September 1st marks the opening of ginseng hunting season in Kentucky and this morning I found myself out in the woods crawling through thickets looking for 3 pronged plants. Ginseng digging has quickly become one of my favorite pastimes and through lots of walking and help from a seasoned veteran, I’ve became pretty good at it. My father has hunted ginseng for 40 years now and has taught me most of what I know about it. If you love being in the woods and exploring, chances are you may want to give ginseng hunting a try.
Ginseng grows wild in Kentucky and can be beneficial to both your health and wallet. I lose about 20 pounds each year walking the mountains on weekends. The past few years, the profit I’ve made hunting ginseng has paid for Christmas and left me enough for a new pair of boots each year. Don’t be mistaken, it would be much easier to get a part time job. ‘Seng-ing, as it’s called here in eastern Kentucky, is tough business. Be ready to crawl through thickets of briars, over rocks, through stinging nettle, and miles of steep terrain. This isn’t a pastime for the faint of heart. You’re going to deal with snakes, bees, spiders, and mosquitos. Today alone, I was bitten by a spider, almost stepped on a timber rattler, and ran off a bear. It was an exciting opening day to say the least.
Ginseng usually grows in well shaded areas. Look for north or eastern facing slopes in damp, mature forests. If you can find areas with mature timber, there’s a good chance there is some ‘seng around. If you’re in an area that’s been logged before, look on the steeper banks to the sides of old logging roads. Another good place to look is in old blow downs and around mossy rocks. Here in the mountains of eastern Kentucky I prefer to start at the bottom of a wet hollow and work my way up one side, zigzagging to the top of the mountain. Then I’ll cross the hollow and work my way back down.
If I could give one piece of advice to someone interesting in ginseng hunting it would be to invest in a pair of snake chaps and a mattock, or something similar to dig with. After that, I usually carry plenty of water, some snacks, an extractor snakebite kit, a pistol, flashlight, and a GPS. I use a backpack to carry all my necessities and spray down with bug spray before heading out. Also check out http://www.kyagr.com/marketing/ginseng-harvesters.html for laws and FAQS for ginseng hunting in Kentucky. Good luck out there.