A cloud of mushrooms should arrive with the dramatic shift in weather; plus the Stray Cast

In a season for morel mushrooms that is weeks behind around Chicago outdoors, the dramatic shift in the weather should make this week something special; plus the Stray Cast.

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Jay Damm’s nice early find of morel mushrooms.

Jay Damm’s nice early find of morel mushrooms.


As befits this spring, Jay Damm’s first report on morel hunting came late — May 2, to be exact.

‘‘Unlike last year, the moisture hasn’t been a problem, but the cool temps have,’’ Damm started.

The weather finally changed this week, so I expect a crush of morel hunting.

‘‘After four hours (6.7 miles) of hiking, I managed to scare up a pound of fresh, early-season gray morels: all in one spot and, in the classic fashion, under a dead elm tree,’’ Damm emailed. ‘‘My day started with a handful of half-free morels, the early-season poor-man’s morel. After leaving those for some other poor sod, I focused on the sunny-spot openings in the canopy and, voila, a pound of fresh, small-to-medium early-season morels were to be had.

‘‘By this time of year, they’re usually larger and more numerous (provided we’ve had adequate rains), but I was fortunate to come up with these.’’

The first report from a reader came May 1 — way later than usual — from Julie Gangloff, who emailed: ‘‘My husband and I were out morel hunting [May 1] in Cook County and came upon a honey tree. We found 47 under it! What a find!’’

She’s got that right.

Morel hunting may be done on private land with permission. It is prohibited in virtually all park districts and forest preserves but generally is permitted at most Illinois Department of Natural Resources sites. (Check first, however.) And it is prohibited before 1 p.m. during spring turkey hunting, which ends Thursday.

On Thursday, Paul Yambrovich nailed the truth of this spring and morels: ‘‘Haven’t had a chance to get out mushroom hunting much in this crappy, cold spring weather, but I finally found a flush of greys in DuPage County. Came across a few pheasant backs, as well. Brought home some mica cap mushrooms to try for the first time — not my kind of mushroom.”

Paul Yambrovich’s mixed finds of spring mushrooms. Provided photo

Paul Yambrovich’s mixed finds of spring mushrooms.


He added, ‘‘My daughter picked magnolia blossoms and made a simple syrup using them. Amazing flavor. Really good to sweeten tea with!’’

That magnolia syrup intrigues me.

For poor sods like me, Damm had a good conclusion: ‘‘The real question is, is this a delayed season or a weak season? Either way, I’ll take ’em.’’

Willow Slough

Mike Schoof will give an update on the plans for renovations at Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Perch America meeting at the Indiana Harbor Yacht Club.

IHSA bass fishing

Senior Ethan Brain’s big bass of 5 pounds, 2 ounces anchored St. Charles North’s winning weight of 14-4 on Thursday at the Shabbona Lake Sectional. . . . Stevenson went 1-2 to qualify both boats at the Chain O’Lakes South Sectional. . . . Downers Grove North qualified both boats (second and third) at Busse South Pool.

In memoriam

Ray Scott, 88, died Sunday. He founded the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.), now the world’s largest fishing organization.

Wild things

This should be the greatest week of the spring for everything from bird-watching to foraging to fishing.

Stray cast

Considering the aftermath of the crosstown games last week, the White Sox should treat the Cubs like Jimmy Houston does largemouth bass.

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