By David Draper
I’d never heard of morel mushrooms until I started turkey hunting. Then, suddenly I wasn’t just creeping through the woods hoping to strike a gobbler, I was also scanning the ground for the delicious fungi. Since that moment I found my first morel, I’ve been hooked. When you get into a thick growth of morels, you get so focused you almost forget you were in the woods to kill a turkey. If you’ve never found a morel mushroom, you’re probably not looking hard enough. Or searching in the right spot. Here are five tips that should help your find a motherlode of morels.
I carry two non-hunting items in my turkey vest – a mesh bag and a small probe thermometer. If the thermometer shows the soil temperature six inches below the surface is above 50 degrees, I know I’ll likely find enough morels to fill up the mesh bag. This usually occurs once days are regularly reaching the 60-degree mark and nights aren’t dipping below 40. A string of warm, sunny days will get morels popping.
Southern Facing Slopes
If you’re hunting hilly country, concentrate your mushroom hunt on the hillsides that face the south. These slopes receive the most sunshine in the springtime, which gets the ground temperatures up much sooner than the other side of the rise. Save the north-facing slopes for later into turkey season. They’ll be warmed up enough by then, and won’t have nearly as much tall ground cover that often obscures morels late in the spring.
Know Your Tree Identification
For reasons known only to the mushrooms themselves, morels tend to be found near certain types of trees. A stand of dead elm trees will generally yield a bonanza of morels, as will ash trees. Look for deadfall and stumps that have shed their bark, and don’t be afraid to dig through fallen branches to find morels growing underneath. This is an especially efficient trick in popular spots that may have already been picked over by the public. Old, overgrown orchards are known to hold a motherlode of mushrooms, and you can even find good growth in pine forests, and around poplars too.
Follow the Fire
Once of the best places to pick mushrooms, particularly in western forests, in a burned-over area. A fresh fire or other disturbed ground tends to get morels really popping. If you live near a national forest that burned in recent years, hit that spot soon, before the rest of the world gets there. Although, many of these spots have so many morels after a rain, it’s nearly impossible to pick every mushroom.
Keep Things Quiet
The most important tip when hunting morels is to not talk about morel hunting. A good morel spot will produce year after year, but the moment word gets out, it can get picked clean in an afternoon. But, by all means, if you do hit the motherlode, share that bounty with friends and family. There is no better way to get access to new turkey hunting ground than passing along a sack of fresh mushrooms to a happy landowner.
Recipe: Turkey with Morels & Marsala
- 1 turkey breast, skinned
- ½ cup flour
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 4-6 tbs. butter
- 1 lb. fresh morels, rinsed and drained
- 2-3 shallots, chopped
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup marsala
- 1 cup cream
- Juice from one lemon
- Preheat oven to 375°.
- Cut turkey breast cross-wise into 1-inch steaks. Use a meat mallet, rolling pin or the bottom of a heavy skillet to pound the turkey steaks into cutlets about ¼-inch thick.
- On a shallow plate or pie pan, whisk together flour and salt and pepper to taste.
- Set a cast-iron skillet or other, heavy oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of butter to the pan.
- When the butter foams, dredge turkey cutlets in flour, shake off excess and place in hot pan. Cook, turning once, about 8-10 minutes, until both sides are brown. Cook in batches, adding more butter as necessary. Transfer the browned cutlets to a plate.
- Add 2 tablespoons of butter to the pan, along with morels, shallots and garlic. Stir and let cook for about 2 minutes.
- Add the marsala and raise heat to a simmer, scraping browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook for about 3-4 minutes until the marsala has reduced.
- Stir in the cream and lemon juice. Add the cutlets back into the pan, making sure they are covered in the liquid, and transfer the pan to the hot oven.
- Bake 12-15 minutes, until the turkey is cooked through.
The Essentials Gear Box.
Our editors have hand-picked these essential pieces of gear to make you a more successful hunter when you hit the game trails this season.