source for the black morel in the early season. Blacks tend to flush real well near these trees. It is good to find a hard woods that has a mixture of Ash Poplar and Maple. Hard woods like these are mainly found in Northern Michigan. Try to find a mature Apen stand, the blacks are usually real plentiful in the right conditions. Typically when a logging company comes through and does a clear-cut normally nature will fill in the clear-cut with Poplars and Aspens.
The White Ash Tree (The Magic Tree)Ash Trees (The Magic Tree). The ash tree is my favorite tree to hunt for morels. I can contribute 90% of my morel success to the White Ash. I call the White Ash the magic tree because they will produce Blacks, Greys, Whites and Yellows. I hunt Ash from the beginning of the season to the end and I continuously find all colors of morels throughout the entire season. Like I said, The White Ash is by far my favorite tree to hunt morels. I have had very good luck with these trees in the peak season for finding whites and yellows in big numbers.
Old apple orchards are probably by far one of the best hosts for the yellows IMO. For some reason morels tend to appear in large flushes and tend to become large in size near apple trees. My cousin has an old apple orchard on his property and let me tell you, it is a privilege to hunt it. Some of the morels I have harvested from his orchard were as big as my hand and grow in large flushes. If you ever get the opportunity to hunt an old apple orchard, be sure to bring a large onion sack with you. Just as long as the timing and conditions are right of course you should have a honey pot of morels. Also keep in mind that morels don't always stay near the trunk of an apple tree. I have found morels up to 40 yards from apple trees.
Learn your trees before you go into the woods. It will help you in your success in locating the ever-elusive morel. I suggest getting yourself a book on identifying trees. A good morel hunter is made by knowing the morel habitats and hosts. If you have not already done so, be sure to visit my page Identifying Trees in the Spring
A little Extra Food for ThoughtThe 2003 season was probably one of the best seasons ever. You could just about find morels anywhere in the woods that is very uncommon. Usually you have to put in a lot of time and effort. I had found some spots during the 2003 season with dead elm trees that produced an average of 10-20 huge yellows. I returned to these spots in 2004 at least three times a week through-out the entire season and found one tiny little grey. Not even enough to fill the tines of a fork. So you see, just when you think you have these little buggers figured out, they change their game plan all at once. That's what makes this very popular activity such a challenge. It can even become very frustrating but yet very addicting. So please save yourself as much grief and disappointment as you can by learning as much information as you can. I have endured hardships and have become very frustrated looking for these elusive tasty morsels. My friend let me tell you, I cannot stress enough how important it is to learn as much as you can before you start hunting the morel. Even if you don't find anything, it's still nice just being out in the woods in nature with all new life just beginning with the fresh air and its great exercise.
Morel Hunting is very challenging and unpredictable. That's what makes it so exciting and addicting. After all if all you had to do is pick a patch of woods at random and within 5 minutes find all the morels you could eat, then it wouldn't be called mushroom hunting, instead it would be mushroom finding and it wouldn't be as much fun.
So before I come to close, I will leave you with a list of places and habitats where morels have been found.
Near dead trees
Under and near Cottonwood trees
Under and near Poplar trees
Under and near Tulip Poplar trees
Under and near Ash trees
Under and near Apple trees
Under and near dead or dieing Elm Trees
In old apple orchards
On south-facing slopes
On north-facing slopes
In sandy soil
Near old sawmills
Near wood piles
In dried river bottoms and creek beds
Along river beds
At burn sites
Near railroad tracks
In Mayapple patches
In Open green grass
Morels are where you find them...They Grow where they grow.
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