Burn Morel Environmental Factors

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Morel Madness

wallowa whitman burn morel Burn Morel Environmental FactorsThe madness of the great morel hunt is just beginning to creep up on us. Facebook pages are flooding with information, forums are active, people are chatting – a fever pitch is working its way up to what will soon become a frenzy. We often get asked about elevation and other morel hunting success factors, whether naturals or in a burn. Our experience is limited to a two week window in May/June every year when we visit burn sites all over the state of Oregon. So I find myself wondering… how could we go about gathering more useful information? The internet is a vast pool of knowledge, turns out it just takes a little patience to find what you need.

We spent a bit of time combing web pages and Facebook forums for elevation reports (ok, mostly Trent’s hard work). While this may not be 100% spot on, it offers a nice guide for what you might expect out there in the wild wild west. This information was generally compiled about burn morels in the Pacific Northwest, but their natural cousins also probably fit fairly closely within these ranges. All you Midwesterners have a very different set of rules!

Update! 2022 Morel Burn Maps are Now Available.

Getting Started in a Burn

How do we start our initial elevation search? We always plan ahead and pre-locate several areas with specific traits on a map that we want to explore.

Typically, these areas:

  • Are located in a burn from the previous summer/fall
  • Have good tree coverage. Mixed Conifer and Grand Firs are our favorite.
  • Represent several different elevations and aspects
  • Have a creek
  • Are relatively flat
  • Are accessible by car and foot
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We plan at least an hour in each area and perhaps up to a mile of walking/looking. Typically when driving between pre-chosen locations, we spot a likely place and do a quick park and explore… if nothing, we hop in the car and move on. We often drive into the furthest spot and work our way back.

East and west aspects are preferred (versus north and south) but we’ll take what mother nature gives us. There was a burn a few years ago where the north side produced quite well, yet on the other side of the road the south facing side was completely barren.

Elevation Estimates

March: Usually looking below 2,000 ft in elevation. Early blacks are commonly found up to 2,500 or 3,000 feet in a warmish spring. April: Usually 1,500 to 3,500 feet May: 3,500 to 4,500+ feet June: 4,500 feet and above July: 6,000 feet and above.

TIP: During the timeframe we hunt Oregon – last week of May, first week of June we always find burn morels starting around 4,600 ft. They go up to 4,800 ft, but rarely make it past 5,000 during this window. 2017 and 2018 both overlapped with a killer spring porcini season, it was awesome!

We also find that even just 100 ft in elevation swing can make a big difference. Once you identify the ideal fruiting elevation, mark it and follow within your aspect zones. If the morels look dry and older, go up. If they are sparse and tiny, go down. They are creatures of habit, and fairly predictable.

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Other Factors

Longitude and Latitude

Go north towards Washington, add 1-2 weeks Go south towards California and subtract 1-2 weeks Go west towards Idaho and add 1,000 feet.

Aspect

South facing lowers elevation by 100 to 200 feet. North facing raises elevation by 100 to 200 feet.

Year

Spring itself seems to have at least a two week swing. Try going to the same spot every year at the same time and log your findings. Morels like moisture and warmth (usually at least 50 degrees). Both of these things are needed to kick a burn into high production.

There it is.

What do you think? Please comment below and share your own tips for a successful morel hunt! Check out our Morel Burn Maps for 11 Western States if you are so inclined.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>