One of the things I learned very quickly about living in the Ozarks is that people keep secrets about where morels grow.
At our old ghost cattle ranch, we all like to hunt for the elusive mushroom and we tell each other where the mushrooms can be found – but, that is top-secret, classified family business.
My mother-in-law once found the biggest mushroom in the Tri-County area, and for that honor she was awarded $5, and a photo of her prize-winning ’shroom in the paper.
Over near Kansas City, there live some mad mycophagists named Theresa and John Maybrier. They suggest hunting during turkey season after 1 p.m., when turkey hunters must quit for the day here in Missouri. They also urge all mushroom hunters to carry mesh bags so that the spores can spread in the woods.
The Maybriers remind mushroom hunters not to wear red, white (including your socks) or blue into the woods, for those are the colors that the gobblers display. They suggest that you don a wide-brimmed hat or long-billed baseball cap to protect your head from the sun and your eyes from tree branches.
Because to get to morels, hunters have to traipse through territory rife with Hawthorne tree thorns, wild rose bushes and gooseberries, the Maybriers also recommend sturdy shoes or boots. Yellow or orange shirts are a must for safety in the woods.
Theresa gives a helpful tip for beginners: “The significant thing to remember is to look for trees that are in the process of dying – morels like the soft hardwoods such as birch, maple, elm, ash, sycamore, aspen, poplars. Morels are fungus. Looking for the trees that are dying will increase the number of morels they will find because this is a food source for the morel underground organism, giving it strength to reproduce.”
The Maybriers take their mushroom hunting outside the Show Me State’s borders, and offer hunting mushroom adventure trips to Michigan every spring. The Maybriers have written a book filled with tips for hunting mushrooms and also, recipes.
About mushroom hunting, John says, “Every season is completely different.” He adds, “Once you figure it out, you can go anywhere and find ’em.”
This Retro WON first appeared April 22, 2015.