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  • Writer's pictureOrion Aon

Colorado Morels: Mindset and Equipment

Updated: May 2

This post is a continuation of the Colorado Morel Series. In this post, we'll get into the mindset you'll want to develop and some of the basic equipment you'll want to have when looking for morels!


Yellow morels and the equipment used to find them!
Yellow morels and the equipment used to find them!

Morel Mindset


Morels aren’t like many other mushroom species that people like to hunt for. They aren’t bright colors, and they can blend in surprisingly well! They like to grow under, around, and sometimes inside plants, tufts of grass, logs, holes, and stumps. From a distance, many things look vaguely like a morel: pine cones, burnt nubs, dried-up leaves, sticks, and occasionally even rocks. These mushrooms can take some mental fortitude to find!

The absolute number one tip I would give any morel hunter would be to go slow. If you take nothing else away from this series, take those two words. Ingrain them into your thoughts when you’re in the morel woods. Go. Slow.


Here are a few examples of how morels can hide using their surroundings or in plain sight. Without going slow and really watching my surroundings, I likely would have walked right by these. Use the arrows on the sides of the pictures to navigate through the gallery. The first six pictures are the before and after of two different situations presented in pairs. See if you can find the morels before going to the reveal! The example shown in pictures number 3 and 4 is a tough one! I didn't take a distance shot in the last picture, but you can imagine how tough these snow-covered morels could be to spot.



The second most important mindset tip I would give is to stop and scan as often as you feel necessary. I can’t count how many times I’ve stopped to chat with my mushroom-hunting buddies, grab a snack or some water, or relieve myself, only to spot some morels. In fact, I found my very first morels in Colorado because I nearly “watered” them during a bathroom break.


The next tip would be to take time to build a good ‘search image’ for morels. This is a concept that I’ve known about for years but didn’t have a name for until reading Samuel Thayer’s books. Developing a search image is getting your mind and eyes used to picking something out from its surroundings. A search image is typically best built while actually looking for and finding your targeted species, but that can sometimes be difficult for morels. I suggest starting online and looking at lots and lots of pictures of morels in their natural setting. Not picked and lying in someone’s mushroom basket. Here is a gallery of pictures of morels taken at a distance, again use the arrows on the sides of the pictures to navigate through them. The second picture is a marked version of the first one, so take your time before clicking through! The first two sets are Colorado, and the third and fourth are Oregon.



While developing your search image, notice the color of their stem, the general shape of the cap, how their pitted surface can stand out once you get used to it, and their slightly velvety-looking texture. All of these are clues that will eventually help you pick morels out of their surroundings. Initially, they will be tough to notice, but as your mind and eyes get used to seeing them, you’ll start to notice them faster and from further away. Be patient with this, as it takes time to develop.


This next one is also important and will almost always result in more morels. If you spot one, stop immediately and scan. Don’t rush over and pick it up immediately; you may trample its friends on your way! Very rarely do I find just a single morel. Occasionally, they’re just in pairs, but more often, there will at least be a handful in one area, and sometimes there are a bunch! So, if you spot one, stop and scan, pick out as many as possible, and remember where they are so you don’t step on them. Once you’re ready to start picking, go slow. You may notice more as you get closer or change your viewing angle. Also, the morels are fruiting in that spot for a reason. Search the area for more! After picking the first ones, I often spiral around and out of that spot.


Remember the snowy pair from earlier? Check out the patch I found after picking them using the spiraling technique. They were tucked up under some tree roots on the river bank.



My final tip would be, don’t give up! Have confidence that if you put in the time and effort, you’ll eventually find morels! There is definitely some luck involved, and because of this, it can take a while for everything to come together, or it can happen on your first time out. Either way, if you consistently put yourself in the right situation and keep your mind in the right place, you will greatly increase your success!


 

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Equipment


So, by now you’re probably starting to understand what to look for and how to prepare mentally. You’re getting excited to head out the door and start hunting! But before you go, you’ll need a few things. Here are the items I consider essential for morel hunting.


An example for my foraging kit! Field guide, knife, brush, notebook, thermometer, bags, gloves, notebook, and pen.
An example for my foraging kit!
  • A Backpack with the usual day hiking goods: water, sunscreen, bug spray, first aid, etc.

  • A good knife. I prefer fancy custom ones. Anything will do.

  • Mushroom carrier, I like paper sacks and mesh produce bags, others use baskets.

  • Soil thermometer (we’ll explain why in the next section!).

  • A brush for gently removing debris from mushrooms.

  • A camera so you can share your finds or take pictures to reference later.

  • GPS to mark spots and check land boundaries. I use my phone as a GPS and camera.

  • Field journal and pen for taking notes.

  • Field guide(s) if you want to reference your findings.

  • Whistle in case you get lost, or separated from your group.

  • Permits if applicable.


Some optional pieces of equipment that you may want to have as well...

  • Gloves for protecting your hands or picking stinging nettles that share a habitat with yellow morels.

  • Small clippers for harvesting plants or mushrooms if you like!


That's it! Quick and easy! This list should be a starting place for anyone with little morel, mushroom, or other foraging experience. Everyone has different preferences and opinions about what is best or right. The above is just what I personally use or recommend.



Foraging Calendar


To learn more about the best seasons to harvest morels and many other wild foods, check out my Foraging Calendar & Wild Food Database! You can try the demo version to learn more, and join my Patreon to gain full access to the Foraging Calendar and other exclusive perks! Joining is the best way to support all the work I put into my content and website to help you learn about foraging! Thank you for checking it out!



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jgoodrich372
Apr 27, 2018

Great blog, thanks for sharing your knowledge! I can't wait for the next post on morels.

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