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Morels from the ashes? More like joyfully and aimlessly wandering the woods

Burn areas of 10 acres or more, a year after the prescribed burn, are good spots to forage for morel mushrooms in the spring.
Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

SOUTH OF ROUTE 30 — Last spring, a biologist dropped a note about a prescribed burn near an area I regularly wander. On Monday, I visited with hopes of finding morels.

Shedding or dying elms remain the best spots to hunt morels. But burn areas — a year after the burn — are also good. For morels, burn areas need to be at least 10 acres in size and forested, according to the Michigan DNR, which does an interactive map of burns.

I wandered off in the afternoon. When Illinois’ public sites are open to turkey hunting, other users cannot use hunting areas until after 1 p.m.

It has been a different few days for fungi with me.

Joe Engleman, who does publicity for the Chicago Humanities Festival, reached out about an event featuring Peter McCoy, who founded Radical Mycology in 2006.

I’m a curious guy, so I interviewed McCoy on Friday.

There is a holistic side to his approach that is broader than my usual identification/foraging of fungi. As one explanation puts it: ‘‘We work to reunite humans with fungi and to help all remember the importance that fungi have always played in the human story, from prehistory to the present.’’

My practical side bristles at such talk, but there is a forthright curiosity to McCoy, who said, ‘‘Every aspect of mycology is fascinating.’’ One of the most interesting avenues he and Radical Mycology are exploring is mycoremediation, which uses fungi to decontaminate areas.

There’s a practical side to McCoy, too, in demystifying fungi for the public.

On Monday, I would have settled for finding a few morels. No such luck. I suspect weekend rain might make next week prime for morels.

I aimlessly wandered a too-dry woods. To be honest, I’ve reached the point where I’m happy wandering a woods by myself. It’s about as close as I come to a holistic approach to life. The most interesting things I stumbled upon were a perfect walking stick (both for leaning on and rooting through ground clutter) and a pile of what I think was raccoon scat.

On a practical side, I wore high rubber boots. It helped. I only found two ticks on me.

McCoy’s ‘‘Mushroom Power’’ presentation is at 1 p.m. May 4 at Columbia College’s Conaway Center. Register at chicagohumanities.org/events/mushroom-power.

Scat in the woods, not bear.<br>Dale Bowman/Sun-Times
Scat in the woods, not bear.
Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

Hunting

Illinois turkey hunters are well ahead of the harvest pace from 2018. They had harvested 8,671 turkeys through Monday, compared with 7,197 at the same point in 2018. Click here for a breakdown of the early harvest.

Wild things

Jason Langford messaged Friday, ‘‘Ramps are flowering in Will County.’’ . . . The Ranger Trailer at Iron Bridge Trailhead reopens Sunday (10 a.m.-3 p.m.) at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. There will be ranger-led hikes to see bison at 11 a.m., depending on the weather.

Stray cast

The Tribune’s Sox and outdoors coverage is like smelt-netting on the lakefront: a memory from days of yore, circa the 1990s.