Morels in the spring, sure - what about mushrooms in the fall?

Posted on August 22, 2013

Jerry DavisMaybe it is tools that infatuate most hunters and anglers.  Boats, rods, lures, guns, cartridges, arrows, tree stands and clothing seem to be way ahead of meat and maybe even mounts, racks and bragging rights.

So asking an outdoors man or woman to think about doing some gathering for once might be like, you know, throwing water into the wind.

But there are some perks to gathering, particularly gathering that can be done in favored hunting and fishing areas.  Make believe gathering is really scouting, learning about what the fields, forests and waterways are up to during late summer.

Many hunters and anglers have no problem falling in love with morel gathering during May.  Why not mushroom gathering in August and early September?

There are two or three really large, really easily identified autumn mushrooms to find, gather and eat.  They all grow where turkeys, squirrels, grouse and deer roam, too.

Sulphur fungi, a.k.a. chicken-of-the-woods, are bright orange when they are ready to be harvested from an oak stump, fallen log or standing cherry tree.  There is little danger of mistaking it for anything else, not even the somewhat similar and poisonous jack-o-lantern mushroom.  And chickens taste good.

In the same localities, almost always at the base of an oak tree, grows a less obvious, but just as large, hen-of-the-woods.  Gray to tan, weighed in pounds, not ounces, the hen tops many outdoors enthusiasts’ list of fall fungi.

I know several mycophagus gourmets who only pick the hen.  It tops the morel, they insist.  It’s that good.  One mushroom may last a week.  Some pickers freeze them, too.

Want a real discussion?  Forget about talking crossbows and recurves and listen to two pickers argue about which is better, the hen or the chicken of the woods.

Lower on most pickers list is the giant puffball, but just as plentiful and easily seen, even at 65 mph, this basketball-sized mushroom can be sliced like a loaf of bread and eaten like a steak or cubed to make soup or top a steak.

The downfall of gathering mushrooms, berries or nuts is that little equipment is needed.  But if you must, purchase a UTV, and head to the hills.  Or better yet, just walk and carry no stick at all.

Chicken-of-the-woods mushroom growing on top of an oak stump

Hen-of-the-woods mushroom growing beside an dead oak stump