Mushroom Hunting Safety

 

 

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You found some mushrooms but can you find your car?  A quick jaunt in the woods can quickly turn into an ominous trek through the wilderness if you don’t pay attention to where you are.

 

by Wren Hudgins

Wild mushroom foraging may not seem like a dangerous hobby, but there are real risks involved here, as there are in most outdoor activities.  Few people would argue that the freedom of not wearing a car seat belt outweighs the safety of wearing one, but people do make their own choices.  The point is that there is general recognition that certain preventive behaviors can minimize risk, although not eliminate it.  Mushroomers tend to walk off trail and through the woods, so there is always a risk of tripping and falling or otherwise injuring yourself far from your car or the nearest first aid kit.  However, by far the greatest danger is getting lost and spending much more time in the woods than you had planned.  The quality of that extra time in the woods will vary from life threatening to miserable to merely inconvenient, depending on how prepared you are.  A friend of mine is an officer for the Snohomish County Search and Rescue and he thinks that in 2016 there were three lost foragers in Snohomish and Pierce counties, all of which involved extended stays in the forest, in one case overnight, but all three were found.  None of the three were adequately prepared.  We don’t have numbers on this but there may have been other foragers who were lost but who were adequately skilled and prepared such that they never had to call search and rescue. (BTW, Search and Rescue teams do not charge for being called – at least in WA state)

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Car Prep for Mountain Excursions

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This road in the Entiat Mountains is out there.  We didn’t see many other people on this road.

by Brady Raymond

Heading out to the woods to look for some delicious mushrooms?  Bought yourself a sweet new ride five years ago, what could go wrong?  A dead battery at 5000ft. with no cell reception, night setting in and lows in the 30’s.  You don’t have blanket, you ate all your food and there is only one bottle of water left. You feel responsible for the two friends you took out hunting, neither of which has much if any experience in the woods.  They couldn’t tell you the difference between a Phaeolus schweinitzii and a Russula xerampelina let alone any of the cardinal directions.  You secretly hope their lack of skill in the backwoods is an advantage for you if things come down to cannibalism.

Truth is, you’ll only be out here one uncomfortable night. Your at a a popular trail head and more than likely you can get a jump sometime tomorrow morning, at least you have jumper cables.

It seems obvious to pack for unintended circumstances but I’ve been mushrooming with folks who don’t even bring knives and once someone forgot water.  Below is a list of things you should probably have in your car just in case.

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So You Want to Hunt Mushrooms

 

by Brady Raymond

Gearing up is all part of the fun right?  It’s also the smart thing to do if you have any common sense.  Aside from the random mushroom find, you usually have to put some thought and at least a little bit of physical effort into the endeavor.  You don’t want to get out to the woods and find the mother load only to realize you forgot a knife, and yes I have seen this happen to people, no knife.  “What are they thinking” I always wonder to myself, I carry a knife ninety percent of the time I do anything, and if it’s not on me it’s almost always within reach.  Well, maybe they didn’t have a handy article like this to read, hence I’m writing it.

Insider tip, carry a knife, always.  The next logical thing would be something to contain your quarry e.g. basket, or sack of some sort (no plastic bags).  You can clean up pretty good with these couple of items alone but for longer treks it is advisable to pack a bit more.  

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Spring Time Safety Tips

by Brady Raymond

Well, it’s getting closer every day. Closer to the day we can head out to the woods and fill our baskets with nature’s bounty, or maybe just get skunked. The only thing I think worse than an empty basket is not knowing how to find your way back to the car. Getting lost in the woods is a serious thing to think about, and if you’ve spent much time out there you realize just how quickly mother nature can swallow you up, and sometimes never spit you back out.  Preparedness is a relative thing, there are probably people who could make it longer with less and be more comfortable too.

First things first, know where you are going, tell people when and where you are going (at least roughly). Before I go into some items you should bring along with you, let me stress one other thing, get your bearings before setting out. What general direction are you heading in, what time is it, and how long do you have before it gets dark?

I’m sure your smartphone has apps for some of the things that follow, and if your phone saves your life great, but I recommend highly that you have the following on you (not in the car, on you) while in the woods.

  • A very loud whistle, one for each member of your group
  • Compass
  • Map
  • Watch
  • First aide
  • Bright clothing, especially during hunting season

The whistle signals are
-One 2-second blast = Where are you? (This can be initiated by anyone and demands a one-blast response.)
-Two blasts of 2 seconds each = Come to me. (This signal is mainly used by the group leader.)
-Three 2-second blasts = Emergency (This can be used by anyone.)

These items are battery free with the exception of the watch, which typically last for a long time, sometimes years. A GPS and 2-way radio are also good items to pack but make sure you know how to use them before heading out, and they should not be a substitute for a compass and whistle. Make sure you dress in layers and have proper footwear. The weather can change very quickly in the mountains and exposure to the elements zaps the energy out of you very quickly. Making decisions when you’re cold and wet suddenly just got a lot harder.

This article isn’t intended as an all inclusive wilderness safety document. It is a reminder that nature can be unforgiving, and you are responsible first and foremost for your own safety. With that said discuss this with your hunting group while driving out to your secret spot, the whistle signals, what channel the radios should be set to, etc… If you have questions get them answered, come to a membership meeting and ask, if you’re a member and it’s your first field trip connect with someone who knows more than you do and learn what you can. The internet is full of resources some excellent some not so, but it can be a great resource as long as you cross reference, and use a little common sense.