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Morel hunters hit woods in search of tasty treats

May 04, 2013 at 10:23 AM

The Associated Press

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Most evenings this time of year, you will find Jeff and April Michael out in the woods on their 13 acres, avoiding snakes and ticks while seeking elusive morels.

Their children, 9-year-old Alyssa and 7-year-old Kegan, are likely trailing along, eyes focused on the ground. The family tradition goes way back; both of their parents learned the secrets of morel hunting as children.

"Jeff's mom hunts like crazy and finds more than we do," April Michael told The Herald-Times ( ). "She usually gives us some of hers."

Last year, Jeff Michael won the Spencer Evening World newspaper's 32nd annual Mushroom Contest with a morel that was 14 inches long and weighed in at 9.5 ounces on the newspaper's postage scale. His prize: bragging rights for the biggest mushroom harvested and $100 cash, plus a picture of the kids with the mushroom on the front page of the daily newspaper.

It was a good-sized morel, barely fitting inside a man's size 13 shoe box. But it was nothing like the record setter, a 26-ouncer Charles Jordan of rural Quincy plucked from the earth in 1993. That morel was 19 inches tall.

"We've just done it all our lives," April Michael said. Once the children got morel fever, the whole family started venturing out, splitting into pairs and heading in opposite directions. "It's something we do as a family, and the kids love going. They know what to look for and really started getting into it last year. They know if you find one, you will probably find more around there."

Jeff Michael looks close around dead elm and ash trees, but he does not divulge secret locations of the morels, which can sell for $50 a pound or more. Like most hunters of the woodsy fungus, he shares extras with family and friends who don't have time, or a place, to hunt.

They fry them up, and Jeff Michael eats them on white bread with mustard.

During morel season, from late April to mid-May, the Michaels spend hours scouring the ground. April Michael said she might go out four hours a week, while her husband "would hunt them four hours a day if he could," she said. "Some days, you come back empty-handed, but you're ready to go out a few days later to look again."

Late Monday afternoon, he got home from work and sneaked out for half an hour to hunt. He came back with a dozen — 10 yellow sponges and two gray ones. A cool, rainy Sunday followed by a warm and partly sunny Monday created optimal morel hunting conditions.

And the season thus far? "It's been a slow year, but they are coming up and we have found some," his wife said. "They'll be starting to appear more this next week or so. We're hopeful."

Spencer Evening World Editor Travis Curry agreed it's been slow going so far this year. "We have not had but a handful of folks come in yet," said Curry, who intends to find some morel hunting time himself before spring heats up and they all shrivel away.


Information from: The Herald Times,

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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