July has been an interesting month. After very little rain from April up until July, we were seven inches behind in rain. Then the heavens opened up and have given us several inches of rain in the last couple of weeks. I know where I live in Washington IL, we have had around 5” but just a few miles north where I hunt is now over 10” of rain.
One thing is for sure, it has put a halt to our food plot preparation. For the first time in many years, we have been able to get in our food plot, get them mowed, sprayed and ready to till by the first of July. I have been trying to take every open moment I have to spend at the hunting grounds and a little later in this article you will see the reason why.
After getting the food plot sprayed, we let it set for a couple of weeks and then I was able to get back out there and mow it really low to the ground. I was so excited that we were ahead of the game, and we might actually have a decent food plot. Well then mother nature decided you are too far ahead of schedule so let’s dump a bunch of rain and see them squirm. Well that I have been. I have put way to much work in too a two acre plot to not have it ready for deer season. Hopefully it will dry out enough to get in there but as I am writing the water is pouring down. This weekend I am going to try and plow no matter what, wish me luck! If I get the tractor stuck, I know my dad will be saying from heaven “the master of disaster strikes again”. We have another 1 ½ acre food plot we are working on so with any luck we will get them both ready for hunting season.
Since the rains came and I wasn’t able to do much work on the hunting grounds, my buddy Al and I decided we might as well go fishing. We tried to convince our friend Tim to go over to Evergreen Lake to try and find some crappie or sauger, but he was too busy with his side job painting. I have never fished Evergreen and have always wanted to but the problem I have is I don’t have a kicker motor on my boat, and I really don’t like running off of my trolling motor all day. I really wanted to get Tim and his boat there to play around with his livescope. As much as I would love to have it, I can’t bring myself to fork out the money. I actually worry I will be looking at the screen all day instead of enjoying my surroundings.
With Tim out of the picture, I said to Al you want to try some catfishing on the Illinois River? Of course, Al never says no to fishing. I am used to getting up at 5am to hit the water but it was already 11am and we were just talking about it. Al loaded up his fishing gear and headed to my house. We left the house around noon and stopped to get a bite to eat. We ended up on the river at around 12:45pm. I wasn’t sure what to expect but the weather was beautiful for a July weekend.
We arrived at my favorite honey hole and there really wasn’t the normal activity there so we used our down and side imaging to locate some concentrations of catfish. We found a nice area and started fishing. We were getting a few bites, but they just weren’t being aggressive. This seemed to be the story of the year. I am used to going out and catching 15-20 fish, and so far, I have had a day we caught two, one day we caught nine and another where we caught seventeen.
After an hour and a half, we only had one fish. We had several bites, and I did break one off, so we decided to relocate and find some new areas. One thing is for sure, there was actually a little current. The first few trips this year the water was very low, and the current wasn’t very strong. With the recent rain fall, the river was moving again. As we worked in some areas in the Peoria narrows, we just weren’t seeing as many fish on the bottom as normal. We finally decided to just stop and fish where we saw a small school and boy and am I glad we did. It wasn’t two minutes after we had our bait in the water that we had a fish on. For the next four hours we just kept catching fish every ten minutes or so. There was hardly a time a five-minute period went by where we didn’t have a bite.
We decided we were going to stop at twenty-five so we could get home and get them cleaned before dark. After we put number twenty-five in the boat we started to pack up and boom one of Al’s poles goes off. He brings in another and while we are messing with that fish my pole goes off. We caught the last three fish in about five minutes, so we loaded up the boat and headed for home.
I have used so many stink baits over the years but the best stink bait I have ever used is Triple S Catfish Bait, formerly Sonny’s. My favorite dip worms are made by Bee-Jay Bait Co. I also like their super sticky dip bait. I sometimes mix Bee-Jay’s Super Sticky dip bait with my Triple S to help thicken it on a hot day.
One of my dreams since I was a kid was to own my own land. I always dreamed of owning my grandparents’ farm, but it sold way before I was financially able to buy it. I tried to buy a 48 acre parcel a few years ago and that didn’t work out. I have been getting worried my days of a private land hunter was getting numbered. Unfortunately, when people pass away things change.
Last April my friend Bob Schackow was in a four-wheeler accident at our farm and unfortunately, he lost his life. His brother is my best friend Al Schackow and he and his brother inherited this land from our friend Paul Diebel when he passed away in 2014. With the passing of Bob threw a wrench into things. Bob’s kids didn’t want anything to do with the land and one of them lives in Colorado, so it just didn’t make sense for them to keep it. I was in full panic mode knowing this is the only property I have left in Illinois, and I wasn’t sure if my spot in Missouri would be any longer as well. I couldn’t imagine owning an outdoor magazine and not even having a place to deer or duck hunt. Of course, I know I could always lease but then you are doing maintenance on someone else’s and land and paying to do so. Just not my cup of tea.
I decided I had to take action before they forced my friend Al to sell the property. The way it was set up, it looked as if they could force the sell. I called the lawyer and said I would like to make an offer on the land. I put in an offer and waited for a couple of weeks before I received a reply. They came back with a 50% increase in my offer. I thought for sure this was the end as I knew it. This place was once around 1,000 acres and now the final 120 acres may be gone.
After thinking about their offer, I figured I could place one more offer out there and see if they would accept. I put my best foot forward and what do you know they accepted this offer. I have waited my entire life to call something my own and it has finally arrived. I closed on the property in early July and now the work begins. My friend Al and I now own 120 acres together and no one can take that away from me or my family.
The last thing I have to brag about is my daughter Ella. She just finished her sophomore year at Washington High School and her drive-in school is nothing I have experienced before. She works so hard to be the best student and get the best grades. She has taken all advanced classes over the last couple of years and on a 4-point grade scale she somehow has a 4.8 gpa.
Since she has taken these classes and been successful, she had the opportunity to be part of a dual degree program. This program will allow her to take only college classes over the next two years and she will graduate with an associate’s degree and her high school diploma all in the same week. She will be taking her classes at ICC College this fall. I have mixed emotions about all of this, because we are going from a sophomore to a college freshman and this old dad knows the days with his baby are limited. I am definitely getting softer in my old age as I write this a tear rolls down my cheek. I love this kid like no other and she will do great things in her life. Her love and compassion for people and animals are unmatched.
Until next month. May your sunrises and sunsets be magical!