Morels in the Buffer Zones

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This time of year, every day is a new opportunity for morel hunters. I wish I could get out more than I do. I watch activity all year round, looking for new spots and expanding on the areas that I know are faithful. I dubbed those locations “relative spots”. I start getting calls in the Spring time from people close to me who know I am always on the hunt, anxious to get out themselves. Often, this will be there only hunt, so I take them to those spots I know will produce.

I had seen the logging operation the year before and was set on following up on this spot. A lot of times I have that idea and never make it back because life gets in the way sometimes. However, I hit it perfect with this one. Large slash piles that stood the year before were nothing but a circular bare spot on the forest floor with charred log butts spread about.

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If you had not seen the logging operation in action, there was not much to give the site away apart from the fact that the logging roads had obviously been recently maintained. There are buffer zones running alongside the road where a strip of land had not been processed by the machinery. In this case it is because there was a creek on the road side and the logging operation had to set aside this portion so as not to damage the water source. Beyond this buffer zone strip, out of view of the road, was the leftover land and pounds of morels.

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This is always very interesting to me. It is dramatic to see side by side the forest before and after a logging operation comes through. As I am walking through the slash piles with my nose on the ground, scanning for mushrooms, I had an overall change of environment. I do not know how to explain it, but in a few steps I crossed the threshold of the buffer zone, from processed to pristine. The trees were large and numerous with high canopies that created a quiet darkness and the ground opened up, from tons of underbrush to open space. The diversity of plant types in a few steps went from mainly knee high shrubs to a variety of plants and wild flowers and marker mushrooms. I started finding naturals as a followed the buffer zone into a larger untouched area off of the road.

I am not a master in ecology, but I understand differences in environment in relation to morel hunting. In the logging zones, the morels are numerous and come in a few flushes and are never enormous in size. In less traumatized zones, morels are fewer and farther in between, but are much larger in size and the season is extended in these areas. I have thought that possibly the morel spores are easy spread into the mycelium in areas of soil disruption, which would make sense why logging operations and burns get the poundage not seen in more natural settings.

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I get a thrill out of finding them either way. As the morels start to climb in elevation around the Rogue Valley, the excitement increases for me. I like to get out of the logging areas and the burns and as morels climb the mountains, the naturals are more abundant and easier to find.

Mary Jane Feetham

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