A Guide to Mushroom Hunting for Morels in Southern Oregon
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 enjoyable hobbies I've ever had.
So, you want to hunt morels? Well, you've got to know what to do and what to bring with you. In this article, I'll teach you exactly what to do and how to locate them.
Eating unknown mushrooms from the wild can be dangerous because 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.
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 IdentificationClick thumbnail to view full-size
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.
How to Clean and Store Morel Mushrooms
Morels 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
- Take a bowl of warm water and mix salt into the water until it is dissolved.
- Place your mushrooms in the bowl overnight. All the bugs will have floated out into the water.
- Drain them into a colander and then rinse them under cold water.
- Use them in your food.
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.