Hunting for Winter's Treasures with Chanda Gebhardt

20160222_121529 Chopped up Chaga.

As all the hunting seasons have gone by and the winter feeding program for the deer has ramped up, we are always looking for things to do on the way out to the woods! That’s where winter mushroom hunting comes into play for us Minnesotans. Mushrooms and winter? Yes. This is one of the benefits to living in the northern tundra, the availability of Chaga.

Chaga is a mushroom that grows on white birch in the northern climates. It can only be harvested after 60 days of freezing temperatures. So long after the leaves have fallen and we have scouted our prizes we head out and harvest this gem. Make sure you take advantage of this window because you can only harvest it in its premium quality while we are in winter dormancy.

Chaga (Inonotus Obliquus) is a mushroom that typically grows on birch trees in colder climates across the Northern Hemisphere. At first glance, the mushroom doesn’t look very appealing; actually, it doesn’t even look like a mushroom at all! Appearances can be deceiving, however, as this special mushroom packs a punch when it comes to its health value.

Chaga has been consumed for centuries in the East, most typically as tea, where its health benefits are well established. More recently, Chaga has been gaining popularity in the West, where its numerous health benefits are now being recognized by many health gurus. Technically, Chaga is a highly-concentrated black mass of mycelium that protrudes from birch trees infected with this non-toxic–fungi. The dark, hard and cracked exterior, which often appears like burnt charcoal, is called the sclerotium. The interior has a rusty yellow brown color.

The health benefits of Chaga are numerous, many of which can be attributed to its immune-boosting ingredients and antioxidants. Chaga has an abundance of Beta-D-Glucans which help balance the response of the body’s immune system. This means that Chaga helps boosts the immune system when necessary, but slows it down when it’s overactive. Research has also shown that Chaga activates immune cells responsible for combating cancer initiation. Research is still ongoing, as more studies are needed to determine Chaga’s full role in cancer. Chaga has proven effective in supporting standard cancer approaches, such as chemotherapy, by compensating for the program’s negative side effects. I’m certainly not saying that Chaga will ease cancer progression; however, evidence suggests there may be vital compounds in the mushroom that warrant further investigation into its role. Either way this is amazing stuff!

20160206_144656 A small ax is perfect for harvesting Chaga.

When it comes to harvesting the Chaga you need to be very selective when doing so. They say the best pieces to take are 5 pounds or larger and have to be on a living tree. So this means you need to look for mature white birch trees to find them. You should use a very sharp small ax. Try and leave at least 1-2” protruding from the tree. It is a renewable resource but will take a very long time to grow back. By leaving some behind you will not be cutting into the trees natural boundaries. Allowing for the natural regeneration.

We have a family of 4 and I find that about 20 pounds will get us through the year. You need to be a steward of the land and try and not over harvest. We have private land so we have made mental notes where next year’s harvests are! It has become very popular to look for natural ways to live off the land. As a mother of two little boys I am always looking for anything to help us not get sick in the winter months. There is tons of information out there, so if you are interested you can just search around. If you want to contact me directly you can message me via Facebook www.facebook/mnfieldtofork. I look forward to answering any questions. I am not an expert but this is what I do for my family!

While we are out Chaga hunting and feeding the deer we are still sensitive to our human scent. The boys love using the DUI - Deer Under the Influence while we visit the feed sites and change chips in the cameras all winter. We use it often as scent cover while we are out. I think it’s important to make it a recognizable scent related to food for the deer. I have also fallen in love with my Northern Extreme Jacket and Bibs. It’s waterproof smooth face shell fabric reverses to thick warm Sherpa fleece, it has 120 grams of 3M Thinsulate Platinum Insulation! Exactly what we need in Northern Minnesota! I have hunted, fished, and snowmobiled in this suit.

Well the days of winter here in Minnesota are winding down and as it warms we will get ready for the spring turkey season. Good luck to all the fellow hunters and huntresses out there. I look forward to my next blog!

20160206_144912 Chanda and her Chaga. (tongue twister?)

Chanda Gebhardt

North Country Outdoors

Field to Fork Minnesota Style


  • Todd

    Fantastic article , very helpful hints

  • Jodi

    Love all the great information, have heard of this but was unsure of how and where to begin! thanks chanda!

  • Staff Writer

    THanks Jodi! Appreciate your comments! Be sure and check out Chanda's Field to Fork MN on Facebook.

  • Lori Mohs

    What a wonderfully written, and interesting article! I will have to hunt for some chaga with my son, Matthew, and prepare to eat it!

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