Between morel mushroom hunting (shrooming) and turkey hunting, human traffic in the woodlands this time of year is second only to the fall gun whitetail hunt. While pursuing wild gobblers gets many hunters excited, morel mushroom season here in southwest Wisconsin offers one of the best outdoor sporting opportunities. The challenge rivals that of any big game hunt due to the morels’ stellar camouflage. Also, you don’t have to spend a lot of time preparing or planning and there isn’t a bit of expensive equipment involved. Another big plus for morel hunting is no bag limit.

Signs like these can be seen around Muscoda in April and May.

The classic shroomer gear includes hiking boots, an empty bread bag, and a stick for moving aside plants to better see the morels. Some claim a mesh onion bag works better than the bread bag since it isn’t so easily torn by prickly ash or multiflora rose bushes. Morel hunters seem to be good at keeping secrets, at least about locations where morels are found. When showing off their bounty, the story of the hunt is often vague when it comes to “where” as hunters know that next year that same place will likely bear morels again.

I’ve been a shroomer most of my life, but a recent article in Wisconsin Outdoor News taught me a few things I didn’t know. Here’s a little excerpt about how morels grow:

Like many mushrooms, morels only come above ground during the final portion of their sexual reproduction to produce and release spores, which are blown about, and a few land on a place to live, grow, and eventually reproduce.

But these spring molds are also different. They do a great deal of their growth and getting their reproduction started the fall before we see their fruiting bodies (mushrooms) the following spring. This means that the abundance of the crop is somewhat dependent on growing conditions the previous summer and autumn.

Morel Mushrooms

Morel Mushrooms

The article also came with a word of warning:

A final caution: Some folks, maybe 15 percent of us, are allergic to morels and get sick when

we eat them. This does not mean you’re eating false or spoiled morels, but it may mean you’ll have to give them away, sell them, or simply play the game of catch and release, using a camera instead of a picker’s bag.

For those of you who can’t get enough morels, you might enjoy the Muscoda Morel Mushroom Festival held this year May 19th-20th. You can enjoy a whole weekend of activities centered on the morel mushroom and this area where they are so prolific. The American Legion Auxiliary will have a food stand serving – you guessed it – fried morels. Watch for their booth near the Kratochwill Memorial Building. 

It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so I’ll repeat another caution that I’m sure you’ve heard before. During morel season you may be sharing the woods with turkey hunters, so do not wear red, white, blue, or black clothing when morel mushroom hunting. Stay safe, enjoy the hunt, and reap the rewards at dinner.

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