Preparing for the Hunt

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When hiking in the forests and wilderness remember to use common sense and take along a day pack or belt pouch with some basic necessities. Allow yourself plenty of time to enjoy your hike and to observe and perhaps take some notes. Some things you need to consider bringing on every nature hike are:

Day pack or belt pouch
– This should be a light pack or belt pouch that is durable and water resistant, and large enough to carry a few basic items.

Water container
– This could be a canteen or water bottle that clips to your belt or a water bladder that fits in the inseam of your day pack that holds at least one quart of water. An additional quart of water may be needed for extended or all day hikes.

Compass
– That’s right “old reliable” when you begin questioning your senses you should have a compass to rely on when you lose your way or get turned around. It is also good to carry two compasses as some find it hard to believe that their compass is more accurate than your own sense of direction. Some walking sticks have a compass embedded into them this makes a great alternate compass. You can find a compass at any surplus store, sporting goods store, outdoor store, or bait shops. I recommend a good lensatic compass similar to those used by our military folks. A GPS unit may be substituted for your primary compass but remember to take a backup compass as batteries tend to die when least expected. I would also recommend taking a map of the area you plan to hike especially if you are not familiar with this area.

Waterproof matches
– Matches are part of your survival gear and should always be carried on your hikes. Matches can be used to light a campfire to keep warm should your hike last longer than expected. Find the good waterproof matches at your local sporting goods stores, and don’t rely on a lighter as lighters can break or become useless if they get wet.

Small notebook and pencil
– These will prove useful for taking notes on terrain, weather conditions, and sketching maps to suspected morel areas. If you are using a GPS you can use waypoints to mark areas you want to remember.

Snack
– A breakfast bar or energy bar is a great wilderness companion that will give you a burst of energy to get through the day if your hike lasts longer than expected. Try to ration it in the event that your hike takes longer than expected.

Survival kit – This is has a few essential items, just in case the unthinkable should happen and you will be gone longer than expected.

Walking stick
– Though optional, a walking stick can be a nice item to have along to hold tree limbs and shrubs out of the way so you can pass by easier. It is also nice to steady yourself or help balance yourself as you cross a log bridge or narrow path. It is also nice for steep inclines and declines giving you the ability to leverage yourself against or with the slope. A walking stick with a compass embedded in it and a good wrist strap would be optimal.

There are lots of items you may want to take along on your hike. This list is just the bare necessities that should be included on every day hike. Remember to consider weight and usefulness when considering additional items. Typically the more items you take the more comfortable you will be, however it can be quite uncomfortable carrying all that weight. If you plan on an all day hike you may want to consider taking along the following items:

First aid kit
– This does not have to be a field surgery kit. Keep it simple to include some band-aids, first aid cream, aspirin, ace bandages, safety pins, moleskin, and some gauze. If you are hiking in snake country you might want to bring along a snake bite kit. Bees are also very active in the spring, so you might also consider a bee sting kit.

Emergency blanket
– This is a very handy thing for making a shelter, poncho for staying dry, or to serve as a blanket to keep you warm. Emergency blankets are typically light weight and consist of a durable plastic sheet that has a reflective surface on one or both sides. These can be folded very small and easily tucked away in a pouch. You might want to include about twenty feet of string with this blanket for constructing a shelter or to serve as a belt tie for a poncho.

Whistle
– This can be very handy when you loose your bearing in the woods, because a whistle can be heard from a long distance. The sound of a whistle can travel about four times farther than a human voice, and is seldom confused for an animal (i.e. bears and humans can sound alike at distances more than one hundred feet, especially bear cubs can be mistaken for sounds of children playing).

Food
– If you plan to be hiking for more than four hours you might want to bring along a sandwich or a bag lunch. While hiking your body consumes more energy than you might in a normal day. A four hour hike may consume as much energy as a typical eight hour day.

Field guide
(Optional) – A good field guide of plants, trees, and shrubs in your area is a nice companion for identifying potential morel hunting areas.
For those getting ready to go morel hunting there are probably a few specific things we need to mention that should be a part of your hiking gear. The following list will be the basic gear you need to gather those elusive morel mushrooms.

Private Land Permission Slips
 – When you get permission from the land-owner have them agree in writing. This removes any doubt of whether or not the land-owner remembers giving you permission to hunt on their land.

Pocket knife
– Used to cleanly cut the morel from the base. Some prefer to pinch them from the base, so it is simply personal preference. However, a pocket knife is always nice to have along.

Carrying sack
– A good carrying sack is more important than you think.

DO NOT use plastic or a paper bag for collecting morel mushrooms
(Harvesting The Treasured Morel). A fiber mesh sack is the perfect carrying sack for morels. You can get them at your grocery store, just look for any produce in an orange, red, white, or clear mesh fiber sack, usually containing onions, potatoes, oranges, or grapefruit. You might want to have several of these on hand, especially if you are taking friends or kids along to help gather morels.

Mushroom identification guide
– These are very handy when trying to identify which mushroom you have found. They also give you a good idea of where a specific mushroom can be found and when.

Mushroom counter
– This is a handy string with several beads threaded on it that allows you to keep track of how many mushrooms you have found while hunting. Simply move a bead from one end to the other for every five or ten mushrooms found. You should be able to get a quick tally just by looking at the mushroom counter. These can also be used to mark distance traveled when hiking in the wilderness.

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