dbowhntr gave a really good synopsis of how to look for morels. This is an awesome how to for the beginner, wish I would of had all this info packaged together when I was a green horn! Again i didnt write this, this is copied from another Illinois thread by dbowhntr…….
“Keep watching these forums. Check on the reports of areas to the south to see how they are doing to give you an idea of when the morels will start popping in your area. The way morels move northward in spring is similar to the way the color show moves south in the fall, slowly but surely, at the rate of about 100 miles per week.
Check on the soil temps that pophead linked to. Watch for the 50 degree line to hit your area. Not 50 degrees yet? Too early. Keep an eye on the condition of the woods where you hunt. Is there any ground cover at all? No? Too early. Have the mayapples grown up to the 8-10″ range? No? Too early. Have trees’ buds opened yet? To the point where the oak leaves are as big as a squirrel’s ear? No? Too early. Are you seeing dandelions in lawns or open areas? No? Too early. Have you noticed lilacs starting to flower? No? Too early.
When you can start answering yes to these questions is when you will find morels.
As far as any particular area being better than any other, you can find morels all over the place. Learn how to identify a dead elm tree, particularly the ones that have died within the last year or two. Hints: Most of the bark will still be on the tree, perhaps some will have fallen off a few of the upper branches. The bark has a certain look to it that you will start to be able to recognize from a distance. Bark that is still on upper branches may start to discolor and look kind of pale yellowish-gray. In places where the bark has just begun to fall off, the outer bark will slough off first and reveal a tannish/cinnamon colored under bark. As you hike in the woods during summer, fall and winter, keep your eyes open for trees that look like this and cement their location in your memory so that during spring, when the woods start to come alive and you’re seeing indicators like I mentioned above, you can go right to those particular dead elm trees. This is something that has made me more successful over the years. When it’s time to pick morels I don’t just wander around the woods hoping to stumble across a few tasty morels because, literally, that is a waste of time. Morel season is short and you have to know where the high-probability spots are so that you can go directly to them without having to wander around for hours at a time trying to find such a spot first.
You should also be able to spot an ash tree from a distance. They’re not as reliable as dead elms, but in some years good amounts of morels can be found under ash. I’m looking at my calendar from last year and on 4/19 I found a nice mess of 48 yellows under a couple ash trees.
Keep your eye out for old apple trees. Like the ash, they don’t produce as much as dead elms, but sometimes they can be great. Old orchards that are totally overgrown can be killer spots.
Big old cottonwoods can produce sometimes, too. One of my first big finds ever was around the stump of a cottonwood that had been recently cut down. About 120 big yellows came from that spot, probably 3-4 lbs worth. I know the location of a bunch of really big, old cottonwoods and I usually find a few morels under them each year. A few years ago (it was kind of a dry year) I was having trouble finding morels around dead elms; I kept going to perfect looking elm trees but no morels. Then I started keying in on cottonwoods and it turned into a successfull season.
Be aware of areas that have been recently logged or for places where dying trees such as elms and cottonwoods have been cut down. Check those stumps when morel time hits. I once found 240 grays around the stump of a huge old elm that had been cut down the previous fall.
If you know of any hawthorne/thornapple trees, check those. They are decent producers in some years.
In general, stay away from oak-dominant areas. Big stands of old oak trees are super-low probability spots. You’ll be wasting your time if you are looking for morels in an area like that.
Keep all these things in mind. Hike year-round so that you can build up a catalogue of likely spots that you can hit in spring. Don’t get discouraged if you go to some likely spots and there are no morels. That happens all the time. Just because it’s a likely-looking spot doesn’t mean the morels will always be there. Five years ago I found a big elm that was dying in the same general area that had produced a good amount of morels in years past and I looked at that tree and said to myself, “See you next year!” Then next year came and I went to that tree and it looked perfect, with the discolored pale yellowish-gray branches and some of that cinnamon colored under bark showing and…no morels. And then I checked again the next year, and every year since, but never a single morel. Oh, well, that’s why I try to line up as many possible spot as I can for each year. And you have to keep finding new spots every year because morel spots come and go. You have to keep updating that catalogue.
Some days you can go out and find 50 or 60 morels in the first ten minutes and then nothing for the rest of the day. Or you might hike for hours on end and have nothing to show for it and on your way back to the car, in the last couple hundred yards, bam! You stumble on a patch of 100.
When the morels do start, especially in a cool spring like this, you should concentrate first on areas that warm up before other areas. This means places like a wood line that faces south or slopes that face south/southeast. As the season progresses you can move further into the woods, to shadier places and to west facing slopes and then finally to the north facing slopes.
The worst thing to be is an interloper. As you can tell from what I’ve written here I spend a lot of time hiking, all year long, so that I can line up my morel spots for spring. Remember that morel hunters put in a lot of hard work in order to be successful. Learning to identify trees and various ground cover plants and shrubs, putting boots on the ground, etc. are all part of what it takes to be successful. It takes time and effort and most morel hunters don’t take kindly to people begging them to share their spots. Why should someone put in all kinds of time and effort, just so that an interloper can come along and harvest the fruits of their labor? Morel hunters are notoriously secretive. Don’t be put off by it. We have good reasons for being that way and if you put in your time you’ll become successful and you’ll find yourself telling people who ask you where you pick your morels, “In the woods.”
Relax. Enjoy. Don’t expect it to happen all at once. The cold spring is slowing the start a little this year but it won’t be long. You’ll find some. “ Dbowhntr