By Rick Bramwell
For The Herald Bulletin
---- — Winter was long, spring has not sprung and I am thinking this will be one of the best morel seasons in a long time.
My mind is mush from reading so much information about morels, but there is some new and interesting theories waiting to be tested.
A winter, with a lot of snow, means more morels will grow. I have believed this for years. Heavy snow creates wet conditions going into the morel season, but moisture may not be the reason for a bumper crop.
Snowy winters also mean cold winters. The spring of 1979 was great for morels. That winter and this one past, were very cold. My neighbor is a plumber and reported a frost line of nearly four feet. Could this have the same effect as a forest fire?
The mycelium might get stressed and react to produce more spores (morels). Or, the host (there is a symbiotic relationship between tree/shrub roots and the mycelium) root systems might get damaged and cause a change in nutrition.
Professional pickers gravitate to burn areas from the year before and harvest bushel baskets a day. Freeze driers show up to purchase those morels.
Ground temperature is a condition to consider. It takes a few days of 55-degree temps at 4 inches to bring up the small blacks and grays. It is best for daytime temperatures to be above 60 and for nighttime lows to be above 45 degrees. Big yellow morels need 80-degree-plus daytime temps late April/early May.
My best guess is the season is running 8 to 12 days behind schedule. Crawford, Brown and Monroe counties reported a few morels found Tuesday. Morels progress about 100 miles in a week and that takes us to early next week around here.
The best find was near Bloomington where two people found 87 morels and four false morels.
Bob Porter lives south of Patoka Reservoir. He searched a favorite area Tuesday and found nothing. “My indicator is the poke weed and it is not up,” he said.
Look for new ant hills in your yard or dandelions beginning to bloom away from buildings. Another, time-tested sign, is when lilacs are just ready to bloom.
There are a lot of message board morel websites to help keep you abreast of the latest finds and follow migrations. Also, a new TV series, to be aired April 20 at 10 p.m. on National Geographic called “Filthy Riches” will feature Chris Matherly and Laverna Holes, among others, hunting morels, eels and ginseng. Matherly has the website: www.morelhunters.net and is now selling morels for $45 per pound. He also offers morel forays.
I hunt turkey in Owen County and this year my attention will be divided between gobblers and morels. The turkey youth season is April 19-20 with the regular season beginning April 23.
I also fish near a lake with lots of bass and big bluegill. When the toms are not gobbling the gills are usually biting.
Rick Bramwell’s outdoors columns appear on Thursday.