Mushroom hunting is a family friendly outdoor activity that is available all across Indiana. Photo: Brandon Butler
Morel mushrooms are starting to pop across the southern half of Indiana and rumors of finds are spreading county by county. In the next few weeks, droves of mushroom hunters will start scouring the woods looking for the mother load, and many of them will be doing so in Brown County.
Brown County offers outdoor enthusiasts numerous opportunities to get out and enjoy nature. Brown County State Park and Yellowwood State Forest offer scenic camping sites for both tents and recreational vehicles. For those not interested in camping, Abe Martin Lodge in the state park has plenty of attractive rooms. There are also cabins for rent within the state park, which give visitors a nice middle ground between camping and staying in a hotel.
Mushroom hunting is legal in state parks and state forests, so there are tens-of-thousands of acres of prime, public ground for mushroom hunting in Brown County.
Experts tell you there are tips and tricks for finding morels. They say to focus on elm and apple trees, to scour south facing hillsides and to spend a lot of time around moist soil. I might be the worst mushroom hunter in recorded history. I try to do what the experts say, but I rarely find mushrooms where they are supposed to be. My advice, go for a long, slow walk in the woods and keep your eyes on the ground.
A few tools of the trade include a walking stick, a knife and a mesh bag. Walking sticks are important because they allow you to scoot leaves and brush around without having to bend down. I don’t know the science behind it, but experts say to use a knife to cut the morels off at the stem instead of pulling them completely out of the ground. Supposedly this helps them regenerate. A mesh bag sort of works the same way. The theory is a mesh bag allows spores to fall from the mushrooms as you walk through the woods, thus the spreading the bounty for future years. A good Google Earth map of the area you’re walking is a good idea too, so you can mark finds and return for years to come.
Brown County is a recognized all across the Midwest as a fall foliage travel destination. While tourists from across the country make it a point to explore the park during the breathtakingly beautiful display of colorful leaves each fall, many fail to realize is just how good the outdoor opportunities are in the spring. Mushroom hunting is big in the area, but so is fishing, hiking, turkey hunting, camping, mountain biking, bird watching and so much more.
There is no shortage of public land. Brown County State Park, Indiana’s largest at over 24,000 acres, is home to a couple of small lakes that are a float tube fisherman’s dream. Impoundments resting in the bottom of flooded hallows, Ogle Lake and Strahl Lake are pristine waters of remarkable beauty that happen to hold some fish. Yellowwood State Forest is located between Nashville and Bloomington, just off Highway 46. The forest consists of 23,326 acres of public land that is popular with campers, hikers, hunters, fisherman, and horseback riders.