Saturday, March 19, 2011
An Early Sign of Morels and Hot Spotting
I was over in Lawrence on Thursday visiting with fellow hunters KawRyan and Morelin from morelhunters.com. The southern winds were blowing and if felt like it was nearly 80 degrees, so itching for a walk in the woods we decided to take a stroll through some old willows in hopes of finding some oysters.
The only oysters I saw was a small, ancient, dried-up cluster; however, we were pleasantly surprised when Morelin pointed out this young gyromitra brunnea or more commonly called, saddled false morel. It was pretty small (you can find a photo of it next to my phone for scale here) but a very good sign of things beginning to get going. I usually start findiing young yellows and grays about two weeks after these first emerge. Now before you get your hopes up, remember this was near Lawrence, Kansas not in Missouri, but that's a little more north than I am in Columbia, so I bet if I looked hard enough I could find a small false morel or two here.
Also keep in mind there are many micro climates out there. This was down in a low flat valley which just radiated heat from the hills, which I believe explains why you could not find a single other mushroom anywhere else except in this spot. When you are hunting early, try to look for these spots. With all this moisture and the recent warming spells, it wouldn't surprise me if a few true morels show up in Mid-MO before the end of March.
I know some will scoff at this notion, and five years ago I would have been right there with them. I used to see reports of finding nice messes of pretty decent sized morels in Mid-MO on April 1. This was because I could never seem to find any before the second week of April and being a good Show-Me resident, I had to see it to believe it.
Back in 2005, things started out pretty dry. Around the middle of the second week of we got a good rain one night with more promised for in the morning. I headed out early and set out to see what the rains may have brought forth. I searched one of my favorite areas for about 2 hours. It had been a steady rain all night but not too stormy and everything looked very primed. However, I did not see a thing. A long line of thunderstorms with lots of lightning and high winds rolled in forcing me home.
After the storms left, I went back out to start where I left off, but as I was walking down the trail I had just walked both in and out the morning before I started seeing nice 2 inch grays. At first, I thought these had just popped up due to the rain, but as I looked much closer, I soon found several that were completely covered by leaves. I think they were there the whole time but the storm with its heavy pounding rain and wind had uncovered many of them so I could easily see them.
I picked a good couple pounds and then got back to where I had stopped. There were singles and nice little clusters of twos and threes.
I kept picking small to medium grays when I hit a more open patch of woods that was exposed to a lot more sun. There in the middle was a patch of beer can sized yellows. Many of which were so large they had already toppled over. Notice how the burn weed in the photo is pretty tall. In this spot it was from 6 inches to a foot. Everywhere else the nettles were only 2-3 inches, another sign of a hot micro climate. Look for these "hot spots" when you are out scouting and check them early in the season and you may be pleasantly surprised.
Now I know that morels grow and that it can take weeks for them to get that big. I figure these must have been up at least since the first of April. Below is the picture of the final harvest for that day, you can see a clear distinction between the grays and whites in the middle and on the right compared to the monster darker yellows on the left.
The lesson I learned from all of this was to get out there earlier. So the next year I began looking on the last weekend in March and in since then I have always found my first within 2 days of April 1 and that is no fooling.