Fans of morels are salivating thanks to a wet and gradually warming spring in Missouri that promises a bountiful haul of the wild mushrooms.
Ron Cook, who tracks the wild mushrooms, is predicting an "epic morel season in Missouri."
"The conditions are really right for them," Cook said. "The season ahead will be one of our more fruitful ones than we've had in the last couple of years."
Cook monitors morels as they begin to surface across the state and posts a map on his Missouri Morel Hunting Facebook page for tens of thousands of followers, noting confirmed sites where hunters have found the delicacies.
He told the Springfield News-Leader that the rains and warm weather are creating "ideal conditions" for morels to sprout.
The Missouri Department of Conservation encourages morel hunting, which has become a tradition in the Ozarks. The agency even provides a guide to help hunters differentiate between edible and poisonous mushrooms.
Cook said newcomers to the tradition might have trouble spotting their first morel since they grow out of soil in a unique shape, which he described as similar to a webbed Christmas tree.
He recommends that hunters use a mesh bag to carry morels so their spores can fall out and potentially spread the mushrooms.
Cook also cautions hunters to get permission before hunting for morels on private property. The mushrooms can also be found on the state's public conservation lands.
"A lot of folks have been cooped up all winter and can't wait to get out and hunt morels," Cook said. "It's always great, whether you find mushrooms or not, to get outdoors."