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How to Train Your Eye to Find Morel Mushrooms

How to Train Your Eye to Find Morel Mushrooms

Morels are truly a spring delicacy. They exist all over the northern U.S. and can be found anywhere from orchards to alpine forests, but out west we’ve usually harvested them from April-June in forests that burned in recent years. They’re super fun to hunt for 

How to Pick Wild Morel Mushrooms Safely

How to Pick Wild Morel Mushrooms Safely

Morel mushrooms are a prized delicacy and it is well known that the best way to find them is to search through burn areas during the spring(s) following a wildfire. Recent fire seasons out west have been unprecedented, so it’s safe to say that morel 

How to Find Morels – Our Favorite Spring Mushrooms

How to Find Morels – Our Favorite Spring Mushrooms

First of all, this post isn’t about identifying morels but that’s obviously a very crucial part of any foraging. We have a brief post here where we provide recommendations for resources to learn to I.D. morels.

Here is a mushroom that looks similar to a morel, but it is NOT A MOREL!

If this looks like a morel to you, or you don’t know, make sure you know how to identify them before you consider harvesting and cooking them.


For those who are comfortable with mushroom I.D. and have been looking for morels but can’t find them – this article is for you!

A couple of years ago we had our most successful morel hunt yet. It wasn’t just successful because of the quantity of mushrooms that we harvested. It was successful because we picked a place on a map that we had never been to before, we drove 5 hours to get there, and while we were setting up camp we literally parked on top of morels. They were growing in the road and we soon discovered that they were everywhere.

Planning a trip out-of-town can be intimidating but it can also be rewarding!

With a few lessons that we have learned, we hope we can point you in the right direction for planning a morel hunt. Like any other type of wild food, it’s all about timing and location.

In a very basic sense, you are most likely to find morels in a FORESTED area that burned in the last couple of years.

We look for morels in areas that burned anywhere from 1 year ago to 5 years ago or so. 2-3 year-old burns are our favorite.

I exaggerated the word “forested” because I think this can be overlooked by beginners. You aren’t going to find morels in a high desert, grassland, or anything like that. Generally, out West, you are mostly looking for higher elevations – we like 4000 to 8000 feet, but they can absolutely be found outside of that range. A common exception can be river bottoms in lower elevations, but if you are looking for your first time and want to be successful, start up in the forest.

The beautiful mushroom in the photo below was growing in the cottonwoods next to a river down at 3,500 feet, far away from the pine and fir trees where we usually find them.

Another common mistake people make is that they are looking too close to the coast.

If you are in Washington or Oregon I would head up and over to the east side of the Cascades or at least be near the crest. I wouldn’t bother spending too much time looking down in the wet coastal range. Although it’s definitely possible to find them there, you’ll get more bang for your buck if you head a little further East.

To narrow down your search to burn areas, you are going to need to find maps of burn areas. For this, we use ONX maps.

If you haven’t given the ONX app a shot, we highly recommend it. They have a 7-day free trial and the $30 a year is incredibly worth it for a single-state membership.

The ONX mapping app can be installed on your smartphone and turns your phone into a GPS even when you don’t have cell service. It has a very handy map layer that shows all historical wildfires. This means that with one app you can plan a trip and then use it for navigation once you are out in the woods.

ONX shows pretty much all roads and trails, and property ownership too. You can also toggle between satellite imagery and topographic maps which can be very handy.

Anyway, if you don’t want to use ONX you’ll just need to find another way to find recent wildfires. If you live out west, it’s likely that there have been plenty in the last few years near where you live.

After you’ve chosen a likely area, it’s all about timing. Morels can flush as early as February and as late as July, and with the changing climate, the window is probably growing. We like to head into the woods to start looking in April and we’re usually done poking around in June. The month of May has been our most successful month for morels so far.

Timing can be tricky, though. Most people can’t go as often as they’d like to. That’s why we’d recommend using social media to see where others are having success.

Search for some mushroom social groups on Facebook and join. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with how much you can learn.

We don’t recommend asking for specific mushroom hunting spots, but lots of mushroom hunters are happy to share information like the elevation where they were successful last weekend. This information is not only super helpful for success, it’s highly motivating! If you can see that people have been doing well at 5,000 to 6,000 feet in the last week, get out there and start looking at that elevation.

Another important factor to consider is the aspect where you are hunting.

Aspect is just the direction that a slope faces. We have had successful morel trips where the mushrooms are only flushing on north or east-facing slopes. A couple years ago we were hiking up a bowl and we were finding tons of morels, but as soon as got to the top and started down the other side of the mountain, we found nothing. Lots of the time this is because south and west-facing slopes are drier than north and east-facing slopes. Just pay attention to the aspect of the slopes you are looking on, and if you aren’t finding anything make sure to try a different aspect. If you start paying attention to where you’re finding mushrooms, you’ll start to notice patterns, and then you know you’re really onto something great.

Do you see the morels in the photo above? You can also do all of the right planning and get to a great spot and walk right past morels.

They are hard to see, and it takes a bit of time for your eyes to get better at noticing them. Check out our other post here where we have some pictures to help train your eye.

We hope this article was helpful, please feel free to comment if you have any questions or tips that you’d like to share!

What do I need to do to go Hunting?

What do I need to do to go Hunting?

Wow, we’ve been busy. We went from wildfire evacuation directly into a big hunting trip for two weeks. We followed that up with moving and here we are. We are barely settled in our new home but we’re back to hunting before it’s over for 

Our “Famous” Maple Venison Breakfast Sausage Recipe

Our “Famous” Maple Venison Breakfast Sausage Recipe

We have been perfecting this recipe over the years, but it all started after a successful elk hunt in Idaho. I had been daydreaming about maple breakfast sausage, so after I got my first bull and a friend loaned us his grinder, it was on. 

Our Super Trusty, Cheap, and Simple DIY Awning

Our Super Trusty, Cheap, and Simple DIY Awning

diy awning
Several of our friends have asked us for instructions for our DIY awning, so here you go! Sorry for the mediocre photos – we wanted to get this out to a few friends before hunting season so we’re working with what we had – please feel free to ask us if you have any questions.

A few years ago we made this awning on a whim and it has worked amazingly since. It’s 8 feet wide by 10 feet long, but you can use these plans to make whatever size you want.

The main idea behind it is that “guy lines”, AKA small ropes/cords that connect the awning to stakes on the ground, are tightened with adjustable guy line knots to make the awning very sturdy.

An obvious alternative is to buy an awning system for your vehicle, but those are often expensive and aren’t customizable. A lot of pre-made awnings expand out to cover the side of a vehicle which isn’t ideal if you want to have the dry area be behind your vehicle (like we do for our truck).

This awning is made from stuff you can get at any hardware store for about $40 to $50 depending on the size and quality of the tarp and other materials.


Things we like

  • It sets up in just a few minutes
  • It covers the back area of our truck so that we have a dry area when we exit the camper
  • Set up properly, it’s super rugged. It has survived through several years and trips where we experienced heavy winds, rain, and snow
  • It can be built to whatever size you want for your vehicle
  • If something goes wrong and you ruin the tarp, it’s cheap to replace
  • We often just un-clip it from the truck and leave it behind at camp for the day without worrying about it being stolen (because it’s cheap and we have too much faith in humanity).
  • You can adjust the angle of the awning by increasing or decreasing the angle of the legs

Some drawbacks

  • We roll the awning up and put it inside of our truck when we are traveling with it. It would be nice to have it be stored on the top of the truck.
  • It takes time and energy to make, and it takes a little more time and energy to set up and take down than an electric awning or something like that.
  • This awning doesn’t have walls – in the future we’d like to buy or make one that has at least one wall. And maybe a wood stove. And windows. And a bar. Why not?

Materials/Instructions

*We chose to make an 8×10 foot awning so all of the parts correspond to that size.

Tarp

We chose to use a white, 8×10 foot tarp in the heaviest duty they had at the local hardware store. It has held up very well.

4 galvanized pipes cut to 8 feet

awning pipes

The pipes that are labeled “1” and “2” are the legs. The pipe that’s labeled “3” connects the two legs with two elbows to form the rear cross-bar. The pipe labeled “4” runs across at the top to make the front cross-bar and connects the tarp to the truck.

2 elbows

I just grabbed the first two elbows that I saw at the hardware store. These ones have set screws but we don’t use them.

Parachute cord

You’ll need about 60 feet to make the guy lines. We chose orange so that they would be highly visible. Learn to tie a “guy line” knot and use this knot to connect the corners of the awning to stakes on the ground. This knot basically slides up or down to tighten the loop around each stake. You can tie any knot you want, but guy line knots will make it so you don’t have to tie a knot every time you set it up – you just put the loop over the stake and slide the knot up to tighten the guy line. From each corner, you will want to run one guy line backwards (i.e. #2) and one guy line to the side (i.e. #1).

awning guylines

Zip Ties

We used zip ties to attach the tarp grommets to the front and back cross bars.

2 clips or carbiners

We used some old rope (parachute cord would work fine) and a couple of clips from the hardware store to attach the front “cross-bar” to the roof rack on our truck. We also bought a couple of sleeves that slide onto the pipe to keep the rope from sliding – you could also just drill a hole in the pipe and run the rope through that. Or tie a knot that doesn’t slide. What you choose to use for clips will depend on how you plan on attaching the awning to your vehicle.

2 heavy-duty “nail” stakes

These two stakes get hammered into the ground at an angle and the bottoms of the two leg pipes slide over them.

4 tent stakes

We use these 4 stakes to attach the guy lines to the ground. Sorry, you can only see one stake in the photo above.

A Couple of Notes

  • Make sure to set it up so that it drains water away from your vehicle – do this by lowering the angle of the legs.
  • We have used this awning in all conditions, and we believe one of the reasons it has held up to heavy snow and high winds is the thicker (and more expensive) tarp material. Don’t go for the cheap, thin stuff.
  • Here’s a photo of what it looks like rolled up and ready to go.
awning rolled up
The Unforseen Value of our Skoolie – Running from the Caldor Fire

The Unforseen Value of our Skoolie – Running from the Caldor Fire

If everything were going as planned, Olivia would have her full attention on finishing out her first school semester and I’d be working hard to prepare for the upcoming hunting season. Instead, we’ve packed some of our belongings and we’ve left home to get away 

How to Make Your Life Chaotic – Get a Puppy and Convert a School Bus

How to Make Your Life Chaotic – Get a Puppy and Convert a School Bus

It’s safe to say that this spring was hectic. We worked on our school bus every chance we could, often running late into the night. We also got a puppy who we named after one of our favorite towns in Idaho – “Stanley”. Stanley is 

The Ultimate Hunting and Fishing Mobile – Our School Bus Conversion

The Ultimate Hunting and Fishing Mobile – Our School Bus Conversion

That’s right, one of Olivia’s many dreams came true. She bought a school bus. It’s going to be a big project converting it, but it’ll be really fun.

Olivia thinks the main purpose of the bus is for her to live in while she is in grad school, but we all know that the main purpose is to have a hunting and fishing machine – It’ll have a big enough freezer to freeze an entire elk. It will have kayak racks. It will have bike racks. It will have a special spot for our raft. It’ll have a huge barbecue. Welllllllllllllll these are some things that I hope for, but more realistically it will have a bed, a kitchen, a shower, a portable toilet, a couch, a desk, and a big enough freezer for a good day of ocean fishing and mayyyyybe a whole deer. We’ll see.

It is, after all, her bus for school. I am so happy and excited to help her turn it into a safe, comfortable living space. And it’ll have a fish-cleaning station. And maybe some rod holders on the ceiling. It’s long enough even for my fly fishing poles.

Olivia picked it up and drove it home a couple weeks ago and so far we’ve just ripped it apart and cleaned it. Soon we’ll get to the fun stuff, but first we have to do a little more of the boring jobs – caulking, ordering stuff, planning, blah blah blah.

I’m just kidding. Every night I sit at my computer looking at school bus stuff. It’s so fun. Backup cameras. LED lights. Sweet cabinetry. Bamboo floors. Home Alone meets James Bond – style security. Beware creepers, Olivia might just be shooting pepper spray in your face with a remote control button from inside of the bus.

We went back and forth for a while about whether or not to bother sharing the bus conversion on our blog, or what we would share if we did put it online. We ended up deciding that we’ll just share generally what were up to and anything we think is worth sharing that’s not already covered online. School bus conversion stuff is already covered in exhausting detail.

Anyway, without further ado, here she is:

school bus

It’s a 22 foot, 5-window short bus. Inside, it has about 13 by 8 feet of open space in the back. It’s a little over 6 feet tall in the middle, and it’s a beautiful 70,000 miles young.

You might have noticed the words “Navajo Head Start” on the side. Olivia bought it from a bus sales company in Phoenix and it came to them by way of a school in New Mexico. By law in some states, you have to repaint a converted school bus, so that’s on our to-do list this spring when we have good enough weather to do it. I’m thinking camo would be best but I think Olivia probably has other plans.

Here are a couple “before” photos of the inside of the bus.

For our first weekend, we got in the bus with a bunch of tools and ripped it all apart. We had to be careful in a couple of areas but for the most part it was just a lot of aggressive hammering, prying, cursing, and destroying drill bits. The bus came with one passenger bench seat which we removed and might reuse.

We thought the bus would have either Phillips-head screws or aluminum rivets holding all of the paneling on, but it had steel rivets that were difficult to drill through and really hard to pry out.

My main advice for choosing tools for demoing a school bus would be to have lots of bits for different fasteners – ours mainly had rivets but there were plenty of other fasteners too (T25s, Philips, flat heads, and a large variety of bolt sizes).

Other than removing fasteners and prying with a flat bar, we did do a little bit of cutting with the angle grinder and sheers to speed things up.

By the end of the first weekend we had finished removing all of the paneling and the floor as well. We did decide to keep some of the original white metal paneling in the cab. You gotta keep some of the original stuff to properly honor the bus’s previous life.

This weekend we decided to take the time to do a good cleaning. It turns out that when 20 kids go in and out of a small space for 15 years, every day, they leave some dirt behind.

It’s ok, dirt isn’t toxic. We just washed the whole floor out with a hose and it’ll be ready for caulking and paint as soon as it’s dry.

We also started a little bit of investigation into the existing electrical system. There are a bunch of alarm switches on the doors and emergency hatch and other alarms, and the bus won’t start if the back door is locked with the deadbolt.

That’s a big problem because if, for whatever reason, we were to feel unsafe where we were parked, we don’t want to have to unlock the back door in order to drive the bus away. This will be an easy problem to fix and it’s one of the first things we’ll take care of next before we start building.

Stay tuned for some (hopefully) more exciting posts about our bus conversion coming soon!

The Lion, the Wolf, and the Moose – Part 5

The Lion, the Wolf, and the Moose – Part 5

If you haven’t read parts 1-4, you can find them here. I started my first afternoon of Rosie hunting disappointed. As I took my first look with my binoculars, I spotted an ATV down where I was planning on hunting. Bundles of fog were quickly