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Long Winter Leads to Late Morel Season

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JOHNSON COUNTY - Just as deer or turkey hunters wait for hunting season to roll around, morel mushroom hunters have to be ready when the mushrooms start to pop. Last year's season was so early that it caught some hunters off guard. This year, we're about two weeks late.

Mike Vogel has been mushroom hunting as long as he can remember. "I started when I was about six years old, so 40-some years," he says.

He now shares his morels and his favorite hunting spots with his fiance of ten years, Donna. "We haven't gotten married yet, because it might jinx us on the mushroom hunting," he jokes.

Mike says he would consider a good year to be about 25 to 30 pounds. So far this year, he's collected about 15 pounds but says the big mushrooms are still coming up despite a long winter and a late start to the season.

Patrick O'Malley with the Iowa State Extension Office says morel season can change with the weather or the time of day. "These mushrooms do have a tendency, especially in the afternoon, to just kind of spring up," he says. "An hour before you wouldn't have seen them, and then you do see them."

Technology is trying to sneak its way into the art of morel mushroom hunting. There are forums, apps and Facebook pages like the Iowa Mushroom Club where you can post pictures of what you find day to day. But experts say the best thing to rely on is your experience and finding a good spot, then remember where that spot is so you can go back year after year. If you're new to mushroom hunting, O'Malley suggests going with someone who has experience to learn what to look for.

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