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Lake life

Trophy deer or Lion’s Mane?

(Part 1 of a 3-part series)

Trey Williams was riding with a friend to his deer stand in the Tenses Parish hardwood bottom when he and his Ranger ATV spooked a big 8 point buck. As the buck took off for parts unknown, Trey got all excited because of what he saw next: A Lion’s Mane! And it was right to where the buck had jumped.

He drove to the spot, grabbed his knife and climbed up on top of the Ranger to take out the lion.

No, it wasn’t a Tarzan moment. Trey loves deer hunting, but he also an avid wild mushroom hunter. Lion’s Mane is a type of mushroom, and Trey was already thinking about several culinary possibilities for the camp supper.

We asked Trey to give us a lesson in wild Mushrooms 101 for readers of lakedarbonnelife.com. Point No. 1 is probably THE most important part of the course:

“Don’t eat anything you are not 100% certain is edible!!,” Trey says. “Seriously… This can be a fun and rewarding hobby (as much or more than hunting or fishing), but don’t be stupid. Know what you are eating. There are some dangerous mushrooms out there.”

Trey grew up in northeast Louisiana and now lives in Baton Rouge where his career has taken him into the restaurant business (my favorite is the Southfin Southern Poke’ by the way).

Before we go on, you need to understand Trey’s “outdoor excitement meter”. On a scale of 1 to 10, his level reaches a “four” for an eight-point buck; an “eight” when he unexpectedly finds a troop of mushrooms (mushrooms connected in a tight group are a cluster; those in a close group but not touching are a troop; scattered and irregular mushrooms are called gregarious); and a “nine” when he sees and smells mushrooms he has harvested himself actually cooking on the stovetop.

“Maybe there are more edible mushrooms out there in Louisiana, but I only look for 4 types” Trey says. “In the fall/winter where I hunt, Oysters are fairly prevalent, along with Chicken of the Woods and an occasional Lion’s Mane. In the spring/summer, you can find Chanterelles. These are 4 very different types mushrooms that truly have very little in common, other than all being fungi!”

“Educating yourself is definitely step one. Step two (which can be done simultaneously) is just to start paying attention! When you walk through the woods, look at what’s growing on trees and what’s growing from the ground. There’s a lot of stuff out there that you probably never noticed. If you’re on Facebook, there are several mushroom identification groups where you can post pictures and ask questions. These are VERY helpful. Of course, there are some good books out there too. Some are regional books, which are helpful in narrowing down species based on geography. Some have “systems” and flowcharts that help identify the species. Just do an Amazon search, and you’ll get more than you could ever want to see! But if you want to get started here in Louisiana, I would try to familiarize yourself with the 4 mushrooms above, and then build from there.”

Where do you hunt mushrooms?

“Anywhere there are woods, there will be mushrooms… I have some woods behind my house where my kids and I like to go “hiking,” and I’ll occasionally find some there, but most of my mushroom hunting has been at our camp in Tensas Parish,” Trey says. “Just take a little walk through the woods, and you will inevitably run in to some kind of mushroom, but finding edible ones is a challenge! The good news, though, is that they generally come back in the same place and at the same time each year. So if you find a mushroom on a certain tree or chanterelles in a certain patch of woods, you can expect them to return around the same time next year! The best times to go look for them are right after a good rain and a weather pattern change…. For instance – if it’s been 80 degrees and dry for several days, and then a front moves through with a good rain followed by temps dropping to the 40’s, expect some mushrooms to show themselves”!

Part 2 tomorrow: Trey’s four mushroom targets

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