Ramps & Wild Leeks – 2019

What are Ramps?

Ramps (Allium tricoccum) also known as Wild Leeks, Wild Onions, and in some places Ramsons are very popular in the Wild Edibles. Another nickname given to it because of its garlic-sweet onion taste is “Little Stinkers”.

The Plant is best known as a wild onion and is Native throughout the United States. Ramps are low in calories and provides some fiber with a small amount of vitamin C, Iron, & Potassium.

When To Look For Ramps

Ramps are one of the first plants to spring up in the Spring and will appear right before the Morel Mushrooms and the Jack-In-The-Box (Pulpit). Depending on the weather this could be mid April to mid May.

What To Look For

In the Midwest we find the Ramps anywhere from the top of the ridges to the bottom of the valley, but are easily seen once you know what you’re looking for. When searching look for areas where the healthiest plant life is and start there. Ramps like more shade than sun and need moderate moisture. Look for their light green leaves with deep reddish purple stems leading down to the bulb. If you are not sure it’s the right plant tear off a piece of the leaf and take a sniff, you will smell the onion scent, if not then it’s not what your looking for. The leaves will range up to 2.5 inches wide and 10 inches long and the largest bulb I have found is the size of a large marble.

A Delicacy Sought After

Ramps have been sought after for many years and this Wild Edible is a delicacy for Chefs and your Local Bars & Restaurants. So they are not cheap if purchased in the store, with prices for fresh picked Ramps at $20/lb or more.

Ramps are a wild onion so both the greens and white bulb are good to eat, but is one better for your taste then the other? Do you want to preserve the plant for future pickings? Is there a way to harvest the plant and promote future growth?

Greens – If you prefer the Greens over the Bulbs then the best practice for picking is to cut off one of the two leaves and move on to the next plant. This will cause the least amount of stress on the plant and still preserve the plant for future pickings. This Ramp will also increase in size the following year.

Bulbs – If you prefer the bulbs or want both the bulb and greens then I recommend the following; have a sharp knife and a small garden spade. Pull the dirt around the bulb away and cut the bulb off just above the roots, leaving the bottom part of the bulb with the roots. Now replace the dirt and move on to your next Ramp. This will allow the plant to survive for future picking, but it may take an extra year before it’s largest enough to harvest again.

Selling – If you’re looking to sell Ramps, then dig up the entire plant (roots and all) and sell it as is. However check with the party you are selling to first and see if one of the above picking methods will suffice, as this method removes the plant and does not promote future pickings.

So Good To Eat

Ramps are delicious and like anything best to eat fresh. Both the leaf and bulb can be eaten, which is better tasting is up to the taster. The bulbs can be removed from the Greens, washed and frozen for future eating, but again not as good as fresh. I like to use the same method I use for Morels; clean them, let them air dry (paper towels help), then place on a cookie sheet (not touching each other) and put them in the freezer for 30 mins. After 30 minutes take them out and place them into a vacuum seal bag and put back into the freezer until you’re ready to eat them.

How To Eat Ramps

Ramps are used or eaten just like you would with Onions, Garlic, and Chives. They can be eaten whole, but most will chop or grind them up to be used with other ingredients or in other dishes. I like to use them with my Morel Mushrooms since I pick them at the same time, or on steaks. I will also add them to my venison burger; a mixture of venison (50%), beef (50%), bacon (1lb per 10bs of mixed), and Ramps.

Morel Mushrooms – Picking Time!

It’s been a hard Winter and Spring has been wet and cold, but it seems to be a good recipe for a great Mushroom picking. It’s May 13th and even though we just got a few inches of snow last Monday it was time to take a walk into the woods and boy I was not disappointed. The Morel Mushrooms have sprouted!

Picking Early Morels

The early Morels are the smallest and hardest to see (specially those Grays), but they’re also the best tasting, so get out there and start picking. Be aware the Morel Mushroom will vary in color from light Gray to Black and from almost White to Yellow, as you will see in my video.

Where To Start Looking

With the wet Spring we have had you will want to start at the top of the ridges and on the down side of any rock ledges or Sandstone ledges. These areas will heat the soil up first and produce the first mushrooms. Another thing to look for are dead trees such as Elm & Apple, with bark laying at the base.

What To Do When You Find A Morel

The first thing you want to do when you spot a Morel Mushroom is to stop and slowly start scanning the area, even the area behind you. Once you pick the first couple of Morels search again or even take a knee and look. After you have finished picking your mushrooms, leaving a couple for next years reproduction, then walk away and approach the area again from a different direction to pick those you just could not see the first time. Next take a look and see if you’re in a drainage (area where the vegetation is healthier or thicker) and follow that in both directions for a ways. This could lead you to another group of mushrooms as the spores will follow these paths in the woods.

When Do You Find The Larger Morels

The Morel Mushroom season depends on the weather, but typically it will last three to four weeks. The smaller morels kick-off the season followed by the larger mushrooms a week later. This year (2019) I found my first Morel Mushrooms on May 12th, so I expect to start finding the larger ones this coming weekend, May 25th. Note, last year I found my first Morels April 17th, so again the weather does make a difference

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Where To Start Looking For The Large Morels

The larger Morel Mushrooms will grow both up high on the ridges and down low where there is more moisture. Areas to focus on are; dead elms, old apple orchards, low side of rock or sandstone ledges, roadside ditches with dead trees, erosion banks cut through the woods, and areas with tree bark laying on the ground.

Spreading Morel Mushroom Spores

When you find a group of Morels try to leave a few for reproduction. Also use a fruit netted bad for putting your mushrooms in so the spores can fall while your walking throughout the woods. I will also take a few and break them up and spread them around and carry one in my hand while I walk. All this helps promote Morels for the following years.

Morel Grays

We are in the second week (May 18) of picking Morel Mushrooms and I picked 20 pounds of the Grays over the weekend here. The Yellows are only a few days away and will continue into the month of June. However this is my last weekend as I have plenty and want to head to the lake and start fishing for Walleyes, Bluegills, Bass, & Crappies.

Last Morel Video For 2019

1st Turkey Hunt of 2019

The Tom’s hormones are at their peak and the Hens are playing hard to get, but even these incredible birds can not resist the Ritual Dance & Courting Struts when Nature calls.

The Morning Hunt

It’s was 5:45 am on Saturday morning when I sat down on the front porch to savor the moment of a new dawn. The temperature is cool and I can see the fog rising, which makes a picture perfect hunt. As I took a few moments to enjoy the sounds of nature waking up I could hear the Toms Gobbling throughout the valley. A few minutes later I picked up my pack, decoy, and calls and set out to see if I could call in and video a Tom Turkey.

Where To Set-UP

My first set-up (6:15 am) was on the wood line at the top of the valley along the field edge. As I placed my decoy I could see a large Tom (30lbs best guess) in the middle of a herd of deer, just going to town gobbling, which was so amazing I just stood there taking it in and totally forgot to video him.

Not thinking to get my video camera out I quickly got positioned and began working that Old Tom, but that only pushed the deer off, taking him with them (Note, the smart Turkeys will hang around the deer for added detection of intruders). With a few more Hen Clucks I caught the attention of a younger flock of Toms working the field edge and the Hens, which were still in the their roost (Trees) just North of my position. At 7:00 am things went quiet, but the hens were still in the trees and I knew I would not get those Toms out from under them, so I figured I would try something that seems to work for me. I picked up my decoy and started to sneak toward the Hens to get them to fly down, separating them from the Toms. It worked perfectly as the Hens flew down across the valley and the Toms ran down the field edge. At this point I knew I had them and headed down to the bottom to setup between them. At 7:30 am I finally got two Toms to answer back to my Hen clucks, but they were still a long ways away. 30 minutes later I had those two Toms within 100 yards and the next thing I knew they were 40 yards and Gobbling. What a wake up that was as they came in unseen and sent shivers down my back as their gobble went right through me.

Tip: Once you have the Toms within 100 yards you better be ready with your gun as they will be on top of you within seconds and then it’s too late to be moving and getting your gun ready.

Tip; If the Turkeys are heading away from you pick-up, circle around (staying out of site), and setup again. Do not waste your time trying to call a Tom off Hens. Instead get between them and make the Tom’s think you’re part of the flock of Hens.

When To Be In The Woods

I like to be in the woods before the sun starts to rise, as the Toms will get out of their roost and start their dancing and gobbling long before the Hens start to stretch their wings and fly down. This give you the benefit of knowing where the Turkeys are and your first opportunity for calling in a Tom, before the Hens start to move.

Then around 8:30 am things start to get quiet as the gobbling slows to a minimum or a full stop. At ~9:30 am the Hens will kick the Toms off, which gives you your next best opportunity to pull in a Tom, but be ready as they come in quiet and may catch you off guard. After this I leave the woods until evening, hunting the two hours before the Turkeys get back into their roost.

Tip; Toms will be in the woods all day scouting for the Hens and can be called in. However it is the warmest time of the day and seldom will the Toms answer back to a call, so you need to be alert and ready.

Tip; Field-edges are a great place to set up first thing in the morning and at evening, but during the day focus in the woods, valley, and river bottoms.

Tip; In the Spring the Hens will stay in the trees well after the sunrise, flying out between 7:15 – 7:30. Where these hens go is where the Toms will follow, so plan your trip to that.

Easiest Way To Take A Tom

The easiest and fastest way I have found to bag a Turkey is to locate the Tom’s before Dawn (calling & listening to their Gobbles). Then approach quickly and use a Hen call to see if you can work that Tom in. If you have not gotten a shot by 7:00 am then try to approach the hens before they leave the trees, working between them and the Toms, trying not to push the Tom’s off before getting the hens to fly out of the roost. This will let the Toms know where the Hens went right before you push them off in the opposite direction. Now circle around toward the hens, away from the Toms and setup between them. Using your hen call start working those Toms you chased away and who are actively searching for those Hens. I have taken many Turkeys doing this and by 8:30 am your heading home.

Tip: Don’t spend hours in one spot calling, be willing to move and go after them…

2019 Turkey Season Is Firing Up!

We just pulled the taps from the Maple Syrup run and finished our boiling when I looked up and could see three Toms and 5 Hens working through the field. Wow what better way to transition from one outdoor activity to another as our Turkey season is only a week away.

Preparing For the Season

The Turkey Season is fast approaching so we need to take a few minutes and make sure we are prepared. First make sure your camouflage clothing is ready and still fits. Then locate your Turkey Backpack with its seat (don’t want to get a cold and wet bottom), find your decoys, and make sure the blind is in good shape, if you’re going to use one. Next get out your calls and Turkey Strikers (I use multiple Strikers as they each make a little different tone) and practice your calling. Then do a little pre-season scouting, both morning and evening. Try calling the Turkeys while they’re still in their roost, this way you will know where to set up.

Where to Set-Up

When deciding where to set-up for your Turkey Hunt do some scouting and find out where they have been roosting and where they have been flying down and heading. If you do not have the time to do this then focus on the East & Southeast fields adjacent to the woods. I find the Turkeys prefer to fly down to those areas that see the first morning Sun. When setting up your decoy place it 5 to 10 yards from the wood line and then find a good tree to rest against just a few feet in the woods.

Once you’re set-up and calling give yourself 1 – 2 hours before moving, as a Tom can be called in from long distances. once you’re confident that the Toms are not interested in your calling or decoys then go after them. Start by getting them to Gobble and then make a plan to approach them without being seen. When you have gotten close then move into the crawling position, keeping your decoy standing up and in front of you. Approach where the Turkeys are and pause every few yards and make a hen call. I have found using your decoy and approaching them by crawling on the ground can get you close enough for a shot. I know as I have taken my share of Toms this way.

The Woods Is Alive – 2019

The Winter thaw has started and the runoff is rushing down through the valleys awaking the woods out of its long slumber sleep. The tree buds have begun to swell, the Maple Trees are ready to give up their sap for syrup, Songbirds are coming back, Turkeys dancing, the Deer Herds are breaking up, and the Morel Mushrooms are wanting to pop, oh what a great life it is!

Water Rushing

With the heavy Winter Snow and the rain we just got the rivers are flowing over their banks and the runoff is in full swing. I have 5 different areas of water coming down from the upper fields, which is moving fast and in some areas very deep. The greatest concern is the erosion, but with the ground still frozen let’s hope it’s at a minimum.

Early Spring In The Outdoors

Early Spring kicks off the year with a bang for the outdoors activist, as there are several things to keep us active. We start with hunting for those Deer Antlers that were dropped this past season. Next we move into tapping our Maple Trees for Sap while hunting the mornings & evenings for that Tom Turkey. Shortly following are the Morel Mushrooms and oh so good. Then as the mushrooms come to an end it’s time to pull that fly rod down and start working the Bluegill Beds and if you’re looking for large fish then you can try pounding the Walleyes. Are you ready, Let’s get started….