"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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 Time To Go North, Mushroom Hunters!
Copyright © 2003 by Bill Scifres

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 Haute newspaper.

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 over.

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 it.

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!” 


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.” 

All columns are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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