I'm not good at formally identifying most trees or other plants.... It's just not something I ever got into and a lot of my outdoor pursuits are self taught, so nobody along the way told me what was what. That said.... Mushroom hunting, most definitely morel hunting, is a lot like grouse hunting to me. I don't necessarily know why I say something "looks good," but I feel confident in identifying spots after years of trying to identify spots...... This is just me, I'm sure others may see it differently.Prior to this year, I've never intentionally hunted for morels.
I'd find one here or there - in my yard, or in the woods out scouting for deer in the spring -but never enough that I'd bother picking them. Maybe an average of 1-2 a year.
As a way to get out in the woods a bit more this spring and force myself to do a little more scouting - I figured I'd give actively hunting for morels a go. I wasn't expecting much, but figured with some effort I'd at least find 10-15, enough to bother picking and eating.
Lets just say that hasn't happened.
I read all kinds of stuff on the internet and in books. I've concentrated my efforts on areas that fit the description...
Dead/dying Elm, Oak, Ash
Dead trees/stumps other deciduous trees (oak, hickory, birch, beech...)
Controlled burn sites in/around deciduous trees
A group of old abandoned apple trees on state land
Mossy areas.... mayapples... trilliums...
I've hit tons of state land between Harrison and Gladwin, as well as looking in Ypsi/Arboer around where I work at lunch every day (lots of dead decidious trees, in areas that get controlled burns every couple years), and at the parks near my house (also deciduous with regular controlled burns).
I figure - I've got 15-20 hours in, and I haven't seen a single morel. Not a tiny one. Not an old dried up one. Nothing. Zip. Zilch.
Either I'm looking in the wrong places, or I'm just missing what is there - but I'll take any tips I can get.
Note: I am mildly red-green deficient, so I might have a harder time seeing them than some folks.
To start, one thing I'd say is that "up north" morel hunting is different than "down here" morel hunting. I haven't hunted up north in years. But, I did a fair amount when my grandparents and parents lived up there. Up there, I found a lot of black morels, which is something I do not find in abundance down here (other than in my backyard, which is another story....). As others have mentioned, it seems like Aspen was a predominant theme up there, with particularly good spots being along creeks, gently sloping hills, the occasional conifer mixed in, etc.
The spots down here I hunt are almost exclusively the yellow variety. Two of the best finds I've ever had, where you get into a patch of like 50+ in a small area, were gradual east facing hills, softer hardwoods (softer hardwoods???) when the forest floor is getting green. I have heard others say southwest facing hills, or even north facing hills later in the season. Just stating my personal experience of east facing hills, sloping down toward wetland, on the edge of a field even better. I have always associated the stage of mayapples with morels, ramps as well. If the ramps aren't out and ready to pick I generally don't get too excited about seeing morels. Same if the mayapples haven't fully grown. I also associate the general color of the forest floor with seeing them. No green at all, I'm probably not even going. Full blown green, it's too late or there is maybe even too much vegetation in the area. Somewhere between 50-75% of the full blown vegetation that you'd see at the end of May, that is when I feel like I'll find some. I generally avoid a lot of oak when hunting down here. I've had good luck with overgrown fence rows down here, ones with trees. As with many other things, I like edges, edges of fields, edges of swamps. But, if I see skunk cabbage I feel I'm too low and will go elsewhere. I don't dismiss small amounts of raspberries, or even thin patches if the surrounding areas look right. One of my better spots has a few raised peninsulas that jut out into a swamp that has small bushes/trees with raspberries mixed in. They're a pain to pick, but every one is worth it.
Anyway, this is just me. I can't say enough that it's just looking at some ground after years of hunting and having the instinct to say "Yeah, that looks good." I'm sure there are more exact and scientific methods that could be used, identifying flora, sun exposure, weather, etc., but this is how I do it. The other thing is IT'S A MOREL. The other mushrooms I pick, extremely predictable. I've found 50 morels in an area 10yds by 10yds and never seen them there again over 15 years..... Good luck.