Ohio has basically three kinds of morels. The smaller blacks appear first, and I've found very few of these, maybe because they can be hard to see half hidden in forest leaves. Larger whites appear second, a lovely mushroom much easier to spot, then finally the king of them all, the giant morel or "big yellow" which averages six to seven inches, but might reach 18 in rare cases. You'll find them first down along the Ohio River, then further north around Chillicothe, then around Columbus, eventually Mansfield and parts east and west, and along Lake Erie. After that they begin growing in southern Michigan, then central, and northern Michigan, all of this as the weather warms in these places.
It takes two things to start morels of any kind popping through the leaf litter: warmth and rain. Put together several warm days and a good rain, and they'll begin coming one after the other, blacks, then whites, then giants. If there's a question, it's where can you find some? I have no answer for that. I've fund them along railroad right-of-ways, on heavily forested hillsides, in fruit orchards, on brushy hills and in thinly forested flatlands. Basically, they're where you find them and nowhere else.
Which means you have to pay your dues to fill a bag. So, you walk along slowly, stopping every few feet to peer around you, then walk a few more feet and stop to look. I've found them in just a few minutes and hunted all day with nothing much. Ask an expert where to look best, and you might hear anything. Some like to concentrate around beds of May apples, or patches of Trilliums, Others like mixed hardwoods or south facing slopes or dead elms or ash trees, near fiddlehead ferns, the list goes on.
There are a few things to keep in mind.
One is that you carry your catch in an onion meshed sack whenever possible. Fresh picked morels need to be kept cool and aerated. In a plastic bag that's warm and humid they deteriorate rapidly. And two (most important) always leave two to three behind to produce spores for the next years harvest. I well remember a woman who complained that the first time she hunted her five acre woodlot, she found plenty, but next year not so many, two years ago only a few and last year none at all.
I asked "Do you take every one when you find some?" "Of course," When you get them home, you'll want to soak them in salt water a bit to rid them of dirt and insects, then slice them into strips or pieces and just go wild! Omeletes, on steaks, in meat loaf, simply fried in butter, trout stuffed with morels, quiche, and many more recipes. Bet you can hardly wait.
Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at [email protected] You also can visit his blog at outdoorswithmartin.com.
HOOKS & BULLETS
• Like to try your luck fishing at no charge? The Division of Wildlife has announced that May 4-5 will be Ohio's free fishing weekend, when Ohio residents may fish for free in any of Ohio's public waters, including Lake Erie and the Ohio River. It's the only weekend all year when those 16 years old or older are not required to have a fishing license, and a great opportunity to try your luck at this fine outdoor sport.
• The Ohio Wildlife Council has approved the 2019-2020 deer hunting regulations, so hunters who like to make plans ahead can do it now. Deer archery will run Sept. 28 through Feb. 2, and youth deer gun season will be Nov. 23 through 24. Deer gun will be Dec. 2 through 8 and Dec. 21 and 22, and the deer muzzleloader season will be Jan. 4 through 7.
• Would-be bass anglers who would like to learn how to take advantage of the spring fishing can join a free seminar from 6 to 9 p.m. Monday, May 20 Division of Wildlife experts will present basic bass fishing strategies in the Aquatic Education Building located at the Wildlife District Three Headquarters, 912 Portage Lakes Drive, Akron. Topics include bass ecology, equipment, and lure selection. The seminar is free, but pre-registration is required, To do so, call Ken Fry at 330-245-3030.
• The Ohio Ornithological Society (OOS) is now accepting signups for guided beginner birding tours during the International Migratory Bird Day weekend, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife. The OOS, in cooperation with the Division of Wildlife, will be conducting guided bird walks May 11 and 12 at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area. These outings are targeted at novice or new birding enthusiasts and help people who are new to birding get better acquainted with the beauty of birds. The walks on May 11 will be held at 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., and 12:30 p.m. and the walks on May 12 will be held at 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Walks are limited to 15 participants each and will be filled on a first come, first served basis. Interested individuals can register by emailing [email protected] Please provide your name, phone number, and requested date and time-slot. Additional information will be provided upon registration.