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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Spring Legislative Update - Bills that impact outdoor enthusiasts

3:25 AM 0 Comments




Just like always this time of year there have been a flurry of bills introduced that affect outdoor enthusiasts, or are related to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. It's important to remember that at the time of this writing, these are "just a bill", and with the anticipated shortened session this spring they may or may not make it to committee, out of committee or be called to the floor for debate /vote.

What is important is that as an outdoor enthusiast you read the bill, look at the bill status, and respond according to your feelings. At this juncture, I'm only sharing the list of bills and the links to the bills. 

Going forward in the coming days, we'll break down this list and unpack  these bills in smaller groups/lists for discussion. Additionally, we'll be posting information that explains how to comment to your legislator, file witness slips etc. 

As bills move forward we will strive to add those updates. However, remember it's up to you as outdoor enthusiast to stay informed and also watch for any movement, committee assignments, hearing, file witness slips, or submit testimony (as appropriate). 

YOU have a voice; use it! 

Now let's get down to business and have a look at some of these bills! 

House Bills: 

HB4372:PROHIBIT WILDLIFE CONTESTS
House Sponsors
Rep. Anna Moeller and Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz
Synopsis As Introduced
Amends the Wildlife Code. Prohibits contests or competitions with the objective of taking any fur-bearing mammal. Provides an exception for field trials. (emphasis added)  Provides that a person who violates the new provisions is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor and subject to a fine of no less than $500 and no more than $5,000 in addition to other statutory penalties.
Find the full text of the bill here

HB4386:WILDLIFE CD-RIFLE-DEER HUNTING

House Sponsors
Rep. Lance Yednock - Tony McCombie
Synopsis As Introduced
Amends the Wildlife Code. Provides that a centerfire rifle may be used to harvest deer during the firearm open season set by the Director of Natural Resources annually. Provides that all straight walled rifle rounds are legal ammunition for a centerfire rifle.
Find the full text of the bill here

HB4429: DNR- STATE PARKS /PERMIT TO SEL

House Sponsors
Rep. David Friess - Charles MeierTony McCombie and Dan Caulkins
Synopsis As Introduced
Amends the State Parks Act. Requires all persons or entities seeking to charge fees to participants, provide items for sale, or otherwise collect money or items as part of an event located on property or facilities that are owned, leased, or managed by the Department of Natural Resources to complete a permit to sell application form to obtain a permit to sell. Provides that all revenue generated from an event shall be subject to a 10% fee payable to the Department of Natural Resources upon completion of the event. Requires all funds received by the Department to be allocated to the site at which the fees were collected. Waives activity permit fees, permit to sell fees, and facility usage fees for formally recognized Friends Groups and for all fishing tournaments and clubs. Effective immediately.
Full text of the bill can be found here

HB4451:
DNR-HISTORIC PRESERVATION-NAME
House Sponsors
Rep. Lance Yednock
Synopsis As Introduced
Amends the Department of Natural Resources Act, the Historic Preservation Act, and the Illinois State Agency Historic Resources Preservation Act. Requires the Illinois State Museum and Division of Historic Preservation of the Department of Natural Resources to collaborate and assist the Department of Resources exercise its duties under the Acts. Removes authority of Board of the Illinois State Museum to approve budget requests of the Illinois State Museum. Replaces references to the Historic Sites and Preservation Division of the Department with the Department of Natural Resources. Makes other changes. Effective Immediately.
Full text of the bill can be found here

House Sponsors
Rep. David A. Welter
Synopsis As Introduced
Amends the Wildlife Code and the Fish and Aquatic Life Code. Provides that hunting and fishing license fees shall be one-half the price of the current license fee amount for all resident veterans, regardless of deployment (instead of only for veterans after returning from service abroad or mobilization by the President of the United States). Effective immediately.
Full text of the bill can be found here

HB4542:
STATE PARKS-DNR APPROVAL
House Sponsors
Rep. Dave Vella
Synopsis As Introduced
Amends the State Parks Act. Specifies that certain actions are not violations of the Act if they are done with the approval of the Department of Natural Resources. Effective immediately.
Full text of the bill can be found here

HB679:
WILDLIFE CD-RIFLE HUNTING
House Sponsors
Rep. Tony McCombie
Synopsis As Introduced
Amends the Wildlife Code. Defines "rifle" as any firearm designed, made, or adapted to be fired from the shoulder that uses the energy of an explosive in a fixed metallic cartridge to fire a projectile through a rifled bore by a single function of the trigger. Permits hunting with a rifle for the taking of deer; makes related changes. Provides that legal handguns and rifles include any bottleneck centerfire cartridge of .30 caliber or larger with a case length not exceeding 1.4 inches or any straight walled centerfire cartridge of .30 caliber or larger both of which must be available as a load with the published ballistic tables of the manufacturer showing a capability of at least 500 foot pounds of energy at the muzzle.
Full text of the bill can be found here

HB4680:VETERAN-FISH/HUNT LICENSE
House Sponsors
Rep. Tony McCombie
Synopsis As Introduced
Amends the Fish and Aquatic Life Code. Removes provisions requiring a veteran who has served as an active duty member of the United States Armed Forces, the Illinois National Guard, or reserves of the United States Armed Forces to apply in person for a fishing license at a regional office of the Department of Natural Resources. Provides that the Department of Natural Resources shall establish by administrative rule the documentation that qualifies as acceptable verification of service; defines "acceptable verification" of service. Makes related changes to the Wildlife Code. Effective immediately.
Full text of the bill can be found here

Synopsis As Introduced
Amends the Department of Natural Resources Act. Provides that a hunting license issued under the Wildlife Code must contain information indicating whether the holder of the license is registered as an organ donor in the First Person Consent registry maintained by the Secretary of State. Provides that the Department of Natural Resources and the Secretary of State shall share information as necessary to implement the new provisions.
Full text of the bill can be found here

HB4713:DNR-ABOLISH ADVISORY BOARD
House Sponsors
Rep. Lawrence Walsh, Jr.
Synopsis As Introduced
Amends the Departments of State Government Law of the Civil Administrative Code of Illinois by repealing the Section that created the Department of Natural Resources Advisory Board. Makes corresponding changes in the Wildlife Code and the Illinois Open Land Trust Act. Amends the Department of Natural Resources Act. Authorizes the Department of Natural Resources to conduct regional yearly public forums to obtain public input and comments on subjects, matters, or programs under the control of the Department of Natural Resources. Requires the Department of Natural Resources to consider all comments received during a public forum.
Full text of the bill can be found here

Senate Bills

Senate Sponsors
Sen. Laura M. Murphy
Synopsis As Introduced
Amends the Timber Buyers Licensing Act. Provides that all timber buyers must possess a liability insurance policy in an appropriate amount pursuant to administrative rule prior to issuance of a timber buyers license and must keep the policy in force at all times while the license is in effect. Provides that every applicant for a timber buyers license shall submit, on a form provided by the Department of Natural Resources, a surety bond or letter of credit in a specified amount. Provides that all persons buying timber under the Act must possess a valid timber buyers license. Provides that when a timber buyer purchases timber in the State, the timber buyer shall submit a report to the Department of the purchase. Provides that the Department shall require timber growers who own 5 acres or more of timberland in any county to obtain a landowner timber number, or similar unique identifier from the Department, associated with their timberland before timber is cut for commercial purposes. Provides that landowner timber numbers will be dated and expire after 2 years unless extended by the Department by rule. Makes changes to provisions concerning definitions; application for licensure; bond; prohibited acts; license, issuance, validity, and certificate; application; records; penalties; license revocation; and seizure. Adds provisions concerning reporting a harvest fee. Amends the Seizure and Forfeiture Reporting Act. Provides that the Act applies to property seized or forfeited under the seizure provision of the Timber Buyers Licensing Act.
The full text of the bill can be found here

Senate Sponsors
Sen. Suzy Glowiak Hilton
Synopsis As Introduced
Amends the State Parks Act. Specifies that certain actions are not violations of the Act if they are done with the approval of the Department of Natural Resources. Effective immediately.
Full text of the bill can be found here

Synopsis As Introduced
Amends the Department of Natural Resources Act, the Historic Preservation Act, and the Illinois State Agency Historic Resources Preservation Act. Requires the Illinois State Museum and Division of Historic Preservation of the Department of Natural Resources to collaborate and assist the Department of Resources exercise its duties under the Acts. Removes authority of Board of the Illinois State Museum to approve budget requests of the Illinois State Museum. Replaces references to the Historic Sites and Preservation Division of the Department with the Department of Natural Resources. Makes other changes. Effective Immediately.
Full text of the bill can be found here

Senate Sponsors
Sen. Neil Anderson - Dale Fowler
Synopsis As Introduced
Amends the Fish and Aquatic Life Code and the Wildlife Code. Provides that the current fees for a fishing license, sportsmen's combination license, and hunting license are annual fees. Allows a resident to obtain a 3-year fishing license (for a fee of $45), sportsmen's combination license (for a fee of $78.75), or hunting license (for a fee of $37.50). Provides that there is no fee for an annual or 3-year fishing license, sportsmen's combination license, or hunting license for a resident Gold Star Family member. Effective immediately.
Full text of the bill can be found here

Senate Sponsors
Sen. Christopher Belt
Synopsis As Introduced
Amends the Department of Natural Resources (Conservation) Law. Requires Conservation Police Officers hired after July 1, 2022 to obtain certification pursuant to the Illinois Police Training Act. Limits powers of arrest and permission to carry firearms to Conservation Police Officers 21 years of age or older. Amends Herptiles-Herps Act, Fish and Aquatic Life Code, Wildlife Code, and Ginseng Harvesting Act. In provisions concerning violations, adds violations of United States Code. Defines terms. Makes other changes. Amends Deadly Weapons Article of Criminal Code 2012. Limits specified exemption to hunting, trapping or fishing that is lawful as defined by statute. Effective immediately.
Full text of the bill can be found here 

Synopsis As Introduced
Amends the Illinois Prescribed Burning Act. Removes provisions that provide that a property owner and any person conducting a prescribed burn is liable for actual damage or injury caused by the prescribed burn or resulting smoke upon proof of negligence. Provides instead that no landowner, agent of the landowner, or certified prescribed burn manager is liable for damage, injury, or loss caused by a prescribed burn or resulting smoke unless proven to be grossly negligent. Effective immediately.
Full text of the bill can be found here

SB3868: 
BIKE/PEDESTRIAN PATH FUNDING 
Senate Sponsors
Sen. John F. Curran
Synopsis As Introduced
Amends the Illinois Highway Code. Provides that the Department of Transportation shall establish and solely fund bicycle and pedestrian ways in conjunction with the construction, reconstruction, or other change of any State transportation facility in or within one mile of an urban area (instead of in or within one mile of a municipality with a population of over 1,000 people). Allows a county (in addition to a municipality) to opt out of bicycle and pedestrian way construction by passing a resolution stating that a bicycle or pedestrian way does not fit within its development plan
Full Text of the bill can be found here

Senate Sponsors
Sen. David Koehler
Synopsis As Introduced
Amends the Rivers, Lakes and Streams Act. Provides that any person who violates the Act shall be liable for a civil penalty not to exceed $10,000 (instead of $5,000) for a violation not resulting in the potential for loss of life or not associated with dam or floodway construction reasonably valued over $250,000 that continues past a Department of Natural Resources-ordered remediation deadline. Provides that any person who violates the Act shall be liable for a civil penalty of up to 10 times the applicable permit application review fee, but not to exceed $50,000, plus an additional civil penalty not to exceed $1,000 for each day the violation continues past a Department-ordered remediation deadline, for any violation resulting in the potential for loss of life or associated with dam or floodway construction reasonably valued over $250,000. Provides that payment of such penalties does not discharge the required remediation of the violation. Provides that a penalty shall (instead of "may") be paid to the Department and deposited into the State Boating Act Fund. Repeals the Des Plaines and Illinois Rivers Act. Effective immediately.
Full text of the bill can be found here

Senate Sponsors
Sen. Doris Turner
Synopsis As Introduced
Amends the Departments of State Government Law of the Civil Administrative Code of Illinois by repealing the Section that created the Department of Natural Resources Advisory Board. Makes corresponding changes in the Wildlife Code and the Illinois Open Land Trust Act. Amends the Department of Natural Resources Act. Authorizes the Department of Natural Resources to conduct regional yearly public forums to obtain public input and comments on subjects, matters, or programs under the control of the Department of Natural Resources. Requires the Department of Natural Resources to consider all comments received during a public forum.
Full text of the bill can be found here

Monday, August 30, 2021

MDC Reminds Deer Hunters to Get Harvested Deer Sampled for CWD

12:14 PM 0 Comments

 



MDC reminds deer hunters to get harvested deer sampled for CWD

MDC holding mandatory CWD sampling during opening weekend of firearms season and voluntary CWD sampling all season for hunters who harvest deer in MDC CWD Management Zone counties.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – With deer hunting in Missouri opening for archery season on Sept. 15 and for firearms portions in the coming months, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) wants hunters to know key information about chronic wasting disease (CWD). MDC will be holding mandatory CWD sampling during opening weekend of firearms season and voluntary CWD sampling all season for hunters who harvest deer in MDC CWD Management Zone counties.

CWD is a deadly, infectious disease in deer and other members of the deer family (cervids) that eventually kills all animals it infects. There is no vaccine or cure. CWD is spread from deer to deer and through the environment. CWD was first detected in Missouri’s free-ranging deer population in 2012 and has since been found in 18 counties. The disease remains relatively rare in the state, being detected in 206 deer out of more than 152,300 tested by MDC since 2012. MDC is working hard to keep it that way, and hunters play a critical role in helping MDC manage the disease by having their deer tested and following the carcass-movement restrictions. Learn more at mdc.mo.gov/cwd.

CWD Management Zone

MDC designates counties within 10 miles of where a positive case of CWD has been found as part of its CWD Management Zone. The CWD Management Zone counties are: Adair, Barry, Camden, Cedar, Chariton, Christian, Clark, Crawford, Franklin, Gasconade, Hickory, Howell, Jefferson, Knox, Laclede, Linn, Macon, McDonald, Mercer, Oregon, Ozark, Perry, Polk, Pulaski, Putnam, St. Charles, St. Clair, St. Francois, Ste. Genevieve, Stone, Sullivan, Taney, Warren, and Washington. Camden, Laclede, McDonald, and Pulaski counties were added to the CWD Management Zone this year.

Related CWD regulations prohibit the placement of feed or minerals for deer in counties of the CWD Management Zone. For exceptions, see the 2021 Fall Deer & Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information booklet, available where permits are sold and online at mdc.mo.gov/about-us/about-regulations/fall-deer-turkey-hunting-regulations-information.

Voluntary CWD Sampling All Season Statewide

MDC will again offer statewide voluntary CWD sampling and testing of harvested deer during the entire deer season at select locations throughout the state. Locations include select MDC offices during regular business hours, cooperating taxidermists and meat processors (hours vary), and self-service freezers where hunters can leave deer heads for sampling and testing.

Hunters can get their CWD test results for free online at mdc.mo.gov/cwdResults. Results are usually available within three weeks or less from the time of sampling. Find locations and more information online at mdc.mo.gov/cwd or by contacting an MDC regional office at mdc.mo.gov/contact-engage/regional-mdc-offices.

Mandatory CWD Sampling Nov. 13 and 14

Hunters who harvest deer in any counties in the CWD Management Zone during opening weekend of the November portion of firearms deer season (Nov. 13 and 14) are required to take their harvested deer or the head on the day of harvest to one of MDC’s numerous CWD mandatory sampling stations located throughout the zone. Sampling and test results are free.

Hunters must present their deer to a CWD mandatory sampling station within the county of harvest, with a few exceptions. Deer that will end up being delivered to a licensed meat processor or taxidermist within 48 hours, or deer heads that will be left at the MDC CWD mandatory sampling station for disposal after sampling, may be transported to a sampling station in any county.

Find CWD mandatory sampling station locations online at mdc.mo.gov/cwd or from MDC’s 2021 Fall Deer & Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information booklet.

CWD sampling takes only a few minutes and consists of MDC staff cutting an incision across the throat of harvested deer to remove lymph nodes for testing. Tissue samples are sent to an independent lab for testing. Hunters will be given a card with information on getting free test results for their deer after samples are processed. Hunters can get their CWD test results for free online at mdc.mo.gov/cwdResults. Results are usually available within three weeks or less from the time of sampling.

Hunters presenting bucks bound for taxidermy should inform MDC staff. Staff will complete paperwork and inform the hunters about participating taxidermists taking CWD tissue samples. The cape may also be removed from the animal prior to being taken to a sampling station.

Before arriving at a CWD mandatory sampling station:

  • Field dress and Telecheck deer.
  • Bring the carcass or just the head.
  • Capes may be removed in preparation for taxidermy.
  • Position deer in vehicles with head and neck easily accessible.
  • Be sure the person who harvested the deer is present.
  • Have the hunter’s conservation ID number ready.
  • Be prepared to find the location of harvest on a map.
  • If using a paper permit, have it detached from the deer for easy access.
  • If using the MO Hunting app, have permit and Telecheck information available.

Mandatory CWD sampling dramatically increases the number of tissue samples MDC can collect in a brief period of time. The increased number of samples gives MDC scientists a much better understanding of the distribution and prevalence of the disease — where it is and how many deer may have it. It can also help find new cases in new areas.

Opening weekend of the firearms deer season is the most popular two hunting days for most deer hunters. Hunters take about a third of the state’s total annual deer harvest during those two days. Focusing on this key weekend gives MDC the best opportunity to collect the most tissue samples during a very concentrated time period.

Carcass Movement Restrictions

Hunters must follow carcass-movement restrictions for deer harvested in a CWD Management Zone county and when bringing parts of harvested deer and other cervids into Missouri from another state.

For hunters who harvest deer in Missouri from a CWD Management Zone county:

  • Deer must be Telechecked before any parts of the carcass may be transported out of the county of harvest.
  • Whole carcasses and heads may only be transported out of the county of harvest if delivered to a licensed meat processor, taxidermist, or to an approved CWD sampling station within 48 hours of exiting the county of harvest. On Nov. 13-14, deer must be taken on the day of harvest to a CWD mandatory sampling station.
  • The following carcass parts may be moved outside of the county of harvest without restriction:
  • Meat that is cut and wrapped or that has been boned out.
  • Quarters or other portions of meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached.
  • Hides from which all excess tissue has been removed.
  • Antlers or antlers attached to skull plates or skulls cleaned of all muscle and brain tissue.
  • Finished taxidermy products.

For hunters bringing harvested deer and other cervids into Missouri from another state:

  • Hunters may no longer transport whole cervid carcasses into the state.
  • Heads from cervids with the cape attached and no more than six inches of neck attached may be brought into Missouri only if they are delivered to a licensed taxidermist within 48 hours of entering Missouri.
  • There is no longer a requirement that cervid carcass parts coming into the state be reported to the MDC carcass transport hotline.
  • The following cervid parts can be transported into Missouri without restriction:
  • Meat that is cut and wrapped or that has been boned out.
  • Quarters or other portions of meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached.
  • Hides from which all excess tissue has been removed.
  • Antlers or antlers attached to skull plates or skulls cleaned of all muscle and brain tissue.
  • Upper canine teeth.
  • Finished taxidermy products.

Share the Harvest

MDC encourages deer hunters to share their harvest. Missouri’s Share the Harvest program helps deer hunters donate venison to those in need. To participate, take harvested deer to an approved meat processor and let the processor know how much venison is to be donated. Deer harvested within the CWD Management Zone may only be donated to approved processors in the Share the Harvest CWD Testing Program. Deer harvested outside of the CWD Management Zone may be donated to any Share the Harvest processor. Learn more online at mdc.mo.gov/share or from MDC’s 2021 Fall Deer & Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information booklet.

More Information

Get more information on CWD regulations and other CWD information online at mdc.mo.gov/cwd or from MDC’s 2021 Fall Deer & Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information booklet, available where permits are sold and online at mdc.mo.gov/about-us/about-regulations/fall-deer-turkey-hunting-regulations-information.

Monday, September 21, 2020

5:53 AM 0 Comments

 

Rend Lake Will Open New Archery Complex Today


Williamsburg, KY – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers aRend Lake, Illinois is set to open the North Marcum Archery Complex today (Monday, September 21, 2020), with a grand opening ceremony being planned for the Spring of 2021. This new complex is located within the North Marcum Multiple Resource Area and offers a fully equipped archery range with shooting distances from 10 to 50 yards, an elevated shooting platform which simulates shooting from a tree stand, and the realistic shooting experience of a 3-D archery trail winding through the woods. The complex will open daily at 8:00 AM and close at dusk. This opening will allow archery enthusiasts time to hone their skills for hunting and competition season.

Multiple partners within the local community envisioned this new archery complex and helped bring it to fruition. During initial design meetings, the S3DA Illinois State Coordinator, Jim Sharp, was asked to provide his input on the complex so it would be in compliance with S3DA needs and tournament ready for scholastic organizations. After he’d seen the day use area adjacent to the proposed complex, he knew Rend Lake offered a prime location for a national event.

Since then, the Rend Lake Area Tourism Council and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Rend Lake have worked seamlessly with Scholastic 3-D Archery to host the upcoming 3-D National Championship Tournament set for June 17th-20th, 2021 at the North Marcum Recreation Area. This area is a premier location for fishing, hiking, wildlife watching and a host of other activities. S3DA Board of Directors Vice President, Jack Fares said, “We are very excited to be able to introduce the S3DA families from across our great nation to the wealth of recreation, conservation and tournament opportunities available at Rend Lake. S3DA 3-D tournaments have historically been held at locations that were already established tournament sites. Never before have we been able to provide input and feedback from the ground up and we’re very thankful that everyone at Rend Lake has been so accommodating and receptive to our needs. The 2021 S3DA 3-D National Tournament will be an incredible event!”

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Rend Lake Operations Manager, Jackie Taylor stated, “We are so excited to see this concept become a reality. The archery complex is a result of the Rend Lake community pulling together to create new outdoor recreation opportunities for visitors, which will also bring additional tourists to the area and increase economic benefits for local businesses. The North Marcum site will be the perfect location for the upcoming 3-D National Championship Tournament. The surrounding communities are looking forward to welcoming new visitors to the area.”

About Scholastic 3-D Archery

Scholastic 3-D Archery (S3DA) is a unique, family-oriented youth archery program which has grown exponentially across the United States as a next-step initiative to follow introductory archery programs. The mission of the Scholastic

3-D Archery program is to foster, educate and guide youth in the areas of 3-D, indoor target, and outdoor target archery as well as safe, ethical bowhunting practices. The goal of the S3DA program is to provide archery and bowhunting opportunities to youth in after-school settings, as well as with archery-affiliated clubs and businesses in the community. S3DA students participate in 3-D and target archery using compound and traditional archery equipment. Students can participate at local, regional, state, and national archery events and earn college scholarships from colleges and universities across the United States. S3DA addresses the need for a program to bridge beginning target archery experience and more advanced activities such as 3-D shooting and bowhunting. The program currently operates across the United States with hundreds of certified coaches serving thousands of young archers, grades 3–12.

Contact the Scholastic 3-D Archery National Office at:

www.s3da.org or 225 North 3rd Street, Williamsburg, KY 40769, Ph: 606.524.3685

Saturday, May 11, 2019

A Mother's Day Musing

7:00 AM 0 Comments
I stepped gingerly across the slick sand rocks, forging my way across the swift running creek, still a bit swollen from another round of the seemingly ever-present spring rains this year. I poked with my walking stick, making sure that there was something solid in front of me for each step and that there were no surprise hidden deep spots that would soak me to my waist.



I clambered up the wet sharp bank, using exposed tree roots as hand holds and for balance and leverage. Walking through the light misty rain I marveled at the sheer greenness of the woods.  My inner clock was ticking and as I mentally checked off the plants, I was seeing I knew the time
was right.



It was time to visit the wild orchids. The fat, bulbous, golden yellow lady slippers, the small tiny and delicate showy orchis. The wild orchids that first appear as the morels, bluebells, and spring ephemerals fade and the ferns, Blue Eyed Mary's, and spiderworts burst forth.









The wild orchids that bloom near Mother’s Day each year and will forever for me be associated with my tiny wild woman mother and her final acceptance of me as trustworthy and caring of our wild and sacred plants and places.





I’d always been the child in our family that loved the woods in the same deep and often spiritual way that my mother did.  Like my mother I found safety, solace, and sanctuary in the deep creek bottoms, the murky swamps, the steep hills and soaring bluffs. We were blessed to live in area where multiple ecosystems existed – including arid high desert glades. Each of these held special, rare, unique plants that few ever saw. Plants that were edible and nutritious and could sustain us. Plants that were medicinal and that provide care. Plants whose roots were valuable and provided extra income in times of need.



“Going to the woods” was an integral part of my mother’s daily life and in turn became part of mine.
My mother was fierce, intelligent, and keeper of  deep secrets. Many of those secrets were where the special, the unusual, and the wildest of the wild things could be found.  She had seen enough of life to know that if she had shared those special things others likely would not recognize the specialness, the rarity or the need to leave them undisturbed and protected in a world where habitats were disappearing left and right.



The early May wild orchids were one of those species. It wasn’t an easy hike to the creek bottom and hillsides where they were found along with a full season’s worth of other rare and endangered  plants. On the days she went to the site I was left behind. First, she told me it was too hard of a walk, as I got older and more woods hardy that excuse didn’t wash with my snappy know it all ten-year-old personality. I could scale a bluff and wade a swamp better than most adults. I knew what snakes were venomous, what bugs were would leave a nasty bite, and had developed an internal compass and ability to use a field guide that rivaled many adults. I insisted that I be allowed to go along. I stomped, and snarled, and pouted.

But still, she would not let me go along to see the lady slippers, the showy orchis, the whirled pegonias.

She recognized my impatience, but in her eyes, she had to be sure that the lessons in the forests and the fields she had taught me were firmly cemented. That I understood the importance of secret places.  That I was able to judge the intentions, character, and personality of anyone I would consider
sharing those rarities with in future years.

It was the spring before I turned 13 – she announced one drizzly May morning that if I’d get my boots on, we could go look maybe for a few of the last remaining big yellow morels or maybe to see if the lady slippers were blooming yet.  “I suppose it’s time.” she sighed.

Little did I realize then, that for her it was an admission that her last child was no longer a child and was quickly growing up and moving on.

Little did I realize then that this was her way of telling me that she trusted me and the person I was becoming. It was a rite of passage and leap of faith.  Her fledgling was ready to fly.

I will never forget that day, the beauty the wonder the magic of that special place. I simply sat on the damp ground, listening to the light drizzle on the leaves of the trees, suddenly understanding far more than just the intricate make up of the plants around me. I never did take anyone there – instead saving it as a place that was ours alone. I learned to seek out and find my own special places and special plants.

Know that if I ever share one of those places with you, you are indeed a special soul. Know that when I refuse to share that place with you, it does not mean that you are unworthy; it only means that I have that inner need to guard and to protect those places the way I would a child. Trust must be earned.



It’s been 45 years since that first sighting of the masses of yellow lady slippers and delicate pink and white orchis and I still find myself early each May wading the creeks, climbing the hills, resting in the ferns and dense green marveling at the beauty and the specialness of these amazing wild orchids.

Funny how it’s always near Mother’s Day.  I like to think Mother Nature likes it that way. It’s her gift to us for Mother’s Day. It's her promise to us that as long we continue to protect and to cherish the wild things she will continue to provide them.


Saturday, April 13, 2019

Mind Your Mushroom Manners

8:12 AM 0 Comments


Don’t let your desire for morels get the best of you!

It’s mushroom season – morels are starting to pop throughout southern IL and the “find line” is moving north a little every day. Sadly, that also means some conflicts inevitably arise.
There’s an almost subculture among long time morel hunters, and like any subculture it has own inherent ethics, rules, and customs.  As more and more people, each year take to the woods in search of  morels it’s important that we all understand safe, ethical, and legal mushroom hunting practices.

First let’s look at some of legalities –
Trespassing is trespassing. End of discussion. It doesn’t matter that you aren’t hunting turkey, it doesn’t matter that once three years ago you went with a friend on this property. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t know where the property lines were.  It doesn’t matter if you only went “a little” over the property line, or nine miles deep in someone’s woods. It doesn’t matter that you “know a guy who said it was okay -  he hunts here” Trespassing is still trespassing, and many property owners won’t think twice about calling the CPO or having you ticketed. Just don’t do it. 

There are many different phone apps these days (I use onXHunt Maps) that clearly show both property owners and property lines. With onX Hunt Maps there is a 30-dollar annual fee, but that is far cheaper than a trespassing fine, and I have also found it useful for identifying property owners to ask permission to access property. It’s especially useful in areas where public land and private land are adjoining or patchworked. Additionally, it allows you to pin your spots, set tracks as journey through the woods, and is one paid app that I highly recommend for all outdoor enthusiasts.

If you do ask permission for property access it’s always a good idea to offer the property owner a Landowner Permission Card that is available free from IDNR. It really helps cut down on any conflicts down the road and helps to indicate to the property owner that you are willing to follow the rules on their property, and do things in correct and safe fashion.

Additionally, if someone is gracious enough to offer you access to their property you should always share your harvest, send a nice thank you note, and never take others along with you unless it has been specifically cleared with the property owner. Remember they gave YOU permission, not you and dozens of your friends.



Things get even more complicated for public land hunters.

It’s vital that during spring turkey season you stay out of the woods until after 1 pm.  It’s not a way for all the turkey hunters to get all the mushrooms first – it’s a way to keep you from being accidentally shot. It’s a method to help decrease conflict between user groups, and foremost it’s a safety issue. It doesn’t matter if you are in a no hunting area – it’s turkey season, and you should treat every piece of public land as if it may be holding a turkey hunter somewhere, or within gunshot range. NO mushroom is worth a fanny full of shot or worse.

Additionally, you should always check with the individual site for any closed areas, natural areas, or preserves where mushroom hunting is not permitted. In general, in IL if it’s a designated nature preserve, ecological area, or natural area you can’t remove anything; and that includes mushrooms. This also often applies to some National Historic areas.

If you are  foraging on federal properties such as National Wildlife Refuges or USCAE recreational areas, make sure that you have appropriate vehicle stickers and passes. Some fee areas require these for entrance or parking .

Lastly, thanks to social media, Craigslist, and few television shows, folks believe commercial mushroom hunting is the way to make a quick buck. Be very aware that you cannot commercially hunt on IL public lands, so if you decide to do so, know that you are doing it at your own peril. Additionally, groups or even single folks who commercial hunt on public land can very quickly decimate entire areas. 



Commercially selling wild harvested mushrooms in IL is a bit of grey area.

IL Department of Public Health tells us that “Due to the difficult and complex nature of mushroom identification, the challenge is best left to mycologists, or mushroom experts. For instance, while mushrooms in the genus Amanita are responsible for the most mushroom-related deaths in Illinois per year, some edible species within this genus are revered as the most delectable. Due to the ease in misidentification, the sale of wild harvested mushrooms is not allowed at farmer’s markets in Illinois.“ 

But I can’t find any specific regulation (please correct me if anyone knows of a source!) that regulates the sale of wild mushrooms on a person to person basis. My best suggestion is contact your local CPO to double check on any mushroom related legal question, and when in doubt – don’t.

Be very cautious when buying mushrooms through social media, web sites, etc. There is literally no way you can be sure of freshness, quality, care taken in harvest etc. Do you really want to trust someone you don’t know to ensure that the mushrooms were picked legally, ethically, and that the utmost care has been used in storage and packaging?

Now on to the subtler ethics, morals, and social mores associated with mushroom hunting.

Whether it’s morels or any other wild edible, always use sustainable and ethical harvest practices.  Don’t go in and completely decimate an area. Always leave a little “for seed”.  A good rule of thumb is at least 10%, although some recommend a little more be left to keep patches active and thriving. 

Make sure that you are not destroying habitat tramping around. I’ve seen excellent patches completely obliterated by over harvest or groups who tramped through, raked back leaves, and left the spot as bare as Wal Mart parking lot when they were finished. This helps no one. Be certain that the population can withstand the harvest.  Don’t harvest in areas such where contamination by chemicals etc. could be possible. Harvest using the correct method to promote the patch/stand. 

Don’t just go ripping things out willie nillie with no thought to the underlying damage you may be causing. Think like a conservationist. Wild harvesters have long understood that for us to continue with bountiful harvests, we must practice good wild harvest practices. Unfortunately, in this get rich quick age, and with the increasing trend for local wild foods and foraging many people never get around to considering the conservation piece. All they want is a plateful and pocketful of cash.

Be respectful of other mushroom hunters you encounter. While indeed public land is there for all of us to share – just like any other public land activity – be respectful of others and their spaces. Perhaps one of the worst things you can do if you see someone picking mushrooms along a hillside is to rush over and invade that space. Best case is to speak politely, wish them luck, and make a note of the spot for future forays. Don’t crowd or intrude on other foragers who are picking! It’s also very rude to hang just a few yards behind and follow someone through the woods. In today’s age many can perceive that as unusual or threatening behavior, and you might find yourself being reported to a CPO.  

There’s no need to have wars in the parking lots, be ugly, or threaten anyone you encounter along the trail.  Although, somedays I think public land mushroom is just as fraught with this unpleasant behavior as public land waterfowl hunting and the battles at the ramps and walk ins.

To tell or not to tell – well, I honestly don’t know any long-term mushroom hunter that will very willingly give up their best spot, private or public. They may take you along – with either the clear message that you shouldn’t come back without them, nor bring others to the spot, or assume you understand the unspoken rules. This is the fastest way to find yourself blacklisted in the mushroom hunting community. Once word gets out that you return or worse yet bring everybody and their brother to show them patches that you were shown by some trusting friend, you may well find the calls to go shrooming drop off dramatically.

If you visit from out of state to our IL mushroom hunting areas – remember, you are a visitor, and while we welcome visitors, we don’t want to hear how much money you have spent to get here, how you have made a 6-hour drive, how much more entitled you are, or how you are here to commercial hunt…on and on and on. Just mind your manners, be polite and do not be surprised when no one answers your questions about where the best areas are located.  Explore the area, get a feel for it and be nice to the locals. They are after all, the ones who will be rescuing you if you get lost or in trouble.

If you happen to know of or stumble into a patch that is a very easy walk, close to parking etc. be mindful that this may be one of the few patches that an old timer can still physically hunt. Just my own opinion, but taking over or intruding on an old timer’s patch because it’s “easy picking” is one of the worst things a mushroom hunter can do. Some day if you are lucky you will have lived long enough to no longer run up and down the hills and hollers. Keep that in mind, and offer to help any of the old timers  you encounter or share your harvest with them. 

When you get down to brass tacks, it’s simple; follow the rules and regulations, try to understand the sub culture and local attitudes about mushrooms, be nice. Share and respect public land for what it is and understand that it is often multi use property. Don’t encroach, invade, or overstep. Don’t give away the locations to areas shared with you by others unless they have specifically given you permission to share or bring others.

Be nice boys and girls – the mushroom wars are just starting. Let’s try for a little bit of a peace accord this year, shall we?