FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Spring has sprung and that means it’s that time of the year to hunt for mushrooms.
The 2023 season for hunting morel mushrooms typically begins in April, when mushrooms begin blooming and the weather gets a bit warmer, and continues into early May.
Morel mushrooms are edible and often grow in the woods near sycamore, elm and apple trees. Alex Babich, a local mushroom hunter, said he likes that morels look like sponges and taste like filet mignon.
“When it comes to hunting for mushrooms, it’s first come first serve,” Babich said.
He grew up in Ukraine, where he found his passion for mushroom hunting as a child. He said his family hunted mostly during the summer and fall and did so to eat them.
“We were dealing with food shortages in Ukraine at the time so it was a vital food source for us,” he added.
He doesn’t hunt around northeast Indiana very often and likes to hunt for mushrooms in states like Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan because there are less deer hunters around and there’s more public land to roam.
He believes there is less public land in Indiana to hunt for mushrooms. His recommendation is going to state parks like Pokagan and Chain O’Lakes to look for morels. People do not need permits to go mushroom hunting.
How to find morel mushrooms
Babich recommends looking around trees while hunting for morels. Specifically look for sycamores, elms or apple trees and look around the roots where they can be spotted.
“Also look for trees where the bark is peeling and falling off,” he said. “Another good place to find morels is near riverbanks and creeks.”
He advises waiting about another week from now to hunt since many of the mushrooms are still tiny and growing.
When hunting in other states, he has done well finding mushrooms and credits the large amounts of state land in places like Michigan for being able to fill coolers full of morels.
Mushroom hunting is very popular in northeast Indiana as well. He said the region is home to many mushroom hunters that he’s friends with.
One of the biggest parts of the hobby is that it’s very secretive.
“Us mushroom hunters don’t reveal where we find morels so that others don’t flock to certain sites and take all the mushrooms,” he said. “When I go out, I go alone to avoid showing other mushroom hunters where I find them.”
He had a friend in the past who is a mushroom hunter that found a site in Angola that had morels. The site had many black morel mushrooms and revealed the site to someone who lived near the spot. After revealing the area, he was never able to find another morel again.
Hunters have ability to sell the morels they collect and make good money out of it.
Babich has sold many of the morels he finds while hunting and typically sells them for about $50 a pound.
“I’ve made some good money selling morels. You do have to be licensed to sell them,” he said.
For hunters who want to sell their morels, they can obtain a license through The Hoosier Mushroom Society.
The organization offers two courses per year, one for morels and one for wild mushrooms. After passing the courses, people then receive certification through the state of Indiana to legally sell mushrooms they find.
Being safe while hunting
While out hunting for mushrooms, safety is an important part of the activity. When mushroom hunting is underway, it also falls during the same time turkey hunting starts for the spring in Indiana.
Jet Quillen, public relations captain for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ Law Enforcement division, said when mushroom hunters are out, safety should a huge priority when turkey hunters are out during the spring.
“Make sure you have permission to be out where you are and wear bright orange vests and hats to stand out,” Quillen said.
Most turkey hunters typically go out in the morning and are only allowed to be out hunting 30 minutes before sunrise to sunset. DNR allows turkey hunters on land managed by its Division of Fish and Wildlife to be out hunting 30 minutes before sunrise until 1 p.m. eastern time.
Quillen doesn’t often see many conflicts between mushroom and turkey hunters.
“During this time period, mushroom hunters are required to stay out of these areas until it’s over,” Quillen said. “Communication is key. Meeting up with each other before then to notify where you’ll be is important.”