Well it is definitely a rainy sometimes snowy mid-April. A couple of days of 70 degrees and my heart start pounding thinking about mushrooms. About half of the state has already started finding mushrooms and the early reports are saying this should be a year to put a few in the belly and still have plenty to give to family and friends. The last several years haven’t been that way but as I am writing this the ground temperature has reached 55 degrees. That is my sign that it is time to hit the woods. I am sure people in Central Illinois will be finding some greys this weekend but from the looks of the weather, the weekend of the 27th should be game on. We will definitely be finding mushrooms a couple of weeks into May. Many people I talk to say that they find more mushrooms on Mother’s Day weekend than any other time. Unfortunately for me that has not been the case. For many years, the 3rd week of April was always the weekend I had five to eight pounds. Then I would find some big yellows in early May and by the second week of May the only thing I found were old dry mushrooms. Many people totally disagree with me but that is just my 30 years of experience trying to locate these little elusive delicacies. I am pretty sure as I am writing this… that this will be the year, I find a ton of mushrooms on Mother’s Day! But I am not holding my breathe. Although you never know what the year brings. Heck, four or five years ago I found one on April 1st and I thought that was insane. My advice to most people is when that ground temperatures gets to 55 degrees its time to start thinking about hitting the woods. Remember, if you are in the woods over the next few weeks make sure you realize that there are not only mushroom hunters in the woods but there will be plenty of Turkey hunters as well.
Another thing on my mind is Mother’s Day. As I’m writing this I’m sitting here thinking about all of the wonderful women I have had in my life. I have been extremely lucky. I not only had a great Mom, I was lucky enough to have a wonderful grandma and many others I would call my second mom. Each one of them taught me something different. My mom taught me about the Lord and Savior and what discipline was and unconditional love among a long list of other things she has taught me about life in general. All things a mother are supposed to teach their kid to grow up and be a productive member of society.
Your mom is always a huge part of who you are but my grandma is the one that I feel like I am most connected to. I feel like all of the days I spent on the farm helping her cook or do dishes, feed the chickens and all of the other everyday things you have to do on a farm. Most people get into the outdoors because of their father or uncle but really, even though my dad was the one to take me on my first deer and squirrel hunt, my grandma is the one that gave me the love for the outdoors. She loves to mushroom hunt. It seemed like every day when I was out at the farm during April and May, she would take to the woods to gather the fresh mushrooms. In those days the crisper was always full of mushrooms and if there were too many, my grandpa would be selling them at the sale barn in Fairview, IL on Saturday. She loved to hunt and eat them at the time but unfortunately, they ate a bad mushroom one time and they never touched them again. She would still go find them and give them away or let grandpa try to go make a few bucks but it was grandma that has given me this life-long passion for mushrooming. I used to watch my grandma plant this amazing garden each year. As soon as the ground was warm enough she was out there planting her garden. She used to order all of her seeds from a magazine and when you went to the house in February and March there would be seeds growing everywhere. She planted a variety of thing items. She always had so many variety of beans, tomatoes, potatoes, lettuce, radishes, turnups, carrots, corn, you name it there was probably a spot in the garden for it. She even had a great apple orchard and grape vines. She would spend all summer canning items and preparing for winter. They lived on a small 80-acre farm so they did everything they could to keep expenses down. Now I have the same itch. I wish I could plant 20 acres of food and can all summer long. There is nothing better than getting out that can of spaghetti sauce that was strictly made out of your garden and taste as fresh as the day it was made. I wish I could supply my family with all of the canned goods that we would need each year, but my yard is definitely not that big. My grandma has been such a great influence in my life, and I treasure every moment we get to spend together. Plus, she always makes me a pie.
There is so many women that played a major part in my upbringing. One of my best friends Jason Hinds mother Janet was the mother who took me on vacation. When I was a kid we didn’t have a lot of discretionary income and my dad was a workaholic so we didn’t take many vacations as a kid. Janet and Jason were always going on camping trips and inviting me to tag along. One-year Jason and his mom were going down to Mountain Home Arkansas and asked me if I would like to go. Of course, if my parents were okay with it there was no way I wasn’t going. With their permission, off we went to somewhere very foreign to me but it became the experience of a lifetime. We spent time cliff diving on Bull Shoals and catching trout on the white river. We had so much fun that week and made so many memories. One memory for me will always stand out. Jason and I had just turned 16 and we were supposed to meet the family for supper at this all you can eat seafood buffet. We arrived and sit down, and the family began to eat. Fifteen minutes or so went by and everyone was pretty much done eating. Not Jason and I… they were bringing out more crab legs. Jason and I continued to eat, and the rest of the family finally decided it was time to go. Well Jason and I weren’t quite finished. We continued to eat until pretty much every plate was full on the table with crab legs and the staff were so nice for about the first 35 to 45 minutes then their smiles turned to frowns and Jason and I decided it maybe time for us to leave. Still, to this day I have never eaten better crab legs or as many as we did that day.
Another great woman in my life as been by best friend’s wife Al. Since my mom doesn’t live around here, she has definitely picked up the slack. I have eaten more meals that she has made than my own wife. HA!. (Hopefully she doesn’t read my article.) Guylaine Schackow as been there when my kid was born and when my father was struggling with dementia. She always loved my dad and took great care of him when they were around each other and for that I am eternally grateful. She is and always will be a second mom to me.
There is so many other women in my life I am afraid to leave anyone out. My bride, Leah, her sister Megan and her mom Genny, my sister Samantha, my friend Tim Conover’s Mom, Sandy… they have all played a significant role in my life and I appreciate all that have done for me and will do for me in the future. Thank you for being you.
We all have so much to feel thankful for. Sometimes I think we take things for granted. Memorial Day will be coming up in May and we all have to be grateful for the sacrifices our brave and women make to ensure our freedoms on a daily basis. Many of us can not truly understand what you go through in war and many of our soldiers have to deal with this on a daily basis for the rest of their lives. I hear so many soldiers that have put their life on the line for us, but they feel so helpless when they get home. Everyone of us has had a family member that has served our country. Whether it be a brother, sister, mom, dad, grandpa, grandpa or any other relative they have served our country to give us the rights we have today. Make sure you take time out of your day each and every day to thank a veteran. Every time you thank a veteran, you put a smile on their face and remind them that what they sacrificed will never go unnoticed. I would like to thank a few of the veterans in my family for their sacrifice. Thanks to my Grandpa Lyle Courtney and Paul Bugos. Thanks to my family members John, Frank, Joe, Andrew, Adam, and Donnie Bugos for their service. And to any others not listed here. Thank You. You are the reason we live free.
Well its April and unfortunately, I have only been out fishing once. My buddies Bob and Al Schackow were chomping at the bit to get the boat in the water. Well, my big boat was in storage so I pulled out the duck boat and got it water ready. It was going to be 75 degrees on Saturday and we all thought the fish would be biting like crazy. We decided to try our luck at a public lake in Fulton County so we arrived at day break and loaded in the boat. At the time there was only one other boat out there and I thought the ramp was going to be packed. Thankfully it wasn’t so we loaded right in and off we went to one of our hotspots from the previous year. We sat there 15 minutes will little to no action when finally Bob got a bite. He started yelling its big, its big. I am thinking we are crappie fishing how big can it be. Well when you have four pound test and fishing with jigs and waxies a 20 inch largemouth can give up quite the fight. As the day continued not much was going on so we tried a few other techniques and areas. As we trolled through one area I finally felt a thump and realized that it was either another bass or this was a nice crappie. I fought the fish to the side of the boat I realized it was a big crappie and there was no way I was lifting that in the boat. I grabbed the net and with one swoop, the 13 ½ crappie was in the boat. I think that is the biggest crappie I have caught in Illinois. Thinking we figured out the technique we tried that for a few hours to no avail. Since it was around 12:30pm we decided to go grab lunch and hit a private strip pit. So we grabbed some lunch and headed to the pit. We arrived, boated in and began to fish. For some reason on this beautiful day we couldn’t even get the bluegill to bite. As we sat there in the boat enjoying the weather, I looked to the side of the boat and there were masses of old algae floating to the top of the water. I assumed the lake was turning over and that was the reason the fish were not biting. Slow fish day, but never a waste when you are out on the water enjoying weather and companionship.
As the outdoors activities increase this month please be sure to check yourself for ticks. Too many tick related diseases out there. Please take all necessary precautions.
Until next month. May your sunrises and sunsets be magical!