10 Morel Hunting Tips For Spring 2022!

10 Morel Hunting Tips For Spring 2022!

Plateful of Morel Mushrooms
A plateful of Morchella tomentosa from the last harvest of July 2021, picked in a wildfire area in Southern Oregon at around 5,250’.

WOOOOHOOOO, MORELS!!! As I’m writing this near Portland, Oregon, the sun is shining on wet ground outside my window and the temperature is almost 60 degrees! My flowers are blooming, and the Facebook forums around the country are starting to flood with pictures of people finding morels right in their own front (and back) yards! If this combination of things doesn’t get you excited for the next few weeks, then you must be new here! If you *are* new here, EVEN BETTER! Welcome to my tiny corner of the internet, please forgive my sense of humor, and let’s get right into some tips for the upcoming Morel Season!

(Note: there are a couple things mentioned here that pertain only to the Pacific Northwest, but almost all of these tips can be used anywhere you live!)

Disclaimer: Mushroom hunting is not a game. Do not eat any wild mushroom that has not been 100% positively identified as edible by someone who knows enough to make that decision. Morel mushrooms are toxic raw. A small portion of the population has intolerances to morels even when thoroughly cooked. All wild mushrooms should be cooked thoroughly and eaten in very small quantity the first time, to make sure that you don’t have an intolerance to them!

 

TIP #1: FOCUS YOUR SEARCH

Overwhelmed man
Copyright Always Sunny In Philadelphia, not my pic, please don’t sue me.

I spent my first few (unsuccessful) years searching for morels with the assumption that they’d be like finding my usual Fall wild edibles: find a pretty forest, walk in it, pick the mushrooms. I’m not sure how many hundreds of miles I drove, or dozens of miles I walked, but I can tell you that I pretty much gave up for a few years. Morels are not as common as most other edibles, they are harder to see, and their life cycle is quite short. To find them, you need to FOCUS YOUR SEARCH:

  • Time It Right: The morel life cycle is short, and they are absolutely a coveted treasure among mushroom hunters. You have to be out searching for them, putting the effort in *during those few short weeks* that a particular species is fruiting! Too soon, and you’ll miss even the baby pins. Too late, and other pickers will have taken them all / they’ll be turning bad!

  • Soil temps: Most morel species begin to fruit when soil temps reach around 50°F! Some states have Government resources that keep track of soil temps, or you can just go out there and stick a thermometer in the ground!

  • Learn The Trees: Morels grow in association with the trees around them. Certain species prefer certain trees, and you can pick potential foraging ground by locating the trees they associate with. Morchella americana, for example, has an association with the riparian Cottonwoods in the Pacific Northwest.

  • Do The Research: Find out what kind of morels grow in your area, and find out *when* they usually grow. iNaturalist.org is a huge help, here. MushroomObserver.org is also a great resource, but a bit more unwieldy to use.

  • Use Your Previous Finds: Once you find some morels, take note of everything about the area! Soil temps, slope face, nearby trees and vegetation, disturbed or natural ground, etc! Also, you can see what the trees in the area look like from satellite view, and try to match that to nearby patches of trees around the same elevation!

  • Elevation: When hunting species like Morchella tridentina, which basically fruits along the snow line as it rises up the mountain, knowing what elevation to focus on can be key! Use an app like OnX Hunt to always know your own elevation, and the elevation of potential foraging ground.

  • Indicator Species: Part of refining your search areas will be learning indicator species that grow alongside/before the morels you’re looking for! This is covered in some detail in TIP #9!

  • Slow Down, Get Low: Morels are not like hunting other mushrooms, like lobsters or chanterelles! They are (generally) smaller, colored like the ground around them, and shaped like a pinecone! Slow down (or stop), get low to the ground, and look outward toward the distance, looking for pinecone shapes that are just a little off!

  • Train Your Eyes: Experienced morel hunters will often look at pictures of morels for a few minutes before heading out for the day! This “trains the eyes” to spot them easier… there’s some science behind it that I don’t understand, but it works!

TIP #2: BE PREPARED

Foraging gear spread on table
Usual items found in the Author's backpack while foraging for mushrooms.

Mushroom hunting, while it might feel like one at times, is not a game! In all likelihood, to find morels you will need to travel off the beaten path, away from civilization, out of cell phone range and maybe even outside of your comfort zones! BE PREPARED when you go out to pick morels! Everybody’s foraging pack will be different depending on where they pick, who they pick with, what they’re foraging for, etc! For ESSENTIALS, I would say the following items should be brought along on any foraging trip, no exceptions:

  • Water: more than you think.

  • Emergency Whistle: lightweight, cheap, durable, small, can save your life. Why not?

  • Emergency Kit: Tools + Food to help you survive if something goes terribly wrong.

Some of these other items should be considered essential if you’re doing anything beyond walking a well-marked trail for 1/4 of a mile, but that choice is up to you, because you know your situation better than I do. Other items that I heartily recommend bringing while foraging, depending on the situation, are:

  • Lighter: In an emergency situation when you need a fire to stay warm, a lighter is the easiest way to make one. Keep it in a plastic bag so that it doesn’t get wet!

  • Hand Warmers: A nice touch on cold days for people with bad circulation, kids, or probably me in like 2 years, because I am old.

  • Bear Mace: It’s not your forest. It’s their forest. In the terrible event that a bear tries to remind you that it is not your forest, bear mace is better than nothing. Probably.

  • Portable (Solar) Phone Chargers: Your phone is your GPS. Do not let it run out of battery. Solar is nice, but leave home with a full charge, don’t rely on the sun.

  • Foraging Knife: I don’t care if you pull or cut, and neither does the mushroom. However: bring a knife to cut the dirty base off at some point before it goes in your basket. Common sense.

  • Extra Paper Bags/Other Containers: Always bring some extra containers in case you run into the motherlode, or find a bunch of edibles of a different kind and want to keep them separate!

  • Head Lamp+Extra Batteries: Spending an unexpected night in the woods is not a fun experience. If it does have to happen, make it slightly less terrifying by bringing a light source.

  • Snacks: Everybody loves snacks! Keep your body energized and morale high while you search.

  • First Aid Kit: filled with adhesive bandages, Mole Skin, Tweezers, Ibuprofen, and countless other items to smooth over any minor injuries or annoyances and get back to foraging!

  • Trauma Kit: You know that feeling when you tumble down a hill, slam your back into a log, look to your left and think “huh, three inches to the left and that branch would have impaled me!”? Well, I do. So I carry a Trauma Pack. Clots blood and stops major blood loss in case of emergencies.

  • Walkie-Talkies: Super convenient when foraging with a buddy! Allows you to comfortably get out of sight range and cover more ground, you don’t have to be yelling at each other to communicate and giving away your spot, etc!

  • TP: Shit happens. If it happens, you don’t want it to be on your ass all day. Bring TP. Bury it deep, if you must use it.

  • Compass: Easier, faster and more reliable than a phone compass, and will work if your phone dies, gets lost or breaks.

  • Benadryl: If your first aid kit doesn’t have it: add it! It’s certainly something you’ll regret not having when you need it! Hornets, toxic plants and more can really ruin your day!

     

TIP #3: FIND SOME FRIENDS!

3 men with morels in foreground
Central Oregon Wildfire Area, 2021. From left to right: Adam McCrae, Craig Bottorff, Eric Badeau.

While it may seem strange, this is probably the most valuable advice that I have to offer you, and it cannot be undervalued for several key reasons:

  • The Buddy System: It could save your life. Morels are known for their love of rugged terrain. Even just a badly twisted ankle could really ruin your day, if you’re a mile from your car with nobody around. Bring a buddy.

  • A Knowledgeable Friend Is Priceless: Several of the best morel hunting trips I have ever had were only possible because of the expertise, hard work and generosity of a friend. Become friends with people that you know find lots of morels. Do not be weird about it, and never ask them for their spots. Wait for them to offer, and if you find someone who *is* willing to share their spots: value this person immensely, and *reciprocate their generosity somehow*. These people are a rare breed and should be treasured.

  • Safety In Numbers: Beyond the innate dangers of traversing rough terrain, wildlife is certainly an issue out there in… the wild. The more people you have with you, the less likely any large predators are to feel inclined to be anywhere near you, let alone attack!

  • Learn From Your Friends: If you’ve ever traveled in a posse of morel hunters, you know that if you’re not being quiet to listen for morels, you’re generally *talking about morels*! Different species, associations, weather and soil preferences, growth patterns, oddities: you name it! Soak up the knowledge of the people you’re with, and share your own!

  • Morale: Low morale can consistently lead to no morels! It can be easy to get discouraged, if you’re all alone and haven’t found anything for a couple hours! A friend can help the whole day be more pleasant, they can remind you to stop and eat, they can boost up the whole team’s energy by finding just one baby pin!

  • More Eyes On The Ground: When searching out a potential new spot, you’ll often stop the car, look around for 15-20 minutes, then drive to a new potential spot. Having just one person with you *doubles* the potential amount of ground you can cover during this short time!

TIP #4: USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO YOUR ADVANTAGE

app stock photo
  • Find Some Friends: Yes, this is literally tip #3. Use social media to find these friends! All of my best, most loyal, and most amazing foraging friends (outside of my actual family) have become my friends through social media. Don’t force anything, but a network of friends is *invaluable* when it comes to foraging, especially when they’re all focused on one thing, like morels!

  • Expand Your Knowledge: Yes, you can even learn a thing or two from social media! Many experts in the field frequent Facebook and other platforms!

If used correctly, Social Media can be a powerful tool in your morel-hunting arsenal! If you don’t get bogged down in the mycological drama and focus your efforts on both networking and observation, you can see real results from your time spent!

  • Ignore The Drama: Lord knows I struggle with this one (much, much less so since I stopped drinking), but *try* to ignore the drama! Life’s too short! You’re awesome, and your time is too valuable to spend it on people who aren’t ready to be nearly as awesome as you!

  • Get Out There: Join as many mushroom and morel-focused Facebook forums as you feel comfortable with. Get all your local areas covered, so that you can see species as they pop nearby.

  • Use The Search Function On Facebook: there is a search bar that can be used within each individual forum on Facebook. You can use it to search for morels (and relevant terms), to see when and where they have popped in previous years, or recently.

  • Follow Foragers/Mycophiles On Instagram: Following foragers, especially local ones, will give you an excellent idea of when species are growing!

  • Observe: Watch the forums! Set notifications for every local mushroom forum to “all”, if you can handle it! People love to be the first in an area to post a baby morel, so often times these season-starting posts will be very easy to find and do generally mark the beginning *of that species* for an area.

TIP #5: DON’T GET DISCOURAGED

Large group of morel mushrooms
Morchella importuna fruiting near Eugene, OR in 2018.

Speaking as someone who tried and failed for almost ten years to find morels, I can tell you that I personally know the feeling of being discouraged while trying to hunt down these elusive creatures. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you feel down in the dumps during your morel adventures!

  • Your Time Wasn’t Wasted: Each time you try and fail to find morels, you get a better sense of what unsuccessful areas are going to look and feel like. Keep track of your failures, maybe you were just too early! Keep trying new spots!

  • Your Time Still Wasn’t Wasted: Yes, you heard me. You were in NATURE! You (hopefully) brought buddies! Maybe a dog? You got fresh air, you got exercise, you got dirty and liked it! Forgive yourself the wasted gas, and revel in your hobby! You’ll get them next time!

  • Don’t Burn Out: If you’re failing to find morels day after day and can’t catch a break, take a step back! Take a day off, and do some research and planning. Perhaps try a new location, or a different species!

  • They’re Not Gonna Find Themselves: At a certain point, it really can be about perseverance. Not pushing yourself daily to the point of driving yourself crazy, but you can expect to be spending a significant amount of your free time looking for morels before ever finding a single one, let alone any quantity.

  • Bring That Buddy: Yet again, friends are great here! If you carpool, they can turn a 6 hour drive into a 3-hour drive and a nap! They can commiserate with you over failures and celebrate success when it happens. Priceless stuff.

  • Keep Your Energy Levels Up: Eat food. Drink water. If caffeine is your thing, go for it! Bring some high-energy friends who love mushrooms as much as you! Without energy, morale can plummet fast, and you won’t find that magic patch in the last hour of searching, because you already went home!

  • Other Things Grow During Spring: Keep your eyes out for other edibles! Oysters grow year round, Verpa grow just before/during morel season, and in my area Spring Kings are a delectable springtime treat! Find out what else grows in your area during spring! Don’t forget that Chlorociboria grows year-round as well, so you can be collecting blue-green wood for art projects any time of year! I also wrote a blog about Finding and Identifying Early Morels, AKA Verpa species, if you feel inclined to read it!

  • Don’t Lay Down And Die: If you feel the urge to lay down, curl up in fetal position and die from your lack of morels, just don’t do it! There could be a morel just around the next bend! If you DO make this choice, at least there will be other mushrooms around to eat you!

If you *are* going to get eaten by a mushroom, you could only hope he’s as cute as this one!! If you have a moment and feel like checking out our little selection of Mushroom Apparel, we’d be absolutely honored! Otherwise, keep scrolling for more morel hunting tips!

TIP #6: The OnX Hunt APP

OnX Hunt photo showing pins of locations

This is going to look like a paid advertisement for OnX Hunt. It is not. I’m suggesting that you use this product because it works well. It is what I use for every foraging trip I take. I believe that there is still a free version that works well for all the basic features like route tracking and land ownership. I personally buy the yearly subscription that includes the fire layers on the map, for the specific purpose of using them during Morel Season.

  • Land Ownership Boundaries: This is a huge one. OnX keeps an up-to-date map layer showing exactly who owns what piece of land. It will show private land, government land, public land, BLM, etc. This is *incredibly* helpful when planning out a trip, and also during the trip, to stay off private land!

  • Gated Areas: While not perfectly consistent, OnX does have many of the Forest Service and Private gates marked on their maps, and they get updated with “open” or “closed”. It has saved me a long drive or two.

  • Route Tracking: Track your path. OnX leaves a trail along your path on the map once you start recording so that you know exactly where you’ve traveled, and how to get back to your starting point. It’s also nice to brag about how many miles you walked that day.

  • Other Tools: OnX keeps track of your GPS coordinates and elevation, has a 3D mode to show topography, and a hybrid map to show both satellite and topography lines. You can also drop unlimited pins with different colors, to mark potential spots, or successful/unsuccessful ones with their own color.

  • Elevation: Not only does elevation matter as far as actual mushroom grown goes, but a steep rise in elevation can mean that the ground is unsuitable for picking. Use OnX in conjunction with Google maps to find places that you can both drive to and walk around.

  • Burn Layers: This feature is only accessed through the paid subscription, but is the single feature that many morel hunters, including myself, pay for. OnX will show an outline of where each fire from previous years has happened on the map, giving you accurate information and the ability to plan spots within a burn ahead of time. Find a flat spot at the right elevation with decent access within a burn on OnX maps? You might have some company, but you’ll also probably find morels.

  • Offline Maps: OnX lets you download maps up to 10 square miles at a time, and keeps it on your phone for use when you’re out of cell service. This way roads, trails, detailed topography and other features are still available when offline!

     

TIP #7: BE RESPECTFUL

no trespassing sign stock photo

Sometimes, mushroom foragers like to talk some big talk. Phrases like “I’m gonna pick my own body weight this season!” and “Those gates can just be walked past!” may have been uttered in the past by yours truly, but when it comes right down to it: it’s better for everyone to just be respectful.

  • Respect Other Foragers: Morel season is a pretty cutthroat time for foraging. People may try to invade your personal space, follow you to other spots, etc. Do NOT be that person. Respect your fellow foragers, give them space in the woods, etc. If a friendly conversation naturally happens, so be it. If they have no interest in talking to you, respect that!

  • Do Not Trespass: Always know who owns the land you’re on! This is easy with OnX Hunt, all you have to do is click your location, and it will tell you the owner of the land!

  • Respect Open Burn Zones: Some burn zones are open to public access. If this is the case, respect them! Tread lightly. Do not litter. Do not interfere with any wildlife.

  • Respect Closed Burn Zones: Some burn zones are NOT open to public access. If this is the case, respect them! They close off access to burns for a variety of reasons, and while this may be frustrating to us foragers, it doesn’t mean that we can ignore signage and trespass!

  • TIP #8: ORGANIZE YOUR MOREL-HUNTING POSSE!

Video Game Posse
Image Credit Red Dead Redemption 2, not mine at all, please don’t sue me.

Just because you *have* friends who are interested in mushrooms/morels doesn’t mean much! Just like anything else, you have to put the effort in to reap the benefits!

  • Keep In Touch: Start a group chat / private messenger group just for morel season. Use it to keep in touch about recent finds, potential areas, meet-ups, etc!

  • Don’t Be Greedy: Share those spots with your posse. Maybe not *all* your spots, but if your friends are trusting you with their spots, you should be returning that favor!

  • Forage With A Plan: Use the number of people you have to your advantage! Split up, take different areas (walkie talkies come in handy here), whoever finds the most morels can bring the others to that productive area!

  • Make The Plans: If you’re heading out to look for morels, invite your people! Even if it’s a bit of a drive, you never know when someone might just be feeling frisky! Hopefully, they’ll reciprocate the offer sometime!

  • MAKE THE PLANS: Set a date! Pick one that works for as many people as possible! Offer carpool options, organize meetup spots, plan out potential areas for the day!

  • Use Distance To Your Advantage: If your morel hunting buddies span across the state like mine do, even better! Keep in contact with them! You can watch as the morels creep upward to your area, and have a heads up on locations that may be worth a long drive!

 

TIP #9: LOOK FOR MOREL INDICATOR SPECIES

Beyond tree associations, it’s also helpful to look on the ground for other mushrooms (and plants!) that also have associations with the same trees that morels do, or simply enjoy the same terrain, soil temps and environment for growth.

  • Sarcosphaera cf coronaria: if you see these fruiting, you are likely in an area that can support Morchella of some variety. They enjoy much of the same terrain. They also fruit at the same time as Morchella, so they are an excellent indicator species. They often grow literally with arm’s reach of Morels.

Purple Cup Fungus, Sarcosphaera
Sarcosphaera cf coronaria. I often find this growing alongside Morchella tridentina and Morchella conica, on the East Side of the Cascade Mountains.
  • Verpa bohemica/conica: These cousins to morels are often called “Early Morels” for good reason: they often grow in the same areas that morels do, but are dying off just as the “true” morels are beginning.

4 Verpa bohemica in hand
Verpa bohemica found near Portland, Oregon.
  • Trillium sp: These beautiful white and purple flowers begin to bloom at the same time that morels begin to flourish. They do not guarantee morels nearby, but they guarantee that the weather is warm enough for them to fruit if they *are* nearby.

trillium flower
Trillum, Copyright Wikipedia 2022.
  • Gyromitra esculenta/infula: While not as strong as an indicator as some species, Gyromitra can often be a positive indication that you are in the right terrain for morels!

Gyromitra esculenta, False Morel
Gyromitra esculenta. This toxic mushroom often grows near Morchella species (morels).

TIP #10: PUT YOUR BOOTS ON THE GROUND

Large group of Morel Mushrooms
Morchella importuna fruiting in the Holiday fire near Eugene, OR. April, 2020.

You can follow every tip I’ve given here to the letter, but the simple fact is: if you’re not out there actively looking for these mushrooms during their very short season, you will probably never find any. Beyond just the stamina to often walk for miles, it can take perseverance, willpower and even a touch of humility to truly be successful when hunting morels.

  • Don’t Push Your Limits: Yes, you want to cover a lot of ground. No, you do not want to end up with leg cramps 4 miles from your car with the sun setting. Always give yourself plenty of time to get back safely, and stay hydrated, rested and fed!

  • More Boots Is A Good Thing: Once again, having friends is the way to go! If you coordinate a grid system, a small number of people can comb a fairly large area. Even just splitting to different potential areas can prove very rewarding! If you have separate cars, you can cover even more ground and keep in touch by walkie-talkie, if you want!

  • Keep Track Of Your Boots: Or rather, where they’re walking! Use OnX hunt (or one of the other apps that do so) to track your route and save it, so that you have it on file for later! I’m poring over last year’s maps and walking routes tonight!

  • Make It Part Of Your Life: If you’re picturing going out and finding morels within a couple hours of searching your first time, you’re likely going to be disappointed! (All power to you, if this isn’t the case!) Just finding your first one will likely require a lot more time than you think, and a bit of dedication to the cause! To have a truly successful season, expect to be scouting or actively foraging for morels at *least* once a week during the season.

  • Invest In Decent Gear: You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on outdoor equipment to be a successful morel hunter, but it really does help to have durable clothing that you can be comfortable moving around in for 6-8+ hours at a time. Get some decent boots, some jeans or other pants that you can clamber over logs in. A backpack with some support, an emergency kit and other “essentials” from Tip #1 are also a good idea.


Well, that’s all the tips I have for you today! I truly hope that these tips help you in your morel-hunting adventures. If you’ve managed to slog all the way through this blog, congratulations! That’s a good sign that you probably have the patience and dedication to actually find morels! If you feel like this little blog provided some value to you, I’d like to humbly ask that you consider taking a peek at my wife Suzi’s wonderful mushroom stickers! To stay up-to-date on more blogs and products, you should definitely sign up for our email list below, and make sure to pop over and check out our LinkTree to follow our Social Media! Thank you so much for taking the time to check out our little website, and I hope you have an absolutely fantastic day!

Original artwork by Suzi McCrae, these are our Mushroom Pinup Girls, the “Tantalizing Trio: A FunGal Triple Threat!” Also available as 8x10” Prints!
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