One sure sign that spring
has finally arrived at Fort Riley is the invasion of mushroom hunters. They
seek what is probably the most highly sought-after fungus in North America –
the morel. For two to three weeks this spring, the woodlands at Fort Riley will
have thousands of morels emerge from the earth, with hundreds of hunters in
their pursuit. Morel season is a great time to be outdoors, get some exercise,
and, hopefully, gather a tasty reward.
If you are hunting morels
at Fort Riley, you must assure the area you intend to hunt is open for
recreational access. To determine that, you will need a Fort Riley outdoor
recreation map and access the daily open areas listing on the Fort Riley
iSportsman webpage at www.fortriley.isportsman. net. Once you have done that,
you can check in and out each day from that website.
Any area open for shotgun
hunting also is open for morel hunting. Please note that spring turkey season is
in full swing, and any area open for shotgun hunting also may have turkey
You do not need a permit to
collect morels at Fort Riley, but you do need to have an “Outdoor Recreation
Vehicle Marker” in the dashboard of your vehicle. These can be picked up at any
of the hunter check stations, as well as at Environmental Division, Directorate
of Public Works, Building 407 on Main Post. Additionally, morel hunters will
need to wear one article – either a hat or shirt – of hunter orange clothing while
Now that you are set to hit
the woods, it is important you know what you’re doing before you eat any kind
of wild fungus. While there are many edible mushrooms that grow in Kansas, some
are toxic to ingest, and a few can be fatal. It is recommended individuals eat
only a small portion of any wild mushroom when trying it for the first time and
to wait 24 hours before consuming more. The old saying among mushroom hunters
is: “There are old mushroom hunters, and there are bold mushroom hunters, but
there are no old, bold mushroom hunters.”
The best way for a mushroom
hunting novice to get started is to go out with someone who has experience
looking. Not only can they teach you how to identify mushrooms, but they also
might give you some helpful hints on finding morels. Many field guides on
mushrooms also are available. One good book for this region is “A Guide to Kansas
Mushrooms,” written by Bruce Horn, Richard Kay and Dean Abel.
There are no set rules to
follow when looking for morels. Timing is the most important aspect when
looking for morels. They typically emerge in Kansas in April or early May. The
first morels will usually emerge when nighttime temperatures stay above the
50-degree mark for a few days. Morels are easiest to find the day after a rain.
Every seasoned mushroom hunter has his or her own theories on where to search
for morels. A good start for beginners would be to look for morels around dead
elm or cottonwood trees along streams, but, keep in mind they can be found
growing almost anywhere. Sometimes you might find a lone morel, where, other
times, you might find scores.
Morels can be prepared a
number of ways, but they should always be washed well and only eaten after
being cooked. It is wise to not overindulge. Although the morel is not toxic,
some individuals have been known to have an adverse reaction to them.
One interesting note about morels: Despite being a
prized delicacy, they have not been successfully grown on a commercial scale.
Fresh morels are only available for a few weeks out of the year, and those sold
are only gathered in the wild. Fortunately, we are located in one of the best
morel hunting spots in the region at Fort Riley.