The morel of the story


Here it is the mid-June and I’ve been beaten again. Not by the turkeys I chased throughout May, but by a woodland denizen far more elusive. In over fifty years roaming the spring woods and searching everywhere I’ve encountered the mysterious inhabitant only once and, that was by accident. Twenty years have passed since that first encounter and I’ve been looking ever since. For me, finding Sasquatch may prove to be easier.

I’ve been a mushroom hunter for more than seventy years and in September, nothing gives me more reason or pleasure than hunting the Honey mushroom or “Popinki.” These seasonal delicacies are highly sought after mainly by those of Eastern European heritage both here in New York as well as in Pennsylvania. Popinki can be scarce some years, or a person can fill a bushel basket in others, but in even the leanest years, I can always count on getting enough for breakfast. Morel mushrooms are another matter.

Every spring I set out with two objectives, killing a wild turkey and finding morel mushrooms. I’ve found calling in a mature tom is child’s play compared to finding a morel mushroom.  I’ve read countless pieces of advice as to where to find them but, nothing works. Look under or around stumps, look under ash trees, look at the base of old elm trees, look in abandoned apple orchards, look in open woodland with plenty of light so the instruction goes. Yea, right!  I look in all those places and all I see are salamanders. Over the years, I’ve found plenty of shed antlers and even someone’s lost hunting knife, but no morels yet, I know they inhabit the places I hunt. In all these years, I’ve only found them once and that was by sheer luck.

My one and only morel encounter occurred about 20 years ago on a warm, quiet mid-May morning. The turkeys were quiet and so, with a few hours of hunting time remaining I decided to sit with my back to a large maple tree and quietly make an occasional call. It was a technique that worked in the past and I fully expected if a tom was nearby he might try to sneak in without a sound.

I settled against the tree and put my hand on the ground to adjust my seated position. That’s when I felt something squishy.  Looking down, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was sitting in a patch of morel mushrooms. I was distraught I ruined several of them by sitting on them but, there were at least a dozen more in pristine condition. I was elated about my find but, that was a long time ago, and despite my best efforts, I’ve never found them again.

I’ll keep looking at least as long as I’m able to and the turkeys keep gobbling. They can’t elude me forever or, can they?

Categories: New York – Mike Raykovicz

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