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DAVIS COLUMN: May morel marshaling mends the mind

DAVIS COLUMN: May morel marshaling mends the mind

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Wild morel mushrooms (there really isn’t any other kind) cannot keep a person from COVID-19, but the mere thought of searching can master one’s mind into believing all’s right on the planet, at least for a morning.

Often doing almost anything outdoors does that too, be it gardening greens, fishing trout, hiking hills or just finding other spring things.

“I look forward to the beginning of morel season just as much as some people look forward to the beginning of deer season,” Tom Howard, a mycological sage, said. “And probably more so because I no longer hunt deer,” the Dodgeville man said.

His wife, Nancy, may tag along, too, but Tom has a routine of walking to where most would never venture. He loves to get off the well-worn paths.

“I’m really looking forward to it this year; I’m always looking forward to morel gathering,” he said.

A few days ago he was using one of his fool-proof phenology facts to get a fix on the season opener. “I look at the lilac buds in the back yard to see what kind of shape they’re in. When they start to look like tiny bunches of grapes, that’s the sign to put the boots on and head to…..”

Now is the time to really go after them, the retired wildlife biologist said. He knows it’s a bit too early to fill a bag, but his mind needs its annual morel fix.

Still, don’t throw caution to the wind this year. Going it alone is best. Don’t make unnecessary stops getting there. Know the destination for the produce.

Selling? Make sure someone is buying. Gifting? Set them on the back porch and alert the occupant, who might consider waiting a half day to bring them inside.

Certainly don’t wash them and by all means cook them before eating, which is true for mushrooms, picked or purchased.

It’s the beginning of fawning season too, so watch for them when hiking or picking morels.

This is the final year of the Southwest Wisconsin CWD, Deer, and Predator Study, but the volunteers for fawn searches are not needed for the same reason; COVID-19. But reporting a found fawn and not disturbing it if it’s in Grant, Iowa or Dane County will help the researchers get to their goal of 100 animals this spring.

For updates and more information, visit the DNR Web site (

While morels are emerging, so is wild ginseng, but in both instances woodland slugs have found the mushrooms and ginseng plants, and are munching.

Mayapples are abundant in forest areas and another rush of spring ephemeral is beginning to bloom.

Fishers, trout and otherwise, are less concerned about what’s biting than if the water is open, the ramps are ungated, the parks open, and required license and sticker information. In most cases the water levels are fine, and so is fishing.

Spring plants, including those in gardens, are likely to be in juvenile stages, which are often different from adult structures. Don’t mistake a carrot for a weed or a yellow lady’s-slipper for a jack-in-the-pulpit.

Ticks, stinging insects, stinging nettles and protective wild animal parents are to be avoided as much as possible.

Wild asparagus, leeks, chives, wild garlic and watercress are already abundant in places.

Turkey hunting is entering its D period, the fourth. Some hens are nesting, others are still calling to or roosting with toms. Some over-the-counter permits are still available at $10 for residents.

Turkey hunters during these later periods are generally some of the most serious and may have multiple authorizations.

Marshlands are beginning to yellow-up with marsh marigold and the sounds of sandhill cranes, mallard ducks and Canada geese.

Adult bald eagles are spending more time away from their nest of eaglets. Look for these young eagles to develop black-brown feathers and stand on nest rims waiting for food drops of fish and fowl, mammals and reptiles.

The application period for the 2020 elk hunt lottery closes May 31.

These outdoors gathering trips tend to be worthwhile, for mind and body.

Contact Jerry Davis, a freelance writer, at or 608-924-1112.

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