Morel Mushroom Time!

Morel Mushroom Hunting in Illinois
April 23, 2019- Morel Mushroom Hunting Update- “The mushrooms have arrived here in West-Central Illinois! The extended forecast is looking like phenomenal morel mushroom growing conditions with periods of rain intermixed with warmer temperatures. The next few weeks should be prime time to find mushrooms around the lodge and surrounding region!” 

MUSHROOM HUNTER’S SPECIAL OVERNIGHT PACKAGE! This package is for Sunday-Thursday night stays at the Original Lodge or Sunset Valley Lodge. You can get an additional 15% off your overnight reservation! The mushroom hunter’s promotional package reservations must be made over the phone @ 217-734-2526. This package gives you access to 1,300 acres of prime morel mushroom hunting ground! Reservations can be made for as low as $75 a night! This will allow you two full days of morel mushroom hunting! Additional meal plans, activities such as horseback riding, ATV rentals, bonfire with smores, hayrides, sporting clays and much more can all be added as well!

Morel Mushroom Hunting at Heartland Lodge

In West-Central Illinois, where Harpole’s Heartland Lodge is located, morel mushrooms are certainly the mushrooms of choice.  And according to my insider information from the lodge (Gary, of course), we are expecting to have a bumper crop of mushrooms this season! All you have to do to hunt mushrooms at the lodge, which offers over 1,200 acres of prime morel mushroom hunting habitat, is book an overnight reservation!

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What Exactly is a Morel Mushroom?

According to Merriam-Webster, a morel is any of several edible fungi (genus Morchella, especially M. esculenta) having a conical cap with a highly pitted surface.  However, I’m thinking that most of the people who go morel mushroom hunting aren’t really concerned about the dictionary definition – it appears that mushroom hunting is as much of a sport as anything.  And then there are those who enjoy the distinctive taste of their pick – the taste sometimes being described as nutty.  Morels are most normally cooked and eaten fresh but they can be dried or frozen (but some of the texture and flavor are lost).

Illinois Morel Mushroom hunting seasons

What Exactly Does a Morel Look Like?

The morel mushroom has a peaked cap, folded crevices, and is light beige in color – even though there are variations of the color including grays and yellows.  The stalk has a flesh-like feel and appearance and while there are true morel mushrooms – safe to eat – there are also ‘false’ morels that can be toxic.  The University of Illinois Extension has a great, simple explanation of the difference – check it out their Morel Mushroom Hunting Blog – it will help you in determining what you need to be looking for.  You could also buy a good mushroom guidebook – carry it with you – and go with an experienced mushroom hunter.  Remember, there are many wild mushrooms out there so be careful and know your ‘shrooms – safety is key!

So, WHEN do you Find These Prized Delicacies?

The morel mushroom hunting season is short!  The month of April is when morel mushrooms begin to appear in Central Illinois but the season can last through mid-May.  The morel hunting season is best after April showers have come and gone – when adequate rainfall has created moist soil conditions in the woods.  As far as temperatures go, there are some differences of opinion on the ideal temperatures – some prefer daytime temps of 60° F with temperatures at night staying in the 40’s.  Others say that the nighttime temps should be at least 55° F while others prefer to wait until it is 60° F at night.  However, most enthusiasts will tell you that hot daytime temps (anything above 90° F) and dry conditions will put a quick stop to the growth of these mushrooms.

Bags of Morel Mushrooms

Now That You Know When to Mushroom Hunt, WHERE Do You Hunt?

The morel mushroom normally grows in wooded areas but can be found growing in a variety of places – including cracks of sidewalks!  But if you don’t have them growing in your sidewalk, head to the woods!  Morels can be found near creeks but one of the more favorable locations is by dead elm trees.  Morels don’t discriminate though – they can also be found near cottonwood, tulip poplar, ash and apple trees.  You will also need to look in undisturbed woods and the wooded edges of fields and river bottoms.  Walk slowly and watch where you step.  If you find one morel, look in the immediate vicinity for more – several morels may be in the same area if growing conditions are right.

Morel Mushroom Hunting Tools of the Trade

As always, dress appropriately for your hike in the woods – sturdy shoes/boots with socks, long jeans, and a hat – are definites!  And don’t forget your tick spray – from what I am hearing, the ticks are out in droves this year.  So…spray before you go and check yourself (and others) when you return from your hike.  Many people also use a walking stick, which serves two purposes.  You can use it to carefully move plant leaves and push back brush around tree bases but it also saves from bending over to search spots – great back relief!

Mesh Morel Mushroom BagOne thing I found interesting while researching for this blog – the type of bag or container you take with you can make a difference in the future of mushrooms and mushroom hunting.  Mesh bags are preferred over plastic ones to allow the spores to spread.

So You’ve Pulled Your Tools Together and Have Found That Cluster of Morels- Did You Know There was a Way to Pick Them Too?
The recommended method is to use a sharp knife to cut them off cleanly at the base.  The ‘unspoken’ custom is to harvest all but one or two mushrooms, leaving the smaller ones for wildlife and future mushroom hunters.  Morels can’t be stored for very long so most hunters will eat them the same day they are picked – ensuring the best flavor.

One Very Important Thing to Keep in Mind When You Go Morel Mushroom Hunting- Avoid Trespassing!
Recent land development has decreased the mushrooming territory and many remaining stands of timber have been privatized.  Therefore, you should always get permission from landowners before hunting mushrooms on their property and if hunting on public land, check at a ranger station as some areas may be under protection.

Ladies at Lodge with Morel MushroomsHowever, if you are staying at Heartland Lodge, you already have permission to hunt more than 1200 acres of prime mushroom hunting ground – all while enjoying the other amenities the lodge offers!

But mushroom season is near – and won’t last long – so book your room now!  Whether you live in Illinois, Missouri or Iowa, come to the lodge and check out their mushroom season!  Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned ‘shroomer, you won’t regret it!  And grab your camera – take pictures of your day in the woods – you’ll enjoy it even if you don’t find any morels.

Lori Biehl
Eighteen-Year-in-a-Row-Guest

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Last Updated: April 23rd, 2019

18 thoughts on “Morel Mushroom Time!

  1. Checking how much a guide would cost for taking a couple people out to hunt motels. Or if we came out to horseback ride could we get a guide for later to take us shrooming? Thanks

  2. Checking, if we can’t stay the night can we pay to come out and mushroom hunt for the day?

    Thank you

    Koleen Starkey

  3. Was wondering about the horseback riding looking for mushrooms or paying for a day?? Thanks so much!! Love the place wife & I stayed while back & went horseback riding!

  4. Hello! We were wondering if you still have the horseback riding and mushroom hunting for this Spring? We have 2 adults and a 13 year old. What would you recommend for accommodation and please provide detail for a good weekend for above activity. Thank you!

    1. Hello Christine, yes we do still offer horseback and mushroom hunting here at the lodge! We’ll send you an email with pricing. Thank you!!

    1. Hi Darryl, thanks for your interest in staying with us. We do not offer guided mushroom hunts but we can help point you in the right direction.. We will send you an email referencing the activities and lodging cost. Feel free to visit our activities and amenities page for additional information or give us a call. 217-734-2526 Thank you!

  5. Hello Gary, I’m very interested in staying a couple nights at the lodge to do some mushroom hunting with my wife. Could you please send me pricing and activity’s thank you so much

  6. Hi, i would like info/price on renting a room for 2 nights for the mushroom special 15% off. Could u please let me know if there r still openings for prime hunting time. Thank u!

  7. Hi, i looking to rent a room for 2 for 2 nights for the mushroom special 15% discount and would love info on prices n avalibility for near the end of April. Thank u!

  8. Can we still get the mushroom hunt special? Are the mushrooms still out? What are the rates for 2 senior adults?

  9. This sounds like an amazing vacation! Heard a lot of good! Would you be as kind to please send me pricing? Thank you!

    Morels! Morels! Morels!

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