This past weekend I got a chance to do one of my favorite spring time activities; Wild Mushroom Hunting! I was joined by my wife, brother-in-law, and sister-in-law in the hunt. They have joined in past years and all have a keen eye for Morels.
For years we have cruised choice mushroom hunting spots for the ever elusive morel mushroom. This year however was a bit different because I was able to go hunting on 190 acres of our families new recreational property in New Lisbon, WI. What also makes this different than the past is that for the first time in a long time I don’t have any go-to hot spots. Prior to purchasing this new property we did ask the previous owners if they had any history finding morel mushrooms and they informed us they had much better luck finding Oysters and Hen of the Woods, two varieties I didn’t have much experience foraging.
Tip! When I am hunting Morel mushrooms I typically follow the “dead elm rule”. If there are morels to be found, find them by the dead elms.
I have found morel mushrooms in many different places, open fields, along creeks, under pines, but dead elms seem to be the most common place to find them here in Wisconsin. That said, in 2 days I must have checked over 50 dead elms, but no luck. In the end I struck out and didn’t find any morel mushrooms. However, I didn’t walk away empty handed. I was lucky enough to find a nice batch of pheasant back mushrooms. Now normally I am pretty dismissive of pretty much any wild mushroom except for morels, but I had been doing a fair amount of research lately and knew exactly
what I was dealing with as soon as I spotted it. The pheasant back mushroom as also known as hawk’s wing or dryad’s saddle and its formal name is polyporous squamosus. Pheasant backs are very easy to identify (based on looks), has no poisonous look-a-likes (that I have been able to find in some exhaustive searching), and can often be found in large quantities. They also have a very watermelon or cucumber-like smell once picked. The mushroom is actually a tree-wound parasite of hardwoods, and causes white-rot. I have heard people generally have the most luck finding pheasant backs on old or dead box-elder and elm. In my case it was an old oak tree. In all I found over 3 lbs!
If you want to learn more about pheasant back mushrooms I recommend checking out the following links:
- Mycomagnet site on polyporous squamosus
- Mushroom-collecting.com site on dyrad’s saddle
- Themushroomforager.com post on dryad’s saddle
Disclaimer: I am not an expert at this. While I have done my share of research and am very selective over what I eat. I hold no accountability over your choices to consume wild mushrooms. Some mushrooms are poisonous and may even result in death if consumed.