A Law of Morel Hunting

Okay, it might not be a truly scientific law, however it does seem to be a common experienced phenomena with me and my fellow morel forging cohorts.  Here is what happens:

We’ll have found a nice looking spot where we feel like some morels ought to be; big Tulip trees, nice flowing streams, maybe some good flood plains, basically the tell-tale signs of a quality morel site.  We begin looking about and inevitably somebody finds one or two morels which works to both get everybody excited about the location and to also convince us that there must be more morels nearby.  So we kick our searching selves into full gear and begin searching tirelessly for the next delicious fungal finds.  However, we will, without fail it seems, go for some time without any other finds.  This will be discouraging and eventually one or two of us will start getting antsy to move on to potentially more fruitful grounds.  One of us will announce this to the group saying something like, “what do y’all think about checking another location?”  There will be a general group agreement and slowly we will begin to abandon the area.  Then, it seems like every time, mere moments after deciding to move on, somebody will say “Oh, found one!  Oh, there’s another! And another!”  We’ll all be kicked back into gear and enjoy a few moments of successful morel finding.

It is baffling really.

This has happened so frequently amongst me an my fellow morel forgers that we have gotten to the point where we’ll just jokingly say, “Well there is obviously nothing here, let’s move on.”  it really is funny how often we’ll find a good number of morels after somebody has suggested leaving a site.

I do have a theory as to why this might happen.  This is certainly not a very scientific or testable explanation, but I think it might be a good idea behind this phenomena.  When we go out morel hunting we tend to try to visualize what the mushrooms look like.  While morels are very visually distinctive, they tend to be very difficult to spot as their coloring and shading blend in perfectly with woodland detritus.  So when searching we keep a keen eye out for that trademark honeycomb-like surface.  My theory goes something like this. When we are very actively looking we are focusing our visual skills very specifically, however, in doing this we have a very narrow field of vision, which can easily be fooled by shadows, old sweetgum balls, or other things on the ground.  it isn’t that we can’t find morels at all with this narrow active vision (we certainly do find them in this mode), but we run the risk of missing them because the line of sight is so straight and direct.  On the flip side, when we have more or less given up and are considering leaving, our vision reverts to a kind of passive state, which provides a broader field of vision.  With the visual clues of morels still in or minds, our broader passive vision, based largely on periphery, is able to quickly notice objects that very specifically meet our morel identification requirements, and these objects very often turn out to be those morels we so want.  Again, I have no way of proving that this is why we have such luck after the thought of leaving, but it seems reasonable.

All and all it is not a big deal.  over the two days this past weekend we found probably somewhere around 250 – 300 morels.  besides having a fruitful harvest of the mushrooms, the weather was lovely here in South Carolina, and it felt great to just get out in the woods and breathe some fresh air.  We are hopeful that we might still have nother week or so worth of good morel finding in this direct area for this year.  Furthermore, several of us are thinking about heading slightly northward into North Carolina over the next few weeks to see if we can follow the morel blooming as it moves up the country.  In some ways it feels sad that morel season only comes  for such a short time each year, but on the flip side, it makes for a really entertaining couple of weeks.

Good hunting to all you other morel forgers out there.

~ by Nathaniel on April 4, 2011.

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