Hunting For Morels – Morel Mushroom Season

Morel Mushroom Hunting

There are lots of reasons to be in the great outdoors as winter thaws its way into spring.  Deer antlers are waiting to be found as they fall from the heads of whitetail deer, trout are stocked for fishing, turkey start gobbling for the spring turkey hunt, and the forest floor becomes the garden of life.

It’s morel mushroom season and foragers will head to the woods to begin hunting for morels.  Those fortunate enough to locate them have found a rare commodity.  Morel mushrooms only grow in the wild, and the forested areas of West Virginia are the perfect spot to find them. 

Finding them is no easy task though.  Morel mushrooms are slow growing and sometimes difficult to see. Their dark brown color blends in well in with their surroundings on the forest floor. 

It takes five years for a morel mushroom to grow from a spore. As a result, they command a high resale price. A pound of morels can easily cost you $30 in the spring.

Try hunting for morel mushrooms on West Virginia Public Land

Morel mushrooms in West Virginia begin to sprout in late March. However, the morel mushroom season passes very quickly. A few short weeks later and it is unlikely there will be any left. Because of increasing temperatures, by the end of May any morels not found will begin to decay.

So don’t wait. Read ahead and learn more so you don’t miss your small window of opportunity to find more morel mushrooms in West Virginia.

Morel Mushroom Season

What Are Morel Mushrooms

Morel mushrooms are classified as a sac fungi. They are are a type of edible fungi that are highly prized for their unique appearance and flavor. They are characterized by their distinctive, cone-shaped caps that are covered in deep, honeycomb-like ridges and pits.

Morels are only found in the wild. In West Virginia, you can hunt for morels in forests, grasslands, and other natural settings. Chances are, they are growing somewhere near you.

Morel mushrooms are considered a gourmet delicacy and are highly sought after by chefs and food enthusiasts alike. They have a rich, earthy flavor with a slightly nutty taste and a meaty texture that is prized in a variety of cuisines.

Morels are often used in sauces, soups, stews, and other dishes. They can be sautéed, roasted, grilled, or fried to enhance their flavor and texture. As you can see, they are as enjoyable to eat as they are to hunt for.

When To Find Morel Mushrooms

When To Find Morel Mushrooms

Morel mushrooms begin to appear in late March and are completely gone by the end of May.  This short and somewhat uncertain life cycle makes them highly desirable and sought after.  Morel mushrooms cannot be farmed and are obtained solely by foraging them wild. 

The exact dates vary every year depending on weather and climate conditions.

The morel mushroom season has begun when soil temperatures reach a consistent 50 degrees Fahrenheit.  In order to achieve this, wait for spring weather temperatures of 60 to 70s degrees Fahrenheit during the day and cooler evenings dropping into the 40s.  Additionally, scattered rain and cloudy days create ideal conditions for growing morel mushrooms.

These specific requirements for growth make hunting for morels fun and challenging.

Since finding morels is hardly an exact science, you will find a lot of anecdotal evidence suggesting when is the best time to hunt morels. Dandelions are one such indicator that it is morel hunting season. Oftentimes when you see the first yellow weeds of spring, morels won’t be far behind.

Additionally, you may hear that you will find morel mushrooms growing once you see the first lilac flower in the spring or when the mayapple are 6 inches tall.

Others may use the trees for guidance. A successful morel hunter once told me the best time to hunt morels is when the oak leaves are the “size of mouse ears.”

With such a short hunting season, timing is everything. However, knowing when to look won’t do you much good if you don’t know where to find them.

Hunting For Morels

Morels are commonly found on dead trees

Where To Find Morel Mushrooms

Mastering tree identification will greatly help when hunting for morels. Morel mushrooms commonly grow near certain species of trees, and being able to identify them will increase your harvest. They’re most often found with oak, elm, ash and aspen trees.

Don’t ignore the dead or dying trees, regardless of species. Morel mushrooms like to grow on or around the base of the decaying wood.

Old, overgrown apple orchards are another productive location to search for morels. Buds forming on the apple trees can be an indicator that it’s time to start hunting for morels.

A recently burned area of forest can lead to the growth of hundreds of morels. Known as burn morels, they thrive in forests that burned the previous summer. Following a burn, morel mushrooms are one of the first things to sprout – the earliest signs of life in a dead and damaged landscape. Somewhat mysterious and not fully understood, if you find one morel in a burned area you are likely to discover many more.

Avoid wet areas. Morel mushrooms don’t grow in soggy soil. Because of this, you won’t find them in swamps or on the edges of creeks and streams. The soil is too damp in these areas. Make your way back to the edge of the wooded areas where the soil conditions are more ideal for finding morel mushrooms.

Where To Find Morel Mushrooms

Once you find a morel, stop where you are. Remember, morel mushrooms start growing from spores. If there is one morel, there are likely to be others. The spores originated from a nearby mushroom and it dispersed many into the area. Don’t move on without a thorough search – you may be leaving more morels behind.

Lastly, make sure you mark your location when you find a morel. If you’re using a GPS or app like OnX Hunt, drop a way point so you are able to return next year. A prime location for finding morel mushrooms is worth checking year after year. It’s definitely not something you want to forget.

Morel Mushrooms In West Virginia

More than 1,700 species of mushrooms grow in the state of West Virginia.  During the brief period of mid-March to May, six varieties of morels can be found.  West Virginia is home to 96 different public lands.  Consider one close to your home and start hunting for morels. 

Morel mushroom season is a rewarding springtime challenge.  Find yours today and spice up your next meal with wild grown West Virginia Morel Mushrooms.

Remember, it’s important to note that some species of wild mushrooms can be toxic. It is essential to be able to correctly identify morel mushrooms before consuming them.  If you are just starting out, consider hunting with someone knowledgeable to avoid collecting the poisonous conifer false morel.

When does morel mushroom season start in WV?

Morel Mushroom season starts in late march and is over by the end of May in West Virginia.

Where to find morel mushrooms in WV?

Morel mushrooms can be found throughout West Virginia in common places such as the bases of dead and decaying trees or old apple orchards.

How to find morel mushrooms in WV?

Covering lots of ground increases your odds of finding morels in WV. Move slowly, however, as they are hard to spot due to their coloring.

When do morel mushrooms stop growing?

Morel mushrooms stop growing by the end of May.

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