I am still getting them . . . the questions about
morels, but at what seems to be “this late date” the questions are about
the lack of morels. What has happened? Readers want to know.
It is not as if we have run into a stone wall
in the mushroom crop inquiry. Some people are finding blacks and white
(there are two kinds, you know).
Fairly good numbers of both blacks and whites
are being found from the length and breadth of the state (slow in the northern
However, lacking are the reports of humongous
finds of big yellows (alias big yallers to many Hoosiers). Lilac is in
full bloom now--has been for several days--and that is the greatest tattler
of all about the incognito presence of morels.
I have been to my favorite Boone County woodland
four well spaced times in the last two weeks (one time the woods was still
damp from rain). The other hunt was in Hamilton County. I have yet to find
a morel, although both locales have always been a “sure thing.”
At first I thought after something like 70 years
of always finding morels aplenty, I have merely lost the eyesight to see
them. But I am sure that is not the case. My eyes still zero in on minute
objects in the woods. Furthermore, a good friend with whom I have shared
morel lore for many years (and in my favorite woods) has told me that he
has scoured our woods without a single sighting.
My friend and I, both very good morel hunters,
agree that the morels are not there. My friend even concludes that our
woods (we don’t own it) may be “burned out.”
This theory could be the solution to the problem,
but I don’t think in that direction. The trees are still the same, and
the forest floor (humus) still awaits the microscopic spore that spawns
It could be overkill on our part (but few other
mushroom hunters are permitted to hunt there). Even at that, I am sure
that the best morel hunter of the state could not find them all. For example,
a few years ago I agreed to take Bob Gregory (Kevin’s father, then weatherman
at Channel 13) mushroom hunting at my favorite woods. (I blindfolded him
until we were in the woods . . . that’s a joke, son.)
To make sure we found a few, the season was early,
I went there in the preceding afternoon to mentally mark the locations
of 17 morels. Next day we found all 17 of ‘em, plus one extra. So nobody
finds them all.
Another example that nobody finds them all, I
encountered a very good mushroom hunter in a woodland close to home, near
Fishers (houses now). Our meeting occurred near the stump of a very large
We sat side by side on the stump and only a few
minutes passed before one of us spied a smallish white (I call them goosenecks).
We picked 27 morels there before we parted. He headed for home.
I moseyed to the back side of the woods without
great success. On the way home, I let my path take me past the stump.
I wondered if two good mushroom hunters could have missed any morels.
The upshot is: I hunted the stump area again (solo)
and found 14 more morels.
Not even good mushroom hunters find all of them.
There still are plenty left to produce seed (spore).
To further illustrate the enormity of the spring
morel crop, for many years the late Dr. Bill Peare, a general practitioner
at Huntington but who grew up in Western Indiana, used to find it a “ho-hum”
day when his patients spun yarns of morel finds. They would spin yarns
of finding 15, 20 or even 30 or 40. Bill would yawn.
The patients would put Dr. Bill on the fire by
asking how many he had found.
The patients would glow with pride when Bill answered
“THREE or FOUR.”
Bill would let the lucky “morellers” gloat for
a spell on their good finds, then tell them that where he came from they
counted morels by the bucket. And
One day in the Huntington area, I noticed a lone,
lanky man going into the woods along a creek. I thought he was probably
a morel hunter in line for my favorite patch. But if I would slide down
a very steep hill on my posterior, I could beat him there.
Slide I did, and as the hunter approached the
patch, I slipped behind some bushes. Theidentity of the hunter hit me as
he approached. I let out a hoot owl call that stopped him in his tracks.
All was still for a spell, and the hunter said: “ALL RIGHT, YOU OLD GOAT,”
or words of that nature, I KNOW YOU’RE HERE . . . NOW WHERE THE HELL ARE
We didn’t find morels at that patch that day,
but as we sauntered down the nearby creek, Bill picked more than 800 and
I interrupted my camera chores to find more than 400. It was a pretty good
day midst the sycamores.
So what is causing this shortfall? Last night
in a noisy eatery (and drinkery), a group of tennis players asked me the
question again. “What is causing the dearth of morels. The answer is very
simple, even for good Republicans: “BUSH!”