Morel Mushrooms: Wild Game’s Best Friend

If you’re like me, you are always looking for different ways to prepare wild game. One of my favorite accompaniments to grilled elk is sautéed morel mushrooms.  Considered a delicacy in many parts of the world, morels have a delicious nutty flavor that pairs wonderfully with grilled backstrap, and they are a lot of fun to gather.

Two bags of morel mushrooms.

While expensive at the store, morels can be picked for free in the same woods where you hunt deer and elk. Morels appear in the spring months when the weather begins to warm, and can be found in cottonwood bottoms, woodlots and mountain forests. In the high elevations of the West, morels can be picked as late as July. As a general rule, when you’ve bagged your tom turkey, the time should be right for picking

Morels must always be cooked. Raw, they are toxic and will make you sick.

Morel pickers generally have their best luck finding the mushrooms in recently disturbed areas, such as forests that burned the previous summer, or in cottonwood bottoms with significant beaver activity. From my experience, fires can be the most productive morel picking areas and a single person can gather several pounds in a day if the conditions are favorable.

Morels can easily be dried in a food dehydrator and then stored for a long-time. I generally set aside a bowl of fresh morels to use in the near-term and I then dry the rest and use them for special occasions throughout the year.

If dehydrated, morels can be saved for a long time.

When grilling deer or elk steak, sauté onions and morels in butter and finish the mushrooms with a splash of sherry. When the onions are caramelized and the moisture is cooked out of the morels, I pile the mushrooms and onions on top of elk or venison steaks. The blend of flavors is hard to beat, and guests always ask for seconds.

Morels can be used in an almost endless array of meals. You can stuff them with sausage, use them in gravy and get fancy with French cuisine.

While morels are fairly easy to identify, always do your research and know what you are doing before eating wild mushrooms. Morels must be cooked before eaten. Raw morels contain a toxin that will make you sick. That toxin is removed when they are cooked.

Try morels with deer or elk steaks.

Check out our favorite morel recipes at

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Joel Webster

Joel Webster

Joel Webster joined the TRCP in 2007 as the Center for Western Lands Director and has spent much of the past decade working alongside hunting and fishing groups, wildlife managers, decision makers and agency leaders to shape federal public lands management for the benefit of fish, wildlife and sportsmen. A born and raised Westerner and lifelong sportsman, Joel is committed to hunter/angler issues and has been since he was first old enough to carry a rifle. Joel lives in Missoula, Mont. and earned a Masters of Environmental Studies at the University of Montana.

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3 comments on “Morel Mushrooms: Wild Game’s Best Friend

  1. Jeff Irwin on said:

    Joel – I have had a few dinners of Elk and a few with Morels but never together. I have a cousin Will Moore who lives in Missoula – if you know him kick him in the buttocks area and have him invite me out for a hunt or two !!!! Good Huntin too ya !

  2. Ellery Worthen on said:

    In New Mexico morels are hard to come by since it doesn’t usually rain enough in the spring to cause them to fruit. When it does we pick all we can save them for special dishes. We like to fry them in butter and freeze them in freezer bags and they will keep a long time
    There are other excellent mushrooms, but if you don’t know what you’re looking at, DON’T PICK THEM AND DON’T EAT THEM. There are mycological clubs all over the U.S. that will show you how to tell what’s good, bad and so-so. Do not believe any wives tales like turning a quarter black
    Nothing goes with wild game like wild mushrooms. French chefs would kill to eat my wife’s blue grouse in cream of chanterelle sauce.

  3. Russ Cohen on said:

    Here along the Northeast Coast many of us like to stuff our morels with crabmeat and broil them.

    But most of us mushroom hunters are currently preoccupied with looking for the summer and (soon) fall-fruiting mushroom species like King Boletes (Boletus edulis), Cauliflower mushrooms (Sparassis spp.), Black Trumpets (Craterellus spp.), Bear’s Head Tooth (Hericium coralloides) and Hen of the Woods (Grifola frondosus).

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