It seems almost like a dream, staring up the hillside at an endless patch of pine-cone sized black morels. That is my first memory of mushroom hunting with my mom. I was 3 years old. I don’t remember much else of that day in the hills of Glennie Michigan other than that brown paper grocery bag heaping over with mushrooms, but from that day on I was hooked forever.
Hunting for morel mushrooms turned into a lifelong passion for me. Over the years I have studied and learned other edible mushrooms to forage for, so morels in the spring is now just the beginning of a spring through autumn adventure in the woods of Michigan.
For me being in the woods searching for mushrooms is much more rewarding than just a bag of good eats at the end of the day. Exploring new areas, observing wildlife and passing down the knowledge and tradition to my children as my mom did for me, seems as much as a part of the circle of life as life and death itself. I get more of a thrill watching my kids find a mushroom and picking it and hearing them say excitedly “there’s 3 here, and 2 more here, and more over there!” That’s what it is all about.
My mother and I have spent many days in the woods together filling our bags, finding new spots and walking ourselves weary. Sadly she is slowing down now and can’t go very far anymore. In turn I have turned to my responsibility to taking my family and teaching them as I was taught and I still deliver some of the bounty to my mom so she can enjoy a nice meal. It sure isn’t the same without her there in our favorite spots that her and I found over the years.
Thankfully I am blessed with a few daughters who love nature and being in the woods looking for mushrooms. My youngest who is now 6 likes to walk closely behind me and say “dad you missed one”. She does it quite regularly so I don’t know if I’m losing my touch or should be wearing my eye-glasses in the woods. She is quite a trooper, she done a 6 mile hike just this last weekend and never complained once and she put more mushrooms in my bag than I did.
She thought she was pretty sneaky when her mom said “found one” so she hurriedly ran over to her and picked it and then ran back and put it in my bag. Things quickly escalated the second time when she tried a second sneak and steal and mom made her put it in her bag. Oops, now we have a crying child in then woods.
Over the years we have made so many good memories in the woods. We have found fallen trees that were hollow, packed with hundreds of pounds of honeycomb, found baby deer, turkey and grouse nests full of eggs and even had a mother woodcock fly a few feet away and pretend she had a broken wing to get our attention while her tiny babies ran all around our feet cheeping and chirping. It’s all of those little things that last a lifetime.
We have witnessed a major boom in mushroom hunting popularity mostly caused by the internet. Finding spots that haven’t been picked before you get there is getting harder and harder. Deforestation is also booming and it seems like they like to clear cut everyones favorite mushroom woods first! Keep your spots to yourself unless you want growing amounts of competition year after year. Please respect nature and take out whatever you bring with you. Dirty diapers, cigarette butts and beer cans can sure take away from a beautiful day in the woods. We’ve seen it all.
Most importantly, take your time enjoy the little things and have fun making a lifetime of memories! Teach your children, so when you hurt too bad to make the long walks you still get a bag of mushrooms at the end of the day!