2017-05-04 / Life in Leelanau

Is Leelanau’s newest place for ‘shrooming past its prime?

Palmer Woods still worth the walk

Looking for a new place to mushroom hunt?

You’re welcome to try the expansive Palmer Woods Forest Reserve, says Matt Heiman, director of land programs for the Leelanau Conservancy, but you may be a few decades too late.

“As reported from Dr. (Daniel) Palmer, who we bought it from, it just hasn’t been as productive for the last 15 to 20 years compared to when he had just bought the property,” Heiman said.

Heiman himself has been known to walk in the woods with his head down, and come back to his vehicle with a mesh bag full of mushrooms. He tends to agree with Dr. Palmer’s assessment.

“I’ve found some there, but I’ve not done that well,” said Heiman. “(Dr. Palmer) recalled nearly filling up the trunk in the back of his car during the 1970s.”

In fact, Heiman has noticed an overall decline in the black mushroom population in Leelanau and his native Benzie county. White morels are more apt to thrive in distrubed soils, including mulch spread for landscaping and in flower gardens, he said.

“My general impression throughout Leelanau County seems to be that the black morels are hard to come by, but white morels are still going great. The only good scores I’ve heard about for blacks have been in the park,” Heiman said.

But as for the whites, which generally come later in the season, “the more I’ve gotten to know about Leelanau County, the better I’ve done,” Heiman said.

More traditional hunters — those using guns — are welcome to try the 702 acres of Palmer Woods for whitetail deer in the fall, but turkey hunting is not allowed. The spring turkey season continues through May in much of Michigan.

Whitetails have been overbrowsing the forest floor, cutting into wildflower numbers, while the turkey population has not caused damage, Heiman said.

“Come and sign up and please help us reduce the number (of deer),” Heiman said. “It’s an experience more like hunting in the (national) park than state land because there aren’t (driveable) two tracks going in there. Be prepared for a long drag out.”

— by Alan Campbell

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