a friend and I went on a short-ish hike yesterday intending to enjoy some forest ambiance and waterfalls. instead, we spent two hours looking at the ground after we spotted the first chanterelle. didn't have a knife or a bag, but we made do with a handkerchief and keys. probably came away with about four pounds of chanterelles, and it was clear that folks had been picking more before we showed up. there were plenty of other mushrooms around, too, but we're very much beginners and could only positively identify the chanterelles.
I live an hour or so northwest of chicago. It has been a CRAZY good year for hen of the woods mushrooms. My wife and I were hiking through a local state park and starting finding them right off of the main path. We weren't really there to hunt at first, but started to after finding the first few. Had to go back to the car twice because of the amount we found. I talked to a guy from River Valley Ranch (they sell mostly cultivated mushrooms, but some wild, at markets). He said it's been really nuts. One forager came in with his truck entirely packed with over 200 pounds. From one day of foraging. Yeesh!
I've never foraged for chantrelles. They have a poisonous lookalike, right? A chef friend of mine had one of his workers bring in what he thought was chantrelles but turned out to be jack-o-lanterns (poisonous). Yikes! Luckily they knew a mycologist who let them know before they ate them.
I believe the jack-o-lanterns grow on wood, as opposed to the chanterelles which grow in dirt.
none of the chanterelle lookalikes are lethal, as far as I know. they might cause varying levels of gastrointestinal discomfort, though. doesn't mean folks shouldn't be careful about positive identification of chanterelles, but they shouldn't worry too much either.
another trip to the mushrooms. more chanterelles, boletes, lobster mushrooms, shrimp mushrooms, and one big matsutake. I'm hooked on mushroom hunting. eating them is almost as good as the hunt. cleaning them, though, is not something I've learned to love just yet.