"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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Mushroom Stick Companions: For Better or Worse
Copyright © 2004 by Bill Scifres

To this point March has been more lion than lamb, but if form prevails we will be hearing reports of morel mushroom finds before the month fades into April.

Hoosier morellers--ye olde editor included--have a bent for starting the quest for spring morels days (even weeks) before conditions are right. But this is not all bad for a number of reasons, the most important of which being that these dry runs offer a chance for selecting just the right mushroom stick.

A mushroom stick is not a must for successful morel hunting. But such a "tool" will save many a crick in the back by uncovering items like pieces of corn cob, sycamore balls, and simple air pockets under dry leaves that could be morels but aren't.

Then, of course, there is the deep-rooted kinship that can develop between the mushroom master and his "stick." 

Frankly, I have never owned a mushroom stick that confessed a pure and abiding love for me, but I have always assumed that this shortcoming of appreciation has been thwarted only by the fact that the vocabulary of mushroom sticks is quite limited--like: "Flip that big sycamore leaf over, boss; there may be a little gray hiding under there." 

I might add that when mushroom sticks go out on a limb to predict such possibilities, they usually are wrong. But I give them an "A" for effort.

Mushroom sticks have many physical characteristics. They are long and slim, short and strong, with or without forks at the terminus, and green or dry, not to mention other attributes. Thus, there are many decisions to be made in selecting just the right stick.

The green-versus-dry issue is always a dilemma for me. I figure a green stick is more sturdy, but this option entails ending the life of an innocent seedling. However, not to be overlooked in going green is the bark that offers a chance to do some fancy monogramming during rest stops in the woods, when your wife is vainly trying to get you to plant the flowers she bought at the store, and other times.

Frankly, I like a dead sticks because they are lighter. But dead sticks are greater breakage risks, and everyone knows a broken stick in a half-picked patch of morels can be disastrous.

Green sticks certainly are more durable. If a small-diameter seedling can be located, the weight factor is minimized.

I also see a terminal fork as a must. You never know when you might want to pin a copperhead, or some other critter, to the earth to get a better look at him.

No matter how you go in selecting a mushroom stick, the thing to remember is that you are taking this stick for better or worse . . . It will be your constant companion at least for this year, perhaps years to come.

I have a tendency to take a new stick with each new morel season. I save the old sticks, stacking them neatly (long-gun style) in a peaceful little nook between the elevated dining room fireplace and a China cabinet. It seems to be a good spot--I enjoy looking at my collection on cold winter nights when my wife says I have a "far-away" look in my eyes. It seems like a good spot until someone, who looks less kindly than I on things like old mushroom sticks, quietly thins the ranks by turning a few into kindling . . . an inherent weakness of the location.

When we have company for dinner and I have done my mushroom-stick routine, somebody always asks: "Which one is your favorite?"

"They're all my favorites," I say with a smile, "if they weren't, they wouldn't be there."

Click on thumbnail photo for enlarged view.

sticks.JPG (51592 bytes) sticks1.JPG (54431 bytes)
I stack my sticks, long-gun style in a pleasant little nook between the elevated dining room fireplace and a China cabinet. Closeup of my sticks in their niche. 

PUBLIC MEETINGS--For the past six months, a 10-member group comprised of Indiana deer farmers, hunting preserve owners and conservationists have studied the controversial subjects of regulating white-tailed deer ranching and hunting of deer and elk within fenced enclosures in Indiana.

Now the group is ready to put its findings before the public at four meetings scheduled for this month and April.

Known as the Citizens Advisory Council on Captive Cervids (CACCC), the group has developed recommendations for how Indiana should regulate deer and elk in captivity.

The series of recommendations address rehabilitation of white-tailed deer, cervids as pets, regulatory functions of the DNR and Indiana Board of Animal Health, and hunting of cervids within high-fenced enclosures. 

However, to this point the panel has not agreed on issues of hunting deer in fenced areas should be handled.

The four meetings will give the public an opportunity to express their views on all facets of the group's deliberations, including hunting deer in fenced areas. 

The schedule of meetings follows:

March 19, 2-7 p.m. at Vincennes, Executive Inn, 1 Executive Boulevard;
March 20, 2-7 p.m. at Seymour, Holiday Inn, US 50 & I 65;
April 2, 2-7 p.m. at Fort Wayne, Best Western Motel, I 69 & SR 24 (Exit 102);
April 3, 2-7 p.m. at West Lafayette, Hilton Garden Inn, 356 East States Street.

A complete listing of the advisory council's recommendations is available at: http://www.in.gov/dnr/cervidcouncil/resolutions.html

Information about CACCC (including notes from each of the group's eight meetings) is available at http://www.in.gov/dnr/cervidcouncil

All columns, essays, and photos 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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