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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

A farewell scattershot

September 16, 2010 at 09:38 PM

Yep. Today is my last day as the luckiest person at One News Plaza. The prospect of my job change shocked Chef Todd but did not render him speechless, as hoped. Then again, nothing has ever silenced him. “Dude, are you sure about this?” Chef sputtered. “You’re leaving the best job in Illinois.” ... Well, call me crazy but I am excited about the future. Effective today, my wife, Farmers State Bank and I are proud owners of Heartland Outdoors, the popular statewide magazine started 24 years ago by Bill and Linda Love of Mapleton. Since Bill’s death three years ago, Linda has shouldered the entire operation. She’s eager for a break. We’re eager for a change. Starting in October you can find me on the pages of that magazine and at ... That said, I also have a column on inspiring deer hunter Drew Burton ready for this Sunday’s Journal Star.


What are my most vivid memories from 12 years of losing cell phones, wrecking cameras and soaking notebooks while on the job? ... Duck hunting with The Farmer and living off his wife’s muffins. ... Catching peacocks, shocking fish, shooting deer and missing turkeys with Flathead. ... Hunting pheasants under a swingset in an Iowa park as Springer chortled, “This is wrong.” ...  Big Knobs referring to me as “Hey you fat little bastard.” ... A breathless call from former reporter Mike Smothers telling me he was in Springdale Cemetery searching for a midget who had seen a mountain lion. I didn’t have the heart to tell Smothers that from a midget’s perspective, a tabby cat probably looked like a cougar. ... Watching a little red-headed chicken hatch that turned out to be the clucking image of Joe Bates, the heart and soul of the Journal Star sports department. ... Hunting teal with the Head Worm and meeting a grumpy Stanley Briney in the dark at the break in Hate Levee. ... Trying to make sense of Our Neighbor Ash, whose unique presence is truly missed. 


Into every reporter’s life come compelling stories. Some are coincidence, like the time my brother and I were hunting pheasants near Aberdeen, S.D., just 9 miles north of the field where Payne Stewart and Peorian Bruce Bourland died in a tragic plane crash. I can still see the crazed look on the face of cattle in that field. ... Some stories are objects of creation, like the Carp Armada. That motley crew consisted of Photo Joe (the one-legged carp snagger from South Pekin), Chef Todd, Flathead and a few other rascals with jonboats who escorted an international group of biologists on the Illinois River to see leaping Asian carp. As Dr. Woo said, “Oh, too many fish. Too many fish.” ... Ironically, one of my favorite assignments was indoors. I spent two March weekends with Peoria High hoops team during the Class AA tournament. Obviously there was talent on the roster of those back-to-back champs. There were also characters whose antics still make me laugh. Thanks to Chuck Buescher and Kirk Wessler for that. In homage to Buescher I stamp my feet periodically when coaching biddyball. If only I could recruit as well as Bish we would dominate in Elmwood.


Obviously I owe thanks to anyone who read a word my fingers typed. But if any reader deserves extra credit, it’s Jim Lierle of Marquette Heights. Many is the morning Jim called from the factory to leave an encouraging message. Jim, your kind words were always appreciated. ... So were the many calls, e-mails and letters that flooded in after the passing of my Labrador retriever Buck. No story of mine touched a nerve so deeply. ... I’m also indebted to Minister Morris for the long hours he spent tracking down fishing reports. ... Now is also a good time for apologies. Sorry to youngster Matt Zehr of Eureka for forgetting to send you a jug of Hoss’s Hawg Bait dipbait. The package is finally in the mail. ... Sorry to Dave Reynolds, who I pestered and interrupted endlessly for these past 12 years. ... Sorry to anybody gullible enough to vote for that joke Rod Blagojevich. ... Sorry to anybody real important (or wealthy) who I forgot to mention. ... Sorry finally to the anti-hunters who spend so much of their lives fixated on a sad, misguided cause.


More memories? Sure. Just for you. ... Shaking hands with The Duck Commander, who said my beard made me look like Yasser Arafat. ... Catching 6-pound bass with Gordon Inskeep. ... Fishing with Fergie. ... Getting fired after 18 enjoyable weeks on the radio. ... Taking women’s golf scores. ... Seeing 100 deer heads staring across the gym floor at Elmwood High School last spring. We promise bigger and better things for the next Elmwood All Outdoors Show on March 5-6, 2011. ... Scouting geese with a tipsy Dave Beam in North Dakota as he steered the truck into fields without slowing. ... Settling bar bets. ... Chasing quail with Mace Reardon. ... Hearing Roger Cox tell stories. ...  Trading verbal jabs with Stew. ... Driving to Peoria from the east and marveling at how lucky we are to live or work in such a scenic river city.


So what am I going to do with my free time? Run for city council in my adopted home of Elmwood. If not for all the tornadoes, Elmwood would be the perfect place to raise a family. Being able to stay closer to home and my three boys is one reason for my career change. ... More immediately I hope to catch crappie and to shoot teal. Fall fishing is set to explode and the blue-winged migration heated up just in time. Sunday’s end to teal season should be good, as the latest survey showed 34,630 bluewings along the Illinois River compared to the average of 8,831. ... Beyond that I plan to read the paper each morning. Newspapers have been my life since I started delivering The Buffalo News as a 10-year-old. Moving from the city to join the Journal Star’s proud outdoor tradition is so far the high point of my working life. I’m proud to be mentioned with former scribes Jack Ehresman and Howard Kenny. And like you, I’m eager to read as the paper carries on that tradition.


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