Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Minn.

May 26, 2003

In search of the 'great morel'

Seriously, I'm still in search of the great morel.

If anyone out there has a hot tip, suggestion, or would at least be willing to share a few morels they have bagged, I would greatly appreciate it.

So far this season I'm sitting at a big fat zero, and if I get blanked again for the season, that would make it five straight years without a morel found.

To make it worse, the only thing that would have made my opening day walleye better would have been a few morels to eat it with. My daughters, three and five, have yet to see what a real morel looks like.

I developed my love of morels as a young lad. My dad and I would often combine local efforts at spring fishing with an hour or two of mushroom hunting.

The supper table was often filled with a combination of northern pike, sunfish, and morel mushrooms.

It seemed so simple ­ the fish always bit, at least sunfish, and morels were almost always a sure bet in the spring if the ground wasn't too wet or too dry.

All you had to do was find a brushy cow yard that was full of elm trees, get permission to go in if you didn't know the farmer, and start hunting. Of course, there were some bad years for morels mixed in there, and some good old-fashioned battles with mosquitos and prickly ash, but that was about it.

Morel mushroom hunting in our area was good, and there were plenty of places to do it.

Then, as I grew older and the mid-to-late '70s rolled around, the elm trees started to die off. At that time, with cow yards full of dead or dying elms, the morels grew like crazy. All you had to do was find a dead elm tree stump on low ground and you found morels. Sometimes bagfuls of them. Hunting was great.

Soon, all the live, dead, and dying elm trees were gone. Along with them went most of the cow yards.

Throw in a couple hundred county homes stuck in just about every corner of a woods, and morel mushroom hunting around here got a lot more difficult.

I can definitely tell you that it's a lot different than it was 20 or 25 years ago.

Here are a few pieces of information on the great morel:

- To share that hot tip or a few morels, I can be reached at (320) 543-2131, (320) 395-2932, or (320) 485-2535.

- Traditionally, the best time to hunt morels is when the lilacs are blooming.

- There is a national association for morel mushroom hunters, the NMMHA, National Morel Mushroom Hunters Association.

- Richmond, Miss. is the self-proclaimed mushroom capital of the world.

- Successful morel mushroom hunters are more tight-lipped than the shrewdest panfish angler.

- Morel mushrooms are great in spore boy sandwiches. They are also very good fried in butter.

- As a decorative item, dried morels last an awful long time. The last one I found is still in my office and in good condition. I found it five years ago.

Take a Kid Fishing

The annual "Take a Kid Fishing Day" sponsored by the Winsted Sportsmen's Club is set for Sunday, June 8. To register, or for more information contact Tom Kieser at (952) 955-1704.

The event begins with registration at 1 p.m., with fishing from 2 to 4 p.m., and a meal and prizes from 4 to 5 p.m. Registration is recommended.

Local offices gear up to assist landowners as CRP deadline nears

From the DNR

With a narrow window already beginning to close, local assistance has been beefed up for landowners wishing to sign-up for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).

The 26th general CRP sign-up period ends Friday, May 30 and may be the last general sign-up opportunity until existing contracts begin to expire in 2007.

Earlier this spring, the Board of Soil and Water Resources (BWSR), the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Division of Wildlife, and Pheasants Forever (PF) provided funds for local Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) to hire more than 20 technicians to assist county Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) offices with landowner sign-ups for 2002 Farm Bill conservation programs.

Those technicians will now focus on CRP enrollments. Ken Varland, DNR southern region wildlife manager at New Ulm, said the DNR is also providing staff to help landowners develop the best bids for maximum wildlife habitat cover benefits.

"CRP is the largest and most popular federal conservation program available," Varland stated. "Minnesota currently has 1.7 million acres on 28,052 farms enrolled in CRP, and approximately 740,000 of that is in the state?s pheasant range. This program is hugely important for a number of wildlife species."

Tabor Hoek, board conservationist for the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR), said the timing and short duration of the new CRP sign-up has presented challenges for both landowners and the staff who handle the enrollments.

The sign-up announcement was made April 22 with a start-up date of May 5. Rules governing the sign-up were not published until May 8.

Hoek said landowners should contact their local FSA office as soon as possible for an appointment to sit down and review their proposal for CRP.

"This may be the only sign-up for the next five years, so landowners may need to take a little time away from planting to get signed up," Hoek said. "We're doing what we can by providing extra staff to assist landowners."

The CRP continuous sign-up will begin after the general sign-up ends. USDA has reserved two million acres for the continuous sign-up program, which accepts only the most environmentally desirable and sensitive land.

USDA is making a special effort to help enhance wildlife habitats and air quality, by setting aside 500,000 acres for bottomland hardwood tree plantings under the continuous sign-up.

The 2002 Farm Bill authorizes the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to maintain CRP enrollment up to 39.2 million acres.

New updated DNR education and safety brochures available

From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has updated and developed several education and safety brochures for outdoor recreation enthusiasts.

The nine-page "Outdoor Education and Safety Training Programs" brochure outlines various programs administered by the DNR that help youths and adults develop safe, responsible, ethical attitudes toward their favorite recreational pursuits.

Course offerings range from hunter firearms safety to snowmobile safety to independent study courses.

The "Mentoring the Young Hunter" pamphlet focuses on what a mentor needs to emphasize with a young hunter. "Instructions for Creating a Home Airgun Range" outlines easy and inexpensive ways to construct a home airgun range.

"These brochures aren't intended to be the final word on outdoor recreation safety education," said Capt. Jeff Thielen, DNR Enforcement Division education coordinator. "But they will provide background information on courses we offer as well as safety and educational tips. They're all well worth a look."

The free brochures are available from the DNR information center by calling (651) 296-6157 in the Twin Cities metro area, by calling toll free 888-MINN-DNR (646-6367), or on the DNR web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us.

Outdoor notes

­ Memorial Day is a great time to contemplate and remember why we have the opportunity and privilege to enjoy the great outdoors ­ to fish, hunt, hike, swim. . .

The opportunity to freely enjoy all of these outdoor activities and many more did not come without sacrifice.

­ The fishing season in Minnesota for large mouth bass opened Saturday, May 24. Top bass lakes in our area include Mary, Marion, Union, Erie, and John.

­ Don't forget about the new limits for panfish. The limit for sunfish is now 20, and for crappie is 10.

­ Now is the time to get your dog checked for heartworm and on a heartworm preventative medication.

­ Ticks are out. After spending time in the outdoors, remember to check for wood and deer ticks.

­ The sunfish spawn and, in turn, the best sunfish bite of the year will soon be here.

­ The best time to catch walleye is at night.

­ ATV users should note possible regulation changes in the near future. New laws most likely will pass during this year's legislative session.

For more information and the status and condition on ATV trails in Minnesota go to the DNR's Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us.

­ Take some time to get out side and enjoy Minnesota's great outdoors. This is one of the best weeks of the year to do it.

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