Morel Hunting Tips

I am getting ready to head out again this morning but thought I would add a few tips for finding morels this early in the season.

Four Morels

First, I am finding them on south-facing wooded slopes that have been getting some sunshine (not hidden from the sun behind other hills or dense woods.)  This can be a very slight slope, or steep.  Even a ditch or small valley that runs east to west will do.  Look for dead or dying elm trees (the wood beneath the thin gray bark is almost white), and some ground cover of leaves, brush, and dead wood.  Apple trees can also be good hosts to morels, as well as some poplar and pines.

Dead Elm Tree

Dead Elm Tree

Pay close attention to the bases of trees and around bushes, dead leaves, brush, and decomposing wood.  If you find a morel, keep searching the area, being careful not to step on any others.  Where there is one there is usually more.  Sometimes I find a morel, then search where I had just been and find more.  Looking from different angles can help to find them; they are often peeking from beneath leaves and fallen bark.

Dead Elm Tree

Dead Elm Tree

Sometimes getting low to the ground helps and other times you can get another perspective by standing on a fallen tree.

When I find a dead or dying tree, I search to a radius of 15 to 20 feet around the tree very slowly.  The colony of mycelium is growing from the decaying roots of the tree which will extend farther out than the trees branches did.  You will often be surprised where you find morels.  If there are many elm trees present, they could be anywhere.

Dead Elm Tree before losing bark

Dead Elm tree before losing its bark

If you happen upon a tree that looks like this, slow down and step very carefully.  This dead Elm still has most of its bark, so it hasn’t been dead long; around trees such as these are some of the best places to find morels.  Sometimes I just stand in one spot for minutes, looking all around me.  I lean to see around obstructions and carefully lift branches and leaves with my stick.  I’ll look from up high and from down low, then take a couple of steps and repeat the process.

Sometimes you can see white branches sticking through the canopy of the woods.  These are often elm trees that haven’t been dead for real long, and provide a good chance for finding morels.

Branches of a dead Elm tree

Top branches of a dead Elm tree



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