April is the month when you can pursue Missouri’s grand slam - turkey, crappie, and morels. Each is without equal. No game matches the challenge presented by a wily tom turkey; no fish surpasses the delicate flavor of a crappie filet. And the morel? Well, it combines the best of the first two.
If paradise had a season, it would be April for me. The Missouri outdoors are wonderful place to be when there are turkeys strutting and gobbling in the woods, crappie biting in the lakes, and morels growing in the woods.
That’s right, April is the month when you can pursue Missouri’s grand slam - turkey, crappie, and morels. Each is without equal. No game matches the challenge presented by a wily tom turkey; no fish surpasses the delicate flavor of a crappie filet. And the morel? Well, it combines the best of the first two.
More plentiful than the mushrooms are the theories on how, when, and where to find them. When May apples bloom, when oak leaves are in the mouse-ear stage, and when oak leaves are as big as a squirrel’s ear are just some of the theories on when to start looking for morels. Others say their secret to finding mushrooms are to look near elm, apple, ash, basswood, and cherry trees; look at abandoned apple orchards; under May apples; or in recently logged forests.
Scientists say early morels begin sprouting when the average daily temperature is above 40 degrees, I would rather rely on intuition and the local rumor mill. I prefer to look around trees that have been dead just long enough their bark is beginning to slough off, on a south facing slope. My theory is that the roots of these trees also are beginning to decay, providing nourishment for fungi, including morels. Morels can also be found under living trees like cottonwood, white ash and to a lesser degree under oaks and hickory.
Morels are neither plants nor animals, they are fungi and exist most of the year as a network of cells found in the ground. When conditions get right spores are produced which grow into a morel. Sometimes you can see these spores in the form of “smoke” drifting off a freshly picked morel. Below ground morels live off tree roots, above ground they live off the decaying matter on the forest floor.
Along with mushroom hunting usually comes problems of trespassing. Please, be responsible and get permission anytime you go onto someone else’s property. Also, be aware of the Spring Turkey Season and respect those hunter’s that may be in the woods. I prefer to wait until afternoon when the turkey hunters have left the woods.
For more information, contact Conservation Agent Randy Geise at (573) 502-4121