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Morel season is upon us

April 22, 2011 at 06:28 PM

The State Journal-Register

Morel madness is upon us. The race is on to find the first, the biggest, the fattest or the most morels of the season. Before long, somebody will discover a patch so big that the mesh sack will split at the seams.

If we could find morels all summer, or if the same great nation that invented the iPod and peanut M&M’s could develop the technology to grow them commercially — or if they weren’t so doggone tasty on a plate with crappie filets — the Great Spring Morel Hunt wouldn’t be such a big deal. People who don’t set foot in the wild country all year long scramble up and down hills in frantic pursuit of fungus.

For many years, through good seasons and poor, I’ve put my first mushrooms in the sack on April 22, and that’s today. I’m not saying, of course, where I’ll be looking, but keep in mind that the nearby state parks and recreation areas that are open to turkey hunting are closed to morel hunters until after 1 p.m. If you try to sneak into the timber ahead of time, you could receive a ticket for violating park rules and lose your site privileges.

Morel season really begins when the soil temperature is between 50 and 60 degrees. Some say a spring shower brings them up. Others say that once the temperature hits 80, the season is over.

Look around dead elms or in old hedgerows. Recent prairie burns can be good spots.

The successful hunter, the same person who will gladly put you in his favorite deer stand or take you to his hottest fishing hole, may become reclusive and secretive during morel season and sneak out the back door in the late afternoon. His (or her) truck will reek of bug spray. Judging from the empty wrappers, the passenger seat has become a place where Twinkies go to die.

Propped up against the dashboard will be a long, crooked stick — a skinny limb that fell off a dead tree out where the big yellows pop up. The lucky stick will be used to brush aside tall grass, tree bark or a sleepy snake. It can be jabbed in the ground for support on a steep hillside. Even if it’s just for looks, the seasoned searcher won’t leave home without it.

For us country boys, mushroom hunting was part of our upbringing. Dad wouldn’t stop the corn planter in the face of a funnel cloud, but when he planted along a certain timber, he’d shut it down, go over the hill, and come back with a hat full of fat morels.

He told me once he hadn’t picked all the ones he found. He described “exactly” where they were. I bulled my way through the pucker brush and found nothing.

It only took one trip through the thorns for me learn that nobody gives up their secret spot.

Contact George Little at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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