There is never an exact time when it will begin or a definite time when it will end. Some say it takes place “from tax day to mid-May.” But when spring showers are followed by a few days of warm weather, woodlots become filled with probing, prodding, enthusiastic Hoosiers.
For roughly four weeks, it becomes “morel mania.” They are elusive, delectable and expensive, but for those searching on their own, they are totally free.
Adding to this once-a-year excitement, Kokomo radio station WWKI hosted its eighth annual Mother of all Morels contest. This year it was Mickey Gurske who was crowned champion with a yellow sponge measuring an unbelievable 21 inches. It looked more like a small tree rather than a wild morel!
It was just several weeks back when Gurske and his father made plans to spend the day searching for one of nature’s most succulent bounties.
“I had already scheduled the day off work and it started raining,” said the 34-year-old construction worker. “We still decided to go anyway.”
Gurske enjoys looking for morels every spring and has done so for the majority of his life. But five years ago, he stumbled upon a special place.
“The very first time I went there, I found over 5 pounds of morels,” he said. “Needless to say, I hit that spot every single spring.”
Gurske went on to explain how the morels in this unspecified location seem to grow bigger with each passing year — although he never expected to find one as large as he did this season.
Picking their way through vegetation dripping wet, they had plucked 25 morels.
“We were just about ready to call it a day and head home,” he said.
As they were leaving, Gurske looked down and saw a good-sized yellow sponge.
“I had just found a pretty good one and decided to sit down next to it for a minute and take a short break,” he explained.
It was at that moment he looked behind him and spotted the most magnificent mushroom he had ever seen. A true “Mother of All Morels.”
“My dad and wife both insisted I take it to WWKI,” he said. “When I walked into the radio station, the people there thought I was carrying in a puppy because it was so large.”
Not only did his mushroom easily win this year’s contest, it is the biggest morel the radio station has ever registered.
“It was by far the biggest any of us had ever seen,” said well-known radio personality Kevin Burris. “It beat our current record by 4 inches.”
Missing the 2-foot mark in length by just a matter of inches, the yellow sponged weighed just over 3 pounds!
“That one mushroom fed three of us,” Gurske said.
When it comes to revealing locations of successful claims, mushroom hunters are about as truthful as fishermen.
“So where did you find your massive mushroom? I had to ask.
“Let’s just say it was in Indiana,” Gurske replied with a tight-lipped smile. “And you can bet I’ll be back there next year!” he added.
In addition to a year’s worth of bragging rights, Gurske took home a $150 gift certificate from Bass and Bucks Outdoor Store, dinner for two at the Foxes Den Restaurant, gifts from morelheaven.com, a spinning rod and reel combo, plus several other prizes.
“I was just getting ready to buy a new rod and reel for my trip to Minnesota,” said Gurske. “Now I won’t have to.”
David Moody grabbed second place in the contest after picking a mushroom stretching 141⁄2 inches in length. Third place went to Larry Dean with a morel measuring 111⁄2 inches.
Sporting Clays Summer League
The Izaak Walton League would like to invite anyone interested to an informational meeting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday at the Ike’s clubhouse. The League shoot will start June 3.
Frank Brown swept last week’s Kokomo Reservoir Monday morning open team bass tourney with two fish totaling 3.47 pounds. He also had the tourney’s “big bass” with a largemouth topping out at 2 pounds.
of the Week
Bryant’s Outdoor Store: Bob Eller and Tim Lawhead cleaned 26 bluegills, averaging 7 inches long, after a recent outing on a Miami County pond. The fish were hooked on several types of live bait.
Springhill Pay Pit: Alvin Pratter hauled in so channel catfish sporting a combined weight of 49 pounds, 1 ounce. Pratter encountered his success using live bait.
• John Martino is the Tribune’s outdoors columnist. He may be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.