Burn Morel Environmental Factors

Morel Madness

The madness of the great morel hunt is just beginning to creep up on us. Facebook pages are flooding with information, forums are active, people are chatting – a fever pitch is working its way up to what will soon become a frenzy. We often get asked about elevation and other morel hunting success factors, whether naturals or in a burn. Our experience is limited to a two week window in May/June every year when we visit burn sites all over the state of Oregon. So I find myself wondering… how could we go about gathering more useful information? The internet is a vast pool of knowledge, turns out it just takes a little patience to find what you need. 

We spent a bit of time combing web pages and Facebook forums for elevation reports (ok, mostly Trent’s hard work). While this may not be 100% spot on, it offers a nice guide for what you might expect out there in the wild wild west. This information was generally compiled about burn morels in the Pacific Northwest, but their natural cousins also probably fit fairly closely within these ranges. All you Midwesterners have a very different set of rules!

Getting Started in a Burn

How do we start our initial elevation search? We always plan ahead and pre-locate several areas with specific traits on a map that we want to explore.

Typically, these areas:

  • Are located in a burn from the previous summer/fall
  • Have good tree coverage.  Mixed Conifer and Grand Firs are our favorite.
  • Represent several different elevations and aspects
  • Have a creek
  • Are relatively flat
  • Are accessible by car and foot

We plan at least an hour in each area and perhaps up to a mile of walking/looking. Typically when driving between pre-chosen locations, we spot a likely place and do a quick park and explore… if nothing, we hop in the car and move on. We often drive into the furthest spot and work our way back.

East and west aspects are preferred (versus north and south) but we’ll take what mother nature gives us. There was a burn a few years ago where the north side produced quite well, yet on the other side of the road the south facing side was completely barren.

Elevation Estimates

March: Usually looking below 2,000 ft in elevation. Early blacks are commonly found up to 2,500 or 3,000 feet in a warmish spring.
April: Usually 1,500 to 3,500 feet
May: 3,500 to 4,500+ feet
June: 4,500 feet and above
July: 6,000 feet and above.

TIP: During the timeframe we hunt Oregon – last week of May, first week of June we always find burn morels starting around 4,600 ft. They go up to 4,800 ft, but rarely make it past 5,000 during this window. 2017 and 2018 both overlapped with a killer spring porcini season, it was awesome!

We also find that even just 100 ft in elevation swing can make a big difference. Once you identify the ideal fruiting elevation, mark it and follow within your aspect zones. If the morels look dry and older, go up. If they are sparse and tiny, go down. They are creatures of habit, and fairly predictable. 

Other Factors

Longitude and Latitude

Go north towards Washington, add 1-2 weeks
Go south towards California and subtract 1-2 weeks
Go west towards Idaho and add 1,000 feet.

Aspect

South facing lowers elevation by 100 to 200 feet.
North facing raises elevation by 100 to 200 feet.

Year

Spring itself seems to have at least a two week swing. Try going to the same spot every year at the same time and log your findings. Morels like moisture and warmth (usually at least 50 degrees). Both of these things are needed to kick a burn into high production. 

There it is.

What do you think? Please comment below and share your own tips for a successful morel hunt! Check out our CA, OR, WA & ID morel burn maps if you are so inclined.

Showing 2 comments
  • Siane
    Reply

    I have found a spot with thousands of morels and would like to know how to go about selling them? There used to be buyers set up along the roads, but this year I haven’t seen any at all, of course!

    Thank you.

    P.S. i live in N. Ca,,about 80 miles N.W. of Reno an the Nevada border.

    • Trent Blizzard
      Reply

      Hi Siane,
      We don’t really have much knowledge about the buying process, as we don’t sell our foraged mushrooms. However, you may find some info here – http://www.matsiman.com/arch/bypiccontact/year_round_in_season_buyers.htm. I’ve always seen buyers camped in the towns near the most activity, often near productive burn sites in the case of morels. Good luck!

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