Along The Trail 4-23-15

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Editor’s Note: This is a column written by Switzerland County’s David Hewitt. The articles center on all things ‘outdoors’, from hunting and fishing to woodsmanship.

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Spring has sprung and the trees are in full bloom. The floor of the woods is soft and the smell of the duff and leaf litter permeates the air. No sneaking around, no worrying about being quiet and light steps, my prey this afternoon can’t see, hear or smell.

I spy a large rotted log, what little bark left on it tells me it’s a red oak.

The once massive old tree must’ve been impressive in its day. As I march towards it, I can only wonder what brought the big beast to the ground.

Rot?

A wind storm?

Lightning strike?

The base of the stump is splintered and cracked, spiral fractured. “Ah, the wind brought down the old man,” I think to myself, examining the evidence left behind.

But dead old oak trees aren’t my quarry.

I’m after mushrooms! Morels to be more specific.

Greys, yellows, blacks, any of them will do and from my limited mushroom hunting experience, the little fungi are supposed to grow around dead logs, in particular, oak logs. I poke around the fallen tree, dig through the ground cover hoping to find some ‘shrooms, but come up blank.

On to the next spot.

I’ve always considered myself a fairly good hunter and although I’m no Daniel Boone or Jeremiah Johnson, I have a decent amount of woodsmanship skills, so finding mushrooms should be no problem at all, right?

Wrong.

I spent the next two and a half hours hunting for the little cone shaped fungus. The harder and longer I hunt, the more aggravated I become! My eyesight isn’t the best, but I ought to be able to find a patch of morels! I know a few guys that can walk out into their backyard and fall into a patch of mushrooms and I can’t find them with a search warrant in some of the best looking mushroom country in Indiana!

I top a hill and find a likely looking spot. May apples. Everything I know about mushroom hunting also says that they like to grow in the shade of the umbrella shaped leaves of May apples. Maybe my luck has changed. The large patch of May apples will house a host of mushrooms – and zero!

Not one morel.

I can almost taste the fired mushrooms as I hunt on. I daydream about them while I hike back out towards the truck. Dredged in Italian bread crumbs, salt and peppered, fried crisp in olive oil…mmm.

I hit a couple of more spots on my walk in the woods with the same result, nothing for the cast iron skillet. I am convinced that mushrooms are a figment of imagination, a fairytale, leprechauns!

All of the photos of my outdoor pals on social media with huge finds of ‘shrooms are a part of a grand conspiracy geared at frustrating me! Mushrooms don’t exist!

Back at the truck, I concede defeat to the morels, grab my fishing rod and head to the waters edge.

Maybe I’ll have some better luck with bluegills!

- David Hewitt