Hunting morel mushrooms in Oregon is a passion of mine. I like to offer tips on how to score one of the world's most delectable foods.
Tips for Finding Morel Mushrooms
What is it that draws people off of their couches, out of their homes, and into the thickets of the woods to go and hunt for these elusive and ugly mushrooms? Well, for me, it is the joy of the hunt.
The hunt is on here in Southern Oregon as morels (Morchellas) pop up in the woods after long, drawn-out winters. When you find a morel foraging, there is a sort of primal exhilaration that hits you and you don't want to stop! It is one of the most addicting and enjoyable hobbies I've ever had.
So, you want to hunt morels? Well, you've got to know what you're doing and what to bring with you. In this article, I'll teach you exactly what to do and how to locate morels here in Southern Oregon.
Eating unknown mushrooms from the wild can be dangerous! Many wild mushrooms are poisonous; they can make you very sick or even kill you. Use caution and never forage without someone who knows what they are looking for. And always research the subject before ever venturing into the woods to do any foraging.
General Area Morel Map of Southern Oregon
Where Can You Pick Morel Mushrooms?
I could be killed for revealing these spots, but I am listing general places here in Southern Oregon where I have found morels. Morel hunting spots are like gold here and people guard their spots with dedication like they would a gold claim. I feel like this is sort of foolish since anyone can go on public land and pick morels. In the table below, I give a general area of where you will find them in Southern Oregon.
Months and Locations for Morel Hunting
Jacksonville cemetery, Ruge Applegate area (Steep Terrain), Gold Hill (Rock Point)
You can find pounds up around the dam in Applegate. Look for stems as the caps are camouflaged against the dark earth and forest litter.
Butte Falls, Ob enchain, Ruge
We recently found morels up around a clear cutting burn site on Ob enchain.
The Rules of Mushroom Hunting
Essential Mushroom Hunting Tools
What to Bring:
- Water: Always have bottled water or a canteen of fresh water with you. I keep bottles of water in the trunk of my vehicle as well.
- A Compass, Maps, or GPS: When out in the woods it is easy to get lost. Always bring a compass and have maps of the area you are in. You can get lost easily with your eyes pinned to the ground and the forest canopy can make it easy to get turned around. Know where you are and travel with a group of people. Knowing how to use a compass, having maps, or having a GPS device (even better) can save your life.
- Pocket Knife: Bring a pocket knife to cut the morels from their stems. You cut them just below the base of the cap and leave the stock.
- Mesh Bags: Mesh bags are great because they allow for morel spores to drop as you trek through the forest back to your vehicle. It also allows for the fungus to breath and not spoil like they do in buckets.
- Long-Sleeved Clothes and Head Cover: Long sleeves are a good idea when out in the forest because morels grow in thickets and in deep brush. With all the nasty bugs like ticks and sharp sticks, it is a good idea to remain covered. Wear boots or good footwear when out in the forest since you will be in heavy terrain.
- An Emergency Kit and a Snake Bite Kit: Always have an emergency kit in your vehicle and one that you carry with you (see below). I have a backpack that I carry my emergency kit in. You can also bring energy bars which is a good idea if you are going to be in the woods for hours on end like I am; remember to carry out your trash!
- Mushroom Field Guide: Having a guidebook can help you identify the types of mushrooms you come across. There are many different species and many of them grow wild in the woods. Having a guide can help you find other mushrooms you may want to grab on your hunt! If it is your first time or you are not experienced and out alone hunting, I recommend you use one of these guides for sure. Don't risk your life on getting the wrong kind of shroom. Look-alikes can be deadly!
How to Find Wild Morel Mushrooms
Finding morels seems like it would be easy, but it's not. That is why they call it hunting morels and not morel gathering. Morels blend into the environment, and they can look like pine-cones, rocks, and deadwood in the forest. They pop up like little cones out of the ground and can be slanted, domed-shaped, or pointed, and they are hard to spot. In some cases, you can be standing right over them and never see them. Once you see one though, you can pretty much tell there are more around in that area.
Morel mushrooms are hard to find. They blend into the environment seamlessly, and you need a good eye to spot them.
Tips for Finding Morels
- They can grow alone or in clusters.
- They spawn in pretty much the same area.
- If you find one, you will find more.
- Look in clearings and near the base of low trees.
- Morels like shade. (I've found them at the shadow line of trees in soft, wet earth.)
- Look under pine needles and in thickets of recently burned wood and dead trees.
- Morels grow on north-facing slopes and at the snow line.
Weather May Indicate Growth
- Morels pop up after fresh rain and a few days of sun.
- They like the warmth of the day and will pop up when the sun has been out after a fresh rain.
False Morel Identification
What Do False Morels Look Like?
Always go with someone experienced who knows what morels look like and can identify them easily. There are many dangerous look-a-likes in the woods and they are deadly. There is no cure for mushroom poisoning so use caution.
Morels have a hollow stem and connect under the head of the mushroom to the stock. If the stem is solid, then the morel is a false morel. If the head is barely attached, then it is a false morel. Dark, bulbous heads without the spongy look of a morel are false and deadly mushrooms.
Identification Mycology of The Pacific Northwest Helvellaceae in the Pacific Northwest
- HELVELLACEAE in the Pacific Northwest
Gilled Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest Pacific Northwest Key Council
Know Your Mushrooms!
The above link can help you to identify other species of mushrooms and give you a healthy knowledge of the mycology here in the Northwest. I urge you to get familiar with these species so you know what you are picking and so you are educated about many of the different mushrooms you will encounter in the woods.
How to Clean and Store Morel Mushrooms
Morels should be scrubed with a mushroom brush but if you do not have a mushroom brush they should be rinsed clean and if not eaten right away, placed in a refrigerator. I place mine in a bowl lined with paper towels and cover them with paper towels when kept in the fridge. Bugs or mites may crawl out of the spongy tops of the shroom when cold and drop to the bottom of the bowl; this is why I cover them.
How to Wash Morel Mushrooms.
- Place your mushrooms in the bowl overnight covered lightly with a paper towel.
- Use a mushroom brush to clean your mushrooms or rinse them in cold water..
- Use them in your food.
By far the better way to clean your mushrooms is to use a mushroom brush like the one above.
Soaking in Salt Water
Dehydrating Your Mushrooms Will Keep Them From Spoiling
If you have a dehydrator, then you can dehydrate your morels and they will last for years. Place them into an air-tight bag or jar and put them away. When you want to use them, place them in a bowl of water for a few hours and they will return to their original size. They lose some of their taste but are still great in your food. They are sold this way to consumers and I store mine this way.
How to Sell Your Mushrooms
If you are interested in selling these valued morsels then you can stop by a mushroom buyer. When morel season hits, there are buyers from fancy restaurants that will buy your best morels. Morels are used in expensive meals like pasta dishes and in Asian food. Since they are a labor-intensive food, they fetch a high price. Look for morel prices in your area. If you plan to sell them then get a permit to gather and sell morels at the local BLM office.
Connect With Other Morel Mushroom Hunters
If you live in Southern Oregon and are interested in morel mushroom hunting or are an avid mushroom hunter research SoMorel where we talk about the following:
- Where to locate morel mushrooms and other mushrooms that grow in the wild.
- When the best times to hunt for local morel mushrooms are.
- When to harvest other wild edibles (local wild asparagus in the orchards) and blackberries that grow locally all over.
- Times of the season and conditions that are best for hunting.
- Weather conditions that are better for hunting.
- Wildlife that can cause harm: snakes, skunks, bears, and cougars.
- Recent burn areas that are favorable for hunting.
- Elevation changes for morel growth and seasonal weather changes that affect growth.
- Where to buy or sell the morel mushrooms.
Get out in Nature and Hunt the Wild Morel
When I am out in the woods I feel closer to nature than I ever have. Trail hiking is cool, but when you venture into the raw forest, you really get to see what it must have been like for our ancestors to trek into the unknown. It is amazing how beautiful nature can be, and it really makes you want to protect it.
I suggest you go off the beaten path and into the raw forest to forage, walk on deer trails, and stumble over dead trees—half a foot deep leaf rot, and soft, dark earth. Appreciate how the ferns dot the forest and how the moss grows on everything, creating an almost mythical feeling. Stumble across creeks and waterfalls, hollowed out tree tunnels, and experience some of nature's awesome creatures.
Who Eats Morels?
A Video on Hunting Morels
I hope you enjoyed this article and happy hunting!
Geraldm1a1@gmail.com on May 26, 2020:
Have you ever encounterd any rattlesnakes while hunting mushrooms?
Sean Jankowski (author) from Southern Oregon on February 20, 2020:
Thank you for reading the hub.
Steve Morel on February 17, 2020:
It’s almost that time of year. It’s going to be my first year foraging and I can’t tell you how excited I am to use your map. Thank you for your resources!
hal on April 22, 2019:
Nice piece of info
Sean Jankowski (author) from Southern Oregon on May 18, 2018:
Of course Christy. Any forested area depending on altitude and time of year. Later spring the higher up you go. Coast mushrooms are abundant in the woods near the ocean.
Christy on May 15, 2018:
Do they grow on the coast? I live 5 miles inland from Coos Bay, was wondering if any grew around here?
Sean Jankowski (author) from Southern Oregon on May 04, 2018:
Another article on Oregon's mushroom bounty.
Gregory Brown on April 05, 2018:
Thank you what I have learned from you today is very helpful. My friends want to go I have done it before and got all the wrong ones. Plus it was very cold out side that day. Thanks to you I will try again. Gregory
Dan on March 22, 2018:
Thanks for the post. There's nothing wrong with sharing, as long as the privilege is not abused by the greedy people out there. You know who you are!
Sean Jankowski (author) from Southern Oregon on May 20, 2016:
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Thanks Dill, it's always nice to know that people think they own the outdoors. If you read the information you'd see that I tell people to respect the areas they are hunting in. I go to Applegate, Howard Prarie. Hyatte Lake... Dude you see TONS of vehicles parked in the woods for people looking for mushrooms. You must be do this for money... Did you see that you need a permit to do that? I write about that as well. You act as if you are somehow entitled to be out there mushroom hunting. You do not have spots that are YOURS for keeping. If I am out in the woods and find mushrooms I do not have to suddenly freak out because this might be DILLS spot. Dude get over yourself and let go of your THIS IS MY SPOT attitude.
Dill on May 18, 2016:
Thanks for the cemetary info applegate dam info etc... (you know exact spots and all) YOU ARE everything that is wrong with modern day foraging practices..
Samuel Barrett from Douglas County, Oregon on October 26, 2014:
Nice Hub! I am moving up o Drain this winter from Central California ( Porcini country!!) and am excited to get some Morels, Hedgehogs, and Yellow foot chanterelles!
JuneP on May 29, 2013:
Thanks for all those site tips. I will try to check out Howard Prairie area soon. My daughter in law found some morels on a year old mulch outside her vegetable garden, near the river in White City. Other than those few, we didn't find any more, so I told my son to spread the wood ash from his pizza oven in some areas and maybe next year they would get more.
hockey4three on May 26, 2013:
I run into alot of people hunting morels and most dont know this but if you use a plastic bag or paper bag when gathering you dont spread the spores for next year. Use a type of netting kinda like a soccer ball bag just smaller scale. This way you will have spead the spores while walking around and even more will come up the next year!!!
Sean Jankowski (author) from Southern Oregon on May 18, 2013:
It has been a good year for mushrooms for sure. :)
Koyanti on May 16, 2013:
Is anyone else having the epic year I have been? I seem to be getting 5lbs+ a trip everywhere in about 4 hours of searching... got some in the dryer more freezing and fridge is stuffed.
Koyanti on April 21, 2013:
Thank you so much for your hunting tips. While I spent some time living in the greensprings and know lots of higher elevation spots the lower areas have always been elusive to me. Thanks to your site I came out of the woods with 5+ lbs today. Would have more but my legs were getting tired. Will go back soon so many baby ones seen as well. Oh and it certainly felt more like picking then hunting this time : D
Sean Jankowski (author) from Southern Oregon on March 14, 2013:
I haven't been out yet. I had back surgery recently. It has been two years now since I really went and did it. I had heart surgery or what they call a quad or CABG x 4. But I am healing up and as soon as April hits, I will be up in the hills.
This weekend I am going to Jacksonville to hunt with my kids.
Mushroom rush on March 14, 2013:
Cow Flipper, with the recent amazing weather, any luck so far this season? New picker so not sure what's the best time to go out and look.
Sean Jankowski (author) from Southern Oregon on August 09, 2012:
Ah wow, first time I've ever heard of a mushroom brush thanks Mushroom chef! :)
Mushroom chef on August 09, 2012:
NEVER soak mushrooms in salt water or any water! Brush them off with a mushroom brush. I am a professional chef and a mushroom lover.
retired LEO/shroom picker on April 30, 2012:
I have picked for over 18 years all over the state. Sometimes the besit picks I've had were in delivered decorative yard bark! As a cop, I recall one year where it got so crowded in the woods that Cambodians were involved in at least six shootings (of other Cambodians) in picking areas they feel they "own."
Sean Jankowski (author) from Southern Oregon on June 01, 2011:
Thanks charlesspock, yeah here they have stands set up on the side of the road. The Pacific Northwest has lots of Asian and Hispanic mushroom hunters that sell and go out in large groups, they scour entire mountainsides! There have even been times in the past where these groups have clashed physically. It hasn't happened in the past few years and I suspect many of these seasonal hunters have moved north to Washington and into northern Oregon. But the mushroom buyers are usually around from May to June here.
charlesspock from Vermont on June 01, 2011:
great hub, really enjoyed it. I love finding morels in the northeast. Selling morels is often just a matter of calling around to a few nice restaurants
Sean Jankowski (author) from Southern Oregon on May 10, 2011:
I hope your friend finds a way to share in his old hobby that it brings her blessings and peace. Thanks for the comments.
Debby Bruck on May 10, 2011:
Cow Flipper ~ I love this hubpages and will tell my friend about it. She was just reminiscing about her dad, who used to go morel hunting, and that it is now a lost art in her family. Blessings, Debby
Sean Jankowski (author) from Southern Oregon on May 10, 2011:
Hey JJ I agree with you, morels are strange and they do grow on north and south facing slopes. The idea is that in winter the sun is more south and low so the moisture from rain and morning dew is kept more in the north facing side of hills. That's the idea at least. It can be that trees, obstructions, and other naturally occurring phenomena such as fauna can also produce this effect. The variations are so large that it is impossible to predict where they will be growing for sure. Burn areas, orchards, pine forests... the idea is that they grow in thick wooded areas usually popping after fresh rain, below the snow lines from lower elevations and then progressively as the season heats up higher and higher elevations. Have fun and Pray to the Morel King that you reap a great abundance.
Sean Jankowski (author) from Southern Oregon on May 10, 2011:
You must be the kind of person that believes in the first rule of Fight Club. How if it is your first time ever going out to find morels are you to do so without even an idea of where to look? The map is there (and if you look it isn't so detailed as to show people areas on a GPS of where I go) for the general public to get an idea of where to go. Most people are not so greedy and I hate to say it dense as to believe that they have a corner in the forest that only they know about where morels grow. Morels grow all over! They grow in more abundance in some places and that is what people call their spot but let me tell you I've been to THEIR SPOTS and they have been picked! Guess what... their spot was someone else's spot too! Concept and point, morels grow where ever morels grow. Unless you have mass property and a hundred acre woods or an orchard then guess what... You don't own a spot in the woods. :) Have a great day and yes GOOD LUCK to you, you do need it.
JJ on May 10, 2011:
why do i keep hearing about the north slopes in these posts but here in the cascades just west of you I find them south facing? good patches too! Im just out there trying to have fun so... Thnaks to all!
whoa on May 10, 2011:
why would you post a map showing where you pick your morels! Hhhmmmm?! not the brightest are ya? Maybe I just have a different plan? Good luck to ya! I seem to need it!
Debby Bruck on April 19, 2011:
Superb hub. Very educational. Ate it up. Debby
abyrabit23 on April 17, 2011:
Once u go 4 the 1st time , it becomes a part of u . Every year i have the " Great Morel " dream , whether i have been thinking of them or not . The biggest one i ever picked was from the top 2 the foot was 12 inches tall. That was in John Day Oregon between LaGrande and Pendleton eastern Oregon . We also picked King Boletes there . Anyhoo ,it just gets in ur blood and it's a whole lot of fun !!!!!!
Sandy Mertens from Wisconsin, USA on June 03, 2010:
I never heard of hunting for morels. Interesting hub.
Sean Jankowski (author) from Southern Oregon on June 01, 2010:
Sorry about your poor season, maybe next year will be better Captain Jimmy. Good Luck!
Captain Jimmy from WV on June 01, 2010:
I wish I wasn't so far away, the seasons over her in WV and they were not to plentiful this year. Enjoy it while you can! MMM! floured and fried in butter!