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Hot and bothered Well, I guess the hammer

Published: Saturday, March 17, 2012 12:15 a.m. CDT

Well, I guess the hammer just isn’t going to drop. I can’t see a sign of winter weather anywhere, and I am loving it.

I can’t remember a milder winter in my 41 years. I have seen hundreds of robins this week, and green grass is appearing all over the place.

This is all fine and dandy, and I am not complaining. But have you thought about how this has already altered our normal outdoor activities? Or how it will affect us going forward through 2012? Here are some things to chew on.

First of all, how about tasty morel mushrooms? Now, these fabulous fungi don’t go by our calendar, the Mayan calendar, or any other set schedule. These little dudes wait patiently for three things to be right: they need sunlight, ground temperatures slightly over 50 degrees and rain water.

Now, I have been pluckin’ ‘shrooms as far back as I can remember, and the earliest I ever picked them here in northern Illinois is April 10. I think it is very safe to say, without a major forecast change, that the ‘shrooms will be up much, much earlier than that. In fact, I believe I will harvest my first March morel this year. Who’da thunk it? 

I have mentioned before that shed hunting has also been a passion of mine. Picking up bucks’ antlers after the season is a great way to find out what ol’ boys made it through the long series of hunting seasons.

Prime time for finding antlers usually is from late January through early March. The train of thought among many has always been the harsher the winter, the earlier antlers begin to drop, because of the added stress harsh weather places on the animals.

Like I said before, I have really enjoyed this winter weather, like many of you have, I am sure. But boy, if this warm, dry weather continues, we could really be in trouble.

Think about this: Warm, dry weather is not only warming and lowering river levels at a quick clip, but it is bringing to life a lot of things that can be a real drag to deal with.

It has been a long while since our water temperatures approached 90 degrees here in the Rock River. But at this rate, upper-80s or even low-90s is a very likely possibility. Couple this with the low water that comes along with it, and we could have a boiling-hot, deoxygenated river on our hands that could lead to more fish dying. That is a very scary thought.

Do I even dare say it? OK, I will. Bugs. Yep, no way around the darn things. Heck, they’re here already. All kinds of creepy, crawly, buzzy little pests. Hopefully I am wrong about this, but man, I have been swatting skeeters already. That ain’t good. Could be a banner year for repellent-makers.

The bad thing is, we really can’t control any of this, we can only deal with problems as they arise.

The sound of swarming skeeters haunts me, and images of dead fish from a few years back are still fresh in my mind. However, I still pop a little grin thinking about limited time on the lawn tractor and nights around the campfire or days on the river.

Hopefully everything works out for the best, and we get perfect amounts of hot and cool, wet and dry, and all is well in the Rock River valley. I guess we will find out soon enough.

Go Catfish!

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