"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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Where Are The Morels?
Copyright © 2008 by Bill Scifres

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 tier counties).

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 morels.

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 oak tree.

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 they did.

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 YOU?”

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!”

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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