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Mushroom Hunting Season Begins

Have you tried to go mushroom hunting this Spring and walked out of the woods empty handed? WFFT's Brooke Welch talks with a local "mushroom man" about how to find morel mushrooms, and what dangers to avoid while in the woods.
"For me, it was a hobby that became a passion and now it's obsession." - Alex Babich
Have you tried to go mushroom hunting this Spring and walked out of the woods empty handed?  WFFT's Brooke Welch talks with a local "mushroom man" about how to find morel mushrooms, and what dangers to avoid while in the woods.

Alex Babich moved to the United States from Russia after the Chernobyl Accident and has now been able to make a living mushroom hunting.

"For me, it was a hobby that became a passion and now it's obsession."

Last year Alex found 366 pounds of mushrooms.  Where at?  All over the United States.

"I've got so many different spots, in so many different states, and ya know, I can't wait to get to every one.  I remember every tree.  I remember every side of the tree and everything so I can't wait to get back and see what this year's crop is like."

Alex learned how to hunt from his grandfather, so how can you find mushrooms?  Start with a stick, a knife, gloves, and a mesh bag.  Next, look for dying elm trees.

"Dead elm is my favorite target, if you don't know what an elm tree looks like, it peels bark.  That's an obvious sign for them, they die and they start peeling bark."

This is a dying elm, can you spot two morels right here?  Once you find them, Babich encourages hunters to cut the mushrooms instead of pulling them.  Also, you need to be aware of dangers in the woods.

"I've been chased by wolves, chased by wild boar, came across a few bears, once I've been bitten by a squirrel while mushroom hunting."

Babich says problems with wild animals are rare and that the main concerns are poison ivy and ticks.  Additionally, you want to be careful that you are eating edible mushrooms.  Babich tells us about a friend that had a bad experience.

"My mom, she started doing this and then he's like I started doing the same thing and I can't stop and we couldn't figure it out, so we started getting freaked out about what's going on and then my mom's cat jumped on my lap and turned purple and my mom doesn't even have a cat."

Babich says his friend accidentally ate a psychedelic mushroom.  Babich explains how you can make sure you have an edible morel mushroom.

"There's a couple of morel look-a-likes.  Which morels always hollow and the look-a-likes don't really look like a morel and they are solid and that's how you know the difference between a morel or not."

Coming from the Ukraine, Babich is thankful to be able to have a job that he is passionate about.

"I came from a country that I'm used to standing in line for hours for anything you get and coming over here is just such a blessing.  This truly is the best country in the world, it's pretty awesome."

Mushroom hunting is a very short season and some signs that it's ending are when you start to see fields of white dandelions and have temperatures in the 80's for a couple of days. 

If you would like more information about mushroom hunting, just click here.
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