In the mid-1800s the watch words for those seeking wealth was: “Go west,
young man.” It is likely that this colorful phrase was coined by a Terre
In the week of May 5, 2003, I would paraphrase that wisdom by saying:
"Go north, mushroom hunters, if you are looking for big grays and yallers.”
That is another way of saying that the spring morel season probably
went over the hill into the northern third of the state--possibly into
Michigan--over the past weekend.
It is a graphic illustration that spring mushroom seasons are as fickle
and unpredictable as a tomcat. It is fine to believe that certain species
of morels will appear when other elements of the spring are present, but
one must also realize that spring morels (like many other plants and animals)
reserve the right to do as they please.
For example, it has not been many years since I sneaked away from a
Mother’s Day celebration at mid-May to catch some bluegills for stocking
my front-yard pond. I carried my spinning gear, an assortment of small
jig-type lures, and a five-gallon bucket which would be used to transport
a few ‘gills back to my home.
I was emphasizing bluegills because I believed the morel season was
But as another old saw goes: The best laid plans of mice and men sometime
go awry. And so it was that as I walked through a wooded area toward to
a pond, I noticed the stem of a huge gray morel in the path, its cap nearby
. . . someone, or perhaps a deer, had kicked off the cap without seeing
I bent over to pinch off the stem (and cover the stump) and the cap.
While accomplishing these tasks, my peripheral vision zeroed in on many
other huge grays. Every place I looked there were beautiful, big grays
waiting to be picked.
The bluegills were forgotten in the blink of an eye, and before darkness
chased me out of the woods I had filled the five-galloon bucket and two
plastic bags, each of which probably held more than a gallon.
It was my greatest ever morel find for a single patch. And it came after
all of the signs of the woods had told me the morel season was over.
To further illustrate the intricacies of morel hunting as spring heads
toward summer, we offer an experience of daughter Patty, a wildlife biologist
and forester, who was working on a tree project in one of the western,
mountainous, national parks a few years back.
It was mid-summer here--our morel season long since gone. But I received
this letter from Patty. She had taken a walk up a mountain on her day off
and had grown tired as she entered a grove of trees at about 5,000 feet--Douglas
fir, as I recall.
There she found a huge patch of gray morels and wanted to pick some
of them. But realizing that park regulations would not permit the picking,
she simply flaked out in the middle of the morels for a nap.
“When I awakened, I saw all those mushrooms and thought I had died and
gone to heaven,” Patty concluded.
All of which, points to the fact that the morel season can last through
much of the summer, depending upon the elevation (or even latitude) of
your position. Or as the great Yankee baseballer, Yogi Berra, once put
it in speaking of late rallies: “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over!”
WHO SAID WHAT?
Whether John Babsone Lane Soule, was a Hoosier, or merely wrote for
the Terre Haute Indiana Express, is not clear, but that newspaper is credited
with originating the famous “Go West” declaration in 1851. The statement
was, of course, made famous (apparently later) by the famed newsman, Horace
Greeley, in the New York Tribune. Greeley is said to have published Soule’s
article to show the source of his inspiration.
Greeley embellished the declaration: “Go west, young man, and grow
up with your country.”