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Mushroom hunting consists of observing site characteristics  that  lead  to  mushrooms.  Nature  has provided many clues for the good observer.


There are a variety of other mushrooms that spring up before, after, and during matsutake fruiting. These mushrooms are generally called indicators. They indicate something about matsutake: It's too early, too late, or there is a good chance that matsutake is fruiting. Many other fall mushrooms are formed and triggered by temperature changes. There is little or no information about other mushroom species needs.

Yellow and White Chanterelle are almost always before matsutake. Occasionally they may start together. The reason being, trigger temperature. Just as a low temperature can trigger a large area of matsutake, the trigger temperature of one or many varieties of mushrooms may be reached.

A variety of Red  Rusulla  marks the end of the season. Only a minimum of fresh fruiting will occur in that area. A much lower elevation, sunnier situation or aspect may be well before peak. Yellow corral is most commonly found near matsutake. The trigger for yellow coral is just a little above matsutake. Formation requirements are likely different. There can be corral and no matsutake,  matsutake and no corral. Commercial harvesters use yellow corral more than  any other mushroom  fungi  to  guide them  to matsutake. If you find this coral and no matsutake, look to the darker side of coral fruiting.
It's not only the type of mushrooms you see, age is also an indicator. Note the age and type of any mushroom you see. A good hunter looks for any clue that leads him to his objective.

It is  impossible to say what type of  indicator you will find. Every area has its own fungus system. Each year could be different. Examine the clues nature provides you every year.


A  variety  of  animals  harvest  and  eat matsutake. During the process, there is a varying degree of disturbance to the forest floor.
Deer are the superior hunters of matsutake in the forest, usually first to find fresh fruiting areas. They paw the ground and kick the mushrooms out. Years of digging in the same area leaves depressions in the ground. Depressions indicate the exact location of reliable fruiting . Watch for their trails. Trails that are well traveled usually lead to or from fruiting areas.


Human signs can be seen everywhere. The human animal will scratch, dig, or rake leaving easily seen signs. In most cases these areas yield small amounts.


This section refers to shading trees create. In all habitats areas are shaded or not shaded according to nearby trees. These areas are known as edges. Timber cuts are an example of an edge. The sun is able to shine into the habitat a short distance. Edges that receive most sun will fruit last. They are last to cool. Edges that are shaded from afternoon sun, fruit first. If you find this type of pattern, look for openings in the tree tops. Openings in the canopy create edges. Roads can also create edges. Often producing 1 to 6 feet inside a road edge. Edge fruiting is the most reliable.

The Conifer habitat can be easy to hunt if vegetation shading is properly evaluated. Trees such as  Shasta, and White fir create large areas of shade. Fruiting will  usually  begin  on  the  northeast  side,  in  the  area shaded between 1:00-3:00, especially on south slopes. Changes in timber such as Lodgepole to Shasta create an edge. Reliable fruiting can usually be found just inside or outside of this edge, confining search area to a strip 200-300 feet wide. Noting stands of timber is important. Small stands surrounded by young trees provide a variety of thermal situations. Fruiting is likely to occur 100 feet inside or outside this edge. Reading vegetation shading is a primary key in locating matsutake.


Ridge tops create the best geographic thermal edges.  Reliable mushroom formation usually occurs slightly to the cooler side of the top, somewhere along the ridge. Similar situations are created by a pocket, bowl or saddle.


A wide variety of vegetation can be found in matsutake fruiting areas. There is no evidence of any influence other than thermal.
Under story vegetation such as huckleberry and rhododendron can create even shading. In most cases shading inhibits soil warming, requiring extended formation period.
Many varieties of ground cover may also be found. Salal, ferns, knic, and moss are a few. The same thermal considerations apply.


The forest floor is covered by a layer of organic matter known as litter. Under this layer, where soil meets litter, or 1 to 2 inches into soils, is where mushrooms begin to grow. Liter layers retain moisture and provides a humid environment for fruit growth. Areas with 1 to 3 inches of litter are most reliable. Litter also insulates, limiting soil warming. Layers over 3 inches seldom receive the warmth needed for formation.


In soils such as pumice, needles and soils mix together forming this layer. Fruit formation is from 1 to 6 inches from the surface.


Litter Layer

As the mushroom grows, it pushes up the soil  and  litter cover,  creating  raised  areas  or bumps. Bumps usually indicate an older mushroom. Study each foot of ground around the bump. Get down on hands and knees and feel the ground. Push down on the litter with your hands. You will be able to feel other mushrooms. Don't worry about missing some, you will feel them before they are large enough to harvest. It's better not to disturb the young ones. Return in a few days for a second harvest.



Needle Cast Layer

Needle cast layers are generally tightly packed and crusted leaving little room for mushroom expansion. Young mushrooms can be detected by a slight rise, and a crack in the layer. These cracks resemble dry weather cracks. Poke your finger into the crack an feel for a mushroom top. Mushrooms will feel cool and moist. Size can also be determined in this manor. Cracks may contain 1 or run for several feet and contain 60.


Detailed information on trees is available at Trees of the Pacific Northwest


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