Late summer and early fall are excellent times to visit your favorite natural spots to search for mushrooms and other fungi. How does one know were to look? First, the naturalist must be aware of recent weather. Most mushrooms respond favorably to adequate of even excessive moisture. Heavy rains from prior months or even the past two weeks may stimulate the fungi to sprout its fruiting parts. These heavy rains may also provide optimal conditions for mosquito hatches, which is a reason some fungi enthusiasts wait until cooler weather or even the first frost before venturing into the deep forest.
Mushrooms and other fungi are so ubiquitous they may pop up nearly anywhere. The observer simply needs to be observant. Check forest leaf litter, small dead branches on the forest floor, tree trunk for shelf fungi, or even open sandy areas for earth star fungi. Next take the time to try and idenitify the species or at least the group to which the mushroom belongs. Several good field guides are available. GNW suggests obtaining a guide that is more local - a Wisconsin or upper Midwest focus is best.
Once found and identified - look around at the habitat. Is the fungi associated with a particular habitat feature? Carefully observe the larger fungi for utilization by other species. Are there bite marks on the cap? Sometimes you can observe fungal flies feeding on the surface or even predators of those flies in pursuit. Good candidates for observation or the large shelf fungi growing on the trunks of many different tree species.
Some naturalists may be interested in edible mushrooms. GNW recommends any naturalist with such an inclination contact the Wisconsin Mycological Society. This group has members who are ardent fungal enthuisiasts. They lead several edible mushrooms trips per year. Their expertise in identification can greatly help newcomers avoid seroius mishaps.