Morel mushrooms are a weighty activity for many foodies and faithful outdoor gatherers.

It can be an even larger position when most hunters don’t find what they expect, want, or had bragged about what they said they usually harvest.

When this fungus doesn’t respond as in the past, hunters usually point toward something that can’t fire back; the weather.

Any number or combination of other factors likely contributed to lower rewards including last fall’s weather, which is when much of the morel underground growth occurs. Other mentionables include fewer big white elm trees; more pickers, including out-of-state gatherers; more road hunters; and certainly the secrecy factor, which leads to scant genuine information reaching beyond bar stools and coffee shops.

Rarity can raise the level of prestige and some satisfaction in having even a few of what is considered a weighty find.

The immediate advice is to keep looking, expand searches to include other tree species, particularly apples and aspens. Consider it stellar if one in ten prime white elms has a crop, or one in 20-30 red elms. The same is true of living apple trees.

Seasoned pickers now know to start searching on shaded east and northern slopes after mid May. Check older trees, trees that never produced morels. Ample moisture may be helping here. Part the vegetation with a stick to see between the blades and stems. Investigate new territories, too.

Include secondary morel forays when on fawn searches, admiring rare native orchids, assessing ginseng populations and trout fishing. Take a hike away from the creek, into the hills.

Rely on phenology in the future. What is blooming or has grown to knee height, and save that until next season. Log it.

Yes, at least three upland orchids are blooming, namely yellow lady-slipper and showy orchis.

Soil temperature is coming close to prime for beans, tomatoes and peppers. Cucurbita can go in now or wait a week or so.

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Extremely colorful bird displays are now possible. Ruby-throated hummingbirds, several orioles, rose-breasted grosbeaks, various woodpeckers, goldfinches, scarlet tanagers, indigo buntings, and red-winged blackbirds can all be feeding in a single yard with the right seeds, liquids and suet.

Some ginseng is nearly a foot tall with obvious flower buds. Admire it.

Fawns born should survive with warmer temperatures.

Trout action has been good and stream-bank walking still relatively easy.

Winter damage, this spring’s late snow and low in the 20s hit many plants hard, but most tree flowers were still in bud stage protecting them.

Evergreen trees and shrubs should be developing cones, but that means another load of pollen in the air from these wind-pollinated species. As soon as the pines’ candles are done elongating, those plants typically pruned can begin.

Garden asparagus, early leaf species, and onions are about ready to eat.

Turkey hunting is entering the last two periods. Look for some registration reports soon after, and grouse drumming surveys, too.

Wisconsin’s annual ethical hunter award will be presented at Vortex Optics Headquarters later this week, going to a Westby hunter.

As spring hunting and gathering seasons close, make notes to self on ways to improve successes, opportunities and enjoyment next spring.

Contact Jerry Davis, a freelance writer, at sivadjam@mhtc.net or 608-924-1112


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