SARCOXIE, Mo. (AP) — People are flocking to southwest Missouri as hunting season for a highly sought out mushroom begins.
Morel season has started across the Sarcoxie region and will run for the next four to six weeks. Morel hunters consider the mushrooms prized for a combination of their rarity and flavor, the Joplin Globe reported.
The Missouri Department of Conservation says the state has at least four species of morels.
The best places to find the mushrooms are south-facing slopes near river beds or other moist ground, according to morel hunters. The mushrooms have pitted caps and grow from a mat sheet that develops in top soil layers.
"Morel hunting is a great excuse to get outdoors," said Francis Skalicky, a media specialist with the Conservation Department. "The warm weather is here, but the ticks and chiggers are not."
Some areas across the country will hold festivals dedicated to morels, driving enthusiasts to travel far for their product.
"There are guys who make a living doing this," said Jon Shaffer, a Carthage resident who has hunted the mushroom for more than 30 years. "They hire planes and go to Alaska or Canada. They hunt for weeks, camping out in the back country and drying what they find. They'll come back with dried, fresh morels that can go for a minimum of $30 per pound."
Morels found on state conservation sites are allowed to be harvested but not sold.
"If your first meal goes fine, chow down," Skalicky said, noting the mushroom can sometimes upset the stomach. "Morels can go in any meals that use mushrooms. It's a great alternative for table fare because you can't buy them in grocery stores."