How to Follow Morel Ettiquette (and Find Morels)

I’m not sure how the unspoken morel hunter’s etiquette spreads, but seasoned foragers can spot a violation of the “code” faster than an elusive morel mushroom.

Photo Caption: One of our morel harvests from 2010.

With luck, a morel newbie has already started to absorb the “rules” by the time they’ve learned how to find morels and what they look like. If not, they’re bound to stumble into a situation where someone sets them straight.

Some morel etiquette seems to be regional but for the most part the rules work everywhere. If you know of a detail I missed, please let me know in the comments and I’ll adjust this list accordingly.

Morel Etiquette:

  1. Don’t ask a morel hunter to tell you where they find their mushrooms. They aren’t being rude by not answering you! It often takes hours, days, or even years to find a great morel spot and foragers deserve to profit from their hard work.
  2. If someone asks you how to find morels, give them accurate information. Morel hunters won’t tell you where to look, but they will tell you how, often with excellent time-saving details.
  3. If a morel hunter takes you to their site, it’s rude for you to tell other people about it or to go there without them.
  4. If you find a morel site with a group, you “own” it collectively and shouldn’t tell/bring other foragers without the group’s consensus.
  5. You don’t really “own” any site on public land. You can keep it secret, but if someone else finds it, you can’t force them to leave.
  6. If you go to a public site and find other mushroom hunters there it’s still fair for you to search for mushrooms. However, be polite and give other foragers a wide berth (15 feet or more). If another forager announces a find, it is very rude to rush over and start collecting next to them.
  7. When foraging in a group it is polite (and fun) to announce a find so that everyone will know morels are in the area. If you suspect that your fellow foragers may rush your claim, it’s okay to keep finds to yourself.
  8. Group foragers should decide prior to the hunt how they plan to divvy up their finds.
  9. Do unto other mushroom hunters as you would have them do unto you.

In addition to this I will add some of my personal observations on morel hunting. I find it easier to keep to one vehicle load of hunters per trip. This eliminates the cumbersome act of coordinating a caravan when driving to different spots and it prevents frustratingly tiny shares if your group is splitting the harvest.

Many group forays dictate that you keep what you find (which works especially well with large numbers of people).

I find that a small group pooling their finds and splitting it evenly has a more positive hunting experience because they don’t feel the need to compete. Groups that share probably find more mushrooms because they are comfortable spreading out and searching new areas even if they hear comrades shouting out finds in a proven spot. There is also less chance of feeling crowded, because people won’t feel as tempted to search in the same area as you.

The only exception to sharing equally is if one member finds a particularly unusual specimen. Let the person who finds the largest or most oddly shaped morel have first dibs on taking it home.

Happy hunting everyone! Here are some more resources to get you started:

For those of you in the South Carolina upstate, we did find some very young morels on our foray yesterday (3/19/2011).

Eliza Lord

I'm a Greenville, SC native (the Appalachian foothills) who wears the hats of Greenville Master Gardener & Upstate Master Naturalist. I love to write about food and sustainability.

27 thoughts on “How to Follow Morel Ettiquette (and Find Morels)”

  1. Pingback: How to Find Edible Morel Mushrooms (With Recipes) | Appalachian Feet

  2. Pingback: How to Train Your Eyes to Spot Morels (Photo Essay) | Appalachian Feet

  3. Zoe / pearled earth - March 20, 2011 4:12 pm

    You’ve got me excited for the hunt :) It will still be a little while in northern PA, but I’ll be keeping your “how to find” tips in mind while looking around for suitable areas. Happy spring.
    Zoe / pearled earth´s last blog post ..Clivia miniata

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - May 8, 2011 8:12 pm

      Did you find any morels this year? Not sure how far along your season is but I figure it must have started by now.
      Sustainahillbilly´s last blog post ..How to Feel Inspired by an Urban Farm

  4. Mark Willis
    Twitter: marksvegplot
    - March 20, 2011 5:39 pm

    For me, all these rules are regrettably hypothetical! But it’s nice to think that there ARE rules for such things. How did you cook your share of the loot?
    Mark Willis´s last blog post ..Re-vamping the front garden

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - May 8, 2011 8:13 pm

      We had a big morel party for all the hunters and made stuffed morels, morels with gnocchi, a salad with morel dressing, and at least 3 other things but my mind is blanking right now.

  5. luvarugula - March 20, 2011 5:48 pm

    I know it’s just me but I’m glad to see there are rules for these things!
    luvarugula´s last blog post ..Disaster in Japan- resources

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - May 8, 2011 8:14 pm

      Well, I think these rules make things easier… I hear it is even more important in Europe where the mushroom foraging culture is much more prevalent.

  6. Donna - March 20, 2011 7:20 pm

    Your rules are entertaining and nice if they are followed. I never hunted for mushrooms and would never trust my identification skills.
    Donna´s last blog post ..Lewiston GardenFest is Coming

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - May 8, 2011 8:15 pm

      That’s smart — I didn’t either and just had mushroom lust for years. My fiancee is great at mushrooms and that is what finally made me brave enough.

  7. wiseacre - March 20, 2011 7:40 pm

    Don’t ask, don’t tell :)
    wiseacre´s last blog post ..Xanthomendoza what

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - May 8, 2011 8:15 pm


  8. Randy - March 20, 2011 10:55 pm

    Looks like you had a good haul last year! We have found 3 morels on our property in the past two year. Our best haul has been Golden Chantrelles.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - May 8, 2011 8:16 pm

      It’s almost time for those here and I can’t wait!

  9. Lrong - March 20, 2011 11:27 pm

    Interesting read on the ‘rules’… we shall be going out to hunt for some edibles in the woods soon…
    Lrong´s last blog post ..Potager update for mid-march

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - May 8, 2011 8:16 pm

      Yay! I hope you found some.

  10. PlantPostings
    Twitter: plantpostings
    - March 20, 2011 11:47 pm

    I don’t trust myself to identify mushrooms and then eat them! We have tons of them growing in the woods here, but there are too many poisonous look-alikes. But someday I’d like to hunt with an expert. Mushrooms are amazing and tasty! Enjoy the hunt!
    PlantPostings´s last blog post ..Plant of the month- Hylotelephium telephium

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - May 8, 2011 8:16 pm

      Fortunately I’m marrying an expert. That’s the way to do it! :)

  11. Curbstone Valley Farm - March 21, 2011 11:10 am

    I solve the problem, and only hunt on my own property 😉
    Curbstone Valley Farm´s last blog post ..Building Owl Boxes

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - May 8, 2011 8:21 pm

      If only I had that opportunity! Although, my uncle just told me his 300 acres has a lot of tulip trees along the stream. We’re going to check it out next year.

  12. b-a-g - March 21, 2011 3:52 pm

    Interesting post. I’m guessing that the list of rules is even longer for truffle hunting.
    b-a-g´s last blog post ..Daffodils 21 MAR 2011

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - May 8, 2011 8:21 pm

      Yeah, I wonder what those are like! We don’t have them around here, at least not on public property.

  13. Alistair - March 24, 2011 9:13 am

    Sounds like a great day out to me, I love mushrooms. I suppose it would be acceptable to announce your find after you have cleared the area.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - May 8, 2011 8:22 pm

      Sure, but then you risk people beating you to that spot next year!

  14. Pam's English Garden - April 1, 2011 12:45 pm

    This posting is fascinating! I don’t think we have morels growing in our area. Sounds like a fun activity, if you know what you are looking for. P. x
    Pam’s English Garden´s last blog post ..Animal- Vegetable- Miracle

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - May 8, 2011 8:22 pm

      I think y’all have some great mushrooms where you live, though. Definitely a must to properly identify them.
      Sustainahillbilly´s last blog post ..How to Feel Inspired by an Urban Farm

  15. Zoe / pearled earth - May 16, 2011 8:42 pm

    hi eliza, we were away on a camping trip when you asked if we’d found any morels yet, and we did! just two of them, but they produced ample glee :) found them in acadia nat’l park on mt. desert island in maine. hoping to find some around home soon. how about you?
    Zoe / pearled earth´s last blog post ..Budding

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