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Jeff Lampe
Jeff Lampe

Jeff Lampe has been outdoor writer at the Journal Star in Peoria for 12 duck seasons. He lives in Elmwood with his wife Monica, sons Henry, Victor and Walter, and Llewellin setter Hawkeye. A native of Buffalo, N.Y., he is an avid fan of the Bills and still has mental scars from four consecutive Super Bowl losses. Outside of hunting and fishing, Lampe's main passion in Illinois was Class A boys basketball (which sadly no longer exists). Former publisher of the Class A Weekly newsletter, Lampe is a co-author of "100 Years of Madness" and "Classical Madness," both books focusing on prep basketball in Illinois.

Illinois Outdoors


A Web log by Jeff Lampe of the Journal Star

Deer season ends quietly

January 18, 2009 at 10:14 PM

Almost every time I hunted for quail in the ditch, a deer or two ran out as the dog and I ambled along. Most were close, close enough to have shot at if I was loaded with a slug instead of steel 7s.

So this weekend, I had every intention of hunting that ditch hard for the late-winter season. Then I had to work Friday. Then there was a birthday party Saturday, not to mention a cold that had me sleeping late. Then Sunday there was mass, a visit from a relative and a 3 p.m. basketball game to coach. I was fortunate enough to shoot two deer this year, but I had two tags left. Since today was the last hurrah, I decided to risk angering the wife by going.

Somehow I was able to carve out two hours of hunting today. The first hour confirmed what I suspected. Deer love this ditch. There were fresh beds, tracks and droppings everywhere. No deer or even shed antlers, unfortunately, but tons of sign. Near as I can figure, deer come to this ditch to sleep and then come or go as they please.

So I figured if I came back after the basketball game, I’d have a few minutes to see what had arrived.

Now ideally, I would have perched in that ditch all day. But one does what one can.

Since it wasn’t real deer hunting, I brought the oldest boy with me. He was sworn to silence, a vow he broke after 20 minutes of not seeing any deer as we walked the ditch. Not that it mattered. Nothing came out of the ditch except for a flock of doves. Then on the way back to the truck, seconds after I finally silenced the boy for the 20th time, a deer head poked up over a rise in the corn field to the west. It was a big doe and she stared straight at us. We dropped. And were silent. And she stared hard at us as one, then three, then six more deer appeared with her. The boy did well, aside from some sniffing. (“The snot was in my mouth dad, I had to do something.”) He watched quietly. He was so quiet it made me happy. Made me realize that coming out to this field for one last hour of hunting was worth it all.

“Can you see them?” I said. “Yeah, shhh,” he said.

Finally, as the sun started dropping and the deer made it clear they were coming no closer, I stood up to take a shot at one of the does. I missed. They ran off and we walked the long walk across the ditch and into the field to check for blood, finding nothing but tracks, droppings and scratch marks in the corn field.

Even so, it was a success. Slob hunter? If you say so. But part of hunting is taking shots. Part of hunting is passing the sport on to another generation. And the boy had fun. He saw deer. He learned plenty. Enough even to tell me, “Dad, they were pretty far. Too far.”

Maybe I should listen to that boy more often.


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