Hunting Winter Morels
Morel hunting has, at best, a four-week window of opportunity unless you want to start in Georgia and finish in Oregon. I was so anxious that even though it is the dead of winter, I decided to go. With me was my granddaughter Brianna and her friend Sofia. Being the eternal optimist, I had each young lady carry a five-gallon bucket.
We walked along a wooded fencerow and there they were, 12 medium-size yellows. With renewed vigor, we moved on. My hunch paid dividends. All around this high-tension tower were big yellows. They were not visible to the naked eye, because this time of year yellows have a gray/brown covering that blends in well with their surroundings, but the yellow became noticeable as soon as we pulled back the husk.
You see, we were hunting big yellow ears of corn in a picked cornfield. To me, it is just like hunting morels, but more predictable. One does not have to be there when conditions are right after a good rain in late April.
First off, you must get permission and while the landowner or the guy who leases it might question your sanity, they will usually say, “Have at it.” I use the corn to feed wildlife and have an inexpensive, hand-crank, grinder to make cracked corn for the smaller birds.
The author with a trophy "yellow"
Corn pickers often miss a row or two along wooded fencerows with low-hanging branches. Because the plants were shaded, the ears are small. Any place where the corn picker must turn is a good place to look. There will usually be big yellows around power towers and where the rows come to a “T” towards the end of the field.
Also- look for stalks wadded or bunched up. This may be where the picker began to jam. Lift stalks from that jam to find big yellows hiding underneath.
Just like false morels, beware of false corn husk. The big green machine will remove the ear and leave the husk looking as if it is still intact. Just step on the husk to feel for the ear of corn.
When I go hunting these big yellows, I wear a hoodie with a pouch and my hunting vest that has a game bag in the back. Brianna, Sofia and I filled those buckets and had fun doing so. Some of the ears will be crushed by the wheels of the corn picker, I shuck them and leave them for wildlife though there is plenty anyhow. For some reason, wildlife will not tear through the husk to get to the grain. Most of the ears, I find, are as nice as the day the picker missed them; perfectly protected from the elements by the husk.
Modern corn pickers and farming practices make it difficult to find as much corn as in the past, but they do miss some. One farmer in my area is so good that I do not bother hunting his cornfields.
In the fall, immediately after a field is picked, there may be a small pile of spilled shelled corn. Farmers have vacuums that will pick up this grain so make sure to get permission before scooping up the goodies.
As we walked the long rows to my truck, I thought back to when I was a young man. Corn was planted much further apart and in some places there was enough Johnson grass to hide a rabbit. The weeds under the towers is still a good place for cottontails and even deer to hide.
You may not get to eat these big yellows but it will get you outside and help develop your mushroom eyes. Bonus, you will get to watch your furry and feathered friends enjoy the bounty of your hunt.
God’s gift to man is a male cardinal at the bird feeder on a gray winter’s day.
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