I like to think of myself as fairly proficient at mushroom hunting. My wife is even better at spotting them. On an average year, between the two of us, we can harvest enough mushrooms to satisfy our craving and have a few to share with friends. On a good year, we find enough to totally overdose, share with everyone we know, and freeze or dry a bunch to winter us over.
We started hunting morels early. We both knew the weather had been too cold for them to sprout even in the middle of April. There is always the chance of finding the first mushroom of the season so we did not let a little bad weather hinder our search. The first ones are always the best, especially if nobody else has any.
Our favorite place and usually the most productive spot is called the paintball timber. Over the years, we have found loads of mushrooms in this area. There are a couple of creeks running through an area of hardwoods with an occasional dead elm tree. Dead elm trees create the Mecca for mushrooms. There is something about the fertility of the soil as the roots of an elm tree decay that makes perfect growing media for the elusive delicacy. It never fails. Well, almost never.
Early hunting was concentrated on south facing creek banks around dead elms. The sun could still get through the leafless trees and warm the ground. Moisture, heat, and elms. There had to be mushrooms. Maybe not.
As the days got longer and warmer, we concentrated on areas higher up on the hills. The leaves we coming out enough to create shade on the ground all day long. There were a couple of nice rains, and the temperature stayed above 60 degrees. Mushrooms had to explode out of the ground under these conditions. Perhaps they really did not have to. I was beginning to get frustrated.
Last Sunday, my wife and I loaded up the dogs and went to the farm, to run the dogs, and perhaps check for mushrooms. The weather was perfect. Grass in the timber that had started growing before the leaves came on was several inches tall. Leaves filled the trees, gooseberry bushes, and multiflora rose. Everywhere a person looked was green. Duke and Coty ran ahead of me, hunting for something. I am not sure what it was they were after and I do not think they really cared. A day in the woods hunting was good enough. Dulce stayed close to my wife. She was searching diligently for mushrooms and Dulce knew she could find a mouse or a squirrel. Of the three dogs, she is definitely the best hunter. The two goofballs with me were mostly running amok but Dulce was a poodle on a mission. She hunted down a mouse hiding in a log, tore it apart, and had a quick snack. Duke, the mastiff, would run ahead of me, stop briefly and eat something. He was always too quick for me to see what he was eating. I was hoping it was a nice tender clump of grass he found here and there but was afraid it was mushrooms. I never was able to figure out if he was eating what I was hunting, but neither my wife nor I found a single morel after traipsing all over most of 40 acres.
We had both had enough fresh air and exercise when I suggested we change our strategy. We obviously did not know where the mushrooms were, but we did know where the fish were. It took only a short walk from the timber to the lake to change the mushroom hunt into a fishing trip. We had immediate success with fishing. We decided, if a person is looking for something for dinner, it is best to look where we know the food is hiding.