To hunt mushrooms in Nebraska is to hunt morels. Emerging for a few weeks each spring, these mushrooms are prized for their rich flavor. With their honeycombed cone-shaped cap, they’re also relatively easy to find and identify — if you know where and when to look. Read on for tips on identifying and finding morels, as well as for weekly reports on where mushroom hunters are finding morels in Nebraska, and where they’re not. Happy hunting!
Morel hunting tips
The emergence of morel mushrooms varies from year to year with the advance of spring weather, soil temperature and moisture. According to most mycologists, ground temperature for morels to push through the soil typically needs to be fifty degrees at four to six inches inches below the surface. This generally occurs in mid- to –late, April, though morels have arrived both earlier and later. Many hunters heed old-time advice and head to the woods when the lilacs bloom.
Morels ordinarily appear for a two to three week period, if not a bit longer, depending on conditions. Individually, a morel mushroom emerges, grows, and dries within about four to six days.
Along the Missouri River, avid morel mushroom hunters key into jack-in-the-pulpits, May-apples, ferns and phlox. Morel mushrooms are often found amid these plants in the same combination of soil, moisture, slope and sunlight preferred by the mushrooms.
To scout for early season morels, a seeker of the treasured fungi needs to check the south-facing slopes of woodlands with loose soils and high humidity where sunlight can penetrate to the ground near decaying organic matter (vegetation). Search an area until you find one or two, then slow down and more carefully scour the area. Always get permission before hunting morels on private land.
Hobby picking (non-commercial harvesting) for morel mushrooms is allowed on Nebraska Game and Parks Commission owned and controlled properties, unless signed otherwise. A current, valid state park entry permit is required on motor vehicles entering lands in the Nebraska state park system. Be aware that spring wild turkey hunters may be on state wildlife management areas and please steer clear of their blinds and decoys.
Morels are commonly found near rivers, so it’s no surprise that the following river-adjacent state parks and recreation areas are excellent locations to find morels:
- Eugene T. Mahoney State Park
- Indian Cave State Park
- Louisville State Recreation Area
- Platte River State Park
- Schramm Park State Recreation Area
- Two Rivers State Recreation Area
However, rivers aren’t the only locations where morels can be abundant. Old-growth forest and creek edges also present good morel opportunity. Those features can be found in the following public spots:
- Branched Oak State Recreation Area
- Burchard Wildlife Management Area
- Grove Lake Wildlife Management Area
- Pawnee Lake State Recreation Area
- Twin Lakes Wildlife Management Area
- Yellow Banks Wildlife Management Area
This list should get you started. To find other public land that might yield morels, view the Public Access Atlas.
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission reminds mushroom hunters that they must obtain permission from private landowners before treading on any property, whether that land is posted or not. Morel mushroom hunters are also being advised to know and respect property boundary fences. State parks, state recreation areas and wildlife management areas managed by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission are open to the public for mushroom hunting.
Morel mushroom hunters are reminded that it is illegal to park at bridges along public roadways. Those kayaking or air boating are reminded that river sandbars and woodlands are nearly all privately-owned and permission must be obtained to go on to those areas to look for morels.
Many morel hunters swear by one of two ways of preparing morels — breading and frying, or sauteing in some butter and herbs. For those looking for a new twist on morel preparation, here are recipes from NEBRASKAland’s Jenny Nguyen for morel linguine and morel pizza.
Hunting other mushrooms in Nebraska
Once the morel season is over, many mushroom hunters assume the mushroom season is over, but it’s not. In fact, it’s just getting started. NEBRASKAland’s Julie Geiser wrote about the many varieties of edible mushrooms available in Nebraska, where to find them, and how to prepare them. Read the full story.