Brown County Celebrates Mushroom Hunting

Morel mushrooms are starting to pop up across the southern half of Indiana, and rumors of finds are spreading. In the next few weeks, droves of mushroom hunters will start scouring the woods looking for the mother lode. Many of them will be doing so in Brown County.

Mushroom hunting is legal in state parks and state forests, so there are tens of thousands of acres of prime, public ground for fungi hunting in the county. And the experts tell you there are tips and tricks for finding these morels here. They say to focus on elm and apple trees, scour south-facing hillsides and to a lot of time around moist soil. I might be the worst mushroom hunter in recorded history. I’ll try to do what the experts say, but I rarely find mushrooms where they are supposed to be. My advice is, 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 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 morel off at the stem instead of pulling it completely out of the ground. Supposedly, this helps them regenerate. A mesh bag sort of works the same way—the theory is this bag allows spores to fall from the mushrooms as you walk through the woods, thus spreading the bounty for future years. Also, getting an accurate map of the exact area you’re walking in is a good idea too so you can mark locations of finds and return there for years to come.

Brown County is recognized across the Midwest as a fall-foliage travel destination. While tourists from across the country make it a point to explore the park here during the breathtakingly beautiful display of colorful leaves each fall, many fail to realize how good the opportunities are in the spring. Mushroom hunting is big in the area, but fishing, hiking, turkey hunting, camping, mountain biking and bird watching are as well.

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 too, which give visitors a nice middle ground between camping and staying in a hotel.

The public land in Brown County State Park is Indiana’s largest at over 24,000 acres. It’s home to a couple of small lakes that are a float-tube fisherman’s dream. Impoundments that rest in the bottoms of the flooded hallows of Ogle and Strahl lakes are pristine waters of remarkable beauty that hold numbers of fish. Yellowwood is located between Nashville, Ind. and Bloomington, Ind., just off Highway 46. This Hoosier forest comprises 23,326 acres that is popular every year with campers, hikers, hunters, fishermen and horseback riders, and those mushroom hunters.