Tersh and Mary Frances Kepler have some secrets — the kind that might make an interesting reality show.

Tersh is the bassist for Hott2Trott and Mary Frances a lead singer for Peace, Love, Etc. When not performing, they sneak into the woods almost every day in early spring to hunt wild mushrooms.

Tersh walked out of the woods last week with a heavy mesh bag full of them. He'd just hiked 12 miles. You could tell he was a serious hunter by his hand-carved walking stick, soggy shoes and the smile on his face.

It says: "You've discovered my secret."

Tersh is not one to dawdle at the trailhead. He quickly heads for the deep woods and covers his tracks.

"I hide the stumps if I can," Tersh said. "I don't want anyone to find my favorite spots."

Tersh has been hunting all his life. He learned from his father, pediatrician Milton Oliver Kepler. Tersh taught Mary Frances his secrets when they married in 1999.

It's a passion they continue to share despite some health issues. Tersh's knees are bone on bone and held together with titanium screws. Mary Frances rarely misses a trip despite recovering from a recent mastectomy.

"I had a dream about morels last night," Mary Frances said from her northwest Omaha kitchen.

They walk with purpose in the woods. Instead of policing the forest floor, they hunt tree to tree, looking for those that are dying or have recently died. But that's about the only hunting secret you'll get from the pair.

And they don't share their mushrooms. Not for profit anyway.

Mary Frances sings gospel songs as she's picking. She's also known to sing the "Happy" song. So if you hear her beautiful voice in the woods, you will know you have discovered their secret.

The two aren't just weekend warriors. When Tersh couldn't find morels, he began carving morels. That led to commissioned sculptures of morels, which led to an entire line of morel hunting products.

Kepler's carved walking sticks are now used internationally and sales are increasing. His carved Christmas ornaments hang on trees from Omaha to Germany.

"Sometimes (the customers) pay more for shipping than the merchandise," Tersh said.

The Keplers peddle their art and wears online. The business has taken off and drawn a lot of attention.

But it's their hunting secrets that most want. Secrets they may now be willing to tell the world.

Four production companies have interviewed the Keplers and their friends for a possible reality show. NatGeo, a National Geographic network, is one of those interested.

"We have done several Skype interviews so they can see our personalities and what our friends are like," Tersh said.

Personalities they have. Beyond decades of experience on stage making music, the passion the couple shares for undiscovered morels motivates all they meet.

Bill Stiles, a friend from Nebraska City, doesn't even like the taste of mushrooms, but he still likes to tag along.

"I'm not a big fan of morels, but I love to hunt," he said. "Spending quality time with friends is what it's all about."

Stiles took part in the Skype interviews with one of the production companies. It was a get-to-know-the-group session.

"It was the first time I've Skyped," Stiles said. "My gut feeling is that we're going to have a show."

Cleanup group needs help

Missouri River Relief needs a new fleet.

In the past 13 years, Missouri River Relief has organized 133 river cleanups from Yankton, South Dakota, to St. Louis, relieving the Missouri River of more than 801 tons of trash, according to a press release.

But now the nonprofit organization needs a new fleet of vehicles to continue its work. The group's five trucks and vans have been driven a total of 1.5 million miles.

They are trying to raise $45,000 to help replace the vehicles. Two trucks have already been donated by the Hulston Family Foundation and Living Lands and Waters, a river cleanup service organization.

For more information or to volunteer, visit the organization's web page at indiegogo.com.

Contact the writer: 402-943-9701, mark.davis@owh.com

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