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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Musing on Mushrooms

Air Date: Week of

Commentator David Catlin reflects on the advent of mushroom hunting season . . . and the spiritual rewards granted to a mushroom hound on even the most unsuccessful hunt.


CURWOOD: "A bad day of fishing beats a good day of work," reads a bumper sticker. Commentator David Catlin says the same goes for a bad day of mushroom hunting. But he says a good day is even better.

CATLIN: Spring has arrived in the Ozarks, and with it two of my favorite outdoor pastimes: fishing, and hunting morel mushrooms. Now, nearly a fifth of the US population fishes. And practically everyone knows someone who does. I don't need to paint a picture of the fever that takes hold when the buds swell and the bass start hitting topwaters. But even though morel mushrooms are found in most of the forested parts of the country, far fewer people heed their siren call.

I often find myself having to explain the equally powerful passion that grips those of us in the morel minority. It helps to say that fishing and mushroom hunting have a lot more in common than just an edible result. For instance, both activities thrive on the thrill of pursuit: how many will I come back with? Will I tangle with any really big ones today? Both activities attract participants with a wide range of abilities. Some people return from the forest with baskets full of morels, while others, though they stalk the same woods on the same afternoons, get skunked. Just like fishermen, the successful morel hunters sympathize with the failed ones in a gregarious, breezy sort of way. Without giving away secrets, they always offer a few helpful tips.

As a moderately successful mushroom hunter, I can offer you some tips, myself. Rainy, overcast weather is often good for fishing, and it's good for mushroom hunting, too. As with fishing, if you catch one morel, there are probably others nearby. And, as with fishing, you can buy the videos and read the books, but nothing works better than to go mushroom hunting with a confiding friend who knows some local hot spots.

Of course, the big ones may still get away. But fortunately there is one more thing fishing and mushroom hunting have in common. Both are just great excuses to be outdoors. So, should you encounter me returning from a morning in the Webster County Woods with my basket empty, I'll offer you that testimony as a final tip. I'll tell you that I found perfect morel hunting satisfaction from just being out in nature reveling in the beauty and joy of Spring. And, like the fisherman, I'll be lying.

CURWOOD: Commentator David Catlin is the manager of the Springfield Conservation Nature Center in Springfield, Missouri. He comes to us from member station KSMU.



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