Illinois Outdoors at PrairiestateOutdoors.com
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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
 

Scattershooting

A Web log by Jeff Lampe of the Journal Star

Scattershooting at bears, gobblers and asparagus

April 04, 2010 at 02:46 AM

Rambling through the outdoors wondering why wild asparagus tastes so much better than the store-bought variety.

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Try reading this note from Joe Draher of Hanna City without running outside, tossing a few rods in the truck and heading for a lake. “Saturday (March 27) was my first time out for 2010. The wind was howling and I was chilled to the bone. However, I was still able to catch three quality largemouth bass on a black-and-blue jig and pig. One was 6 pounds, 9 ounces. The next 4-9 and the third 3-5. Amazing how your hands warm up quickly when you’re catching quality largemouth and the wind chills are in the low 40’s. Just goes to show you don’t know unless you go.” ... That said, there’s room for improvement on the local fishing scene despite the recent warm spell sayeth Minister Morris, the Journal Star’s panfishing preacher. Oddly enough, he had no comment when asked if Jesus went fishing after the Resurrection. ... Seriously, though, fishing is behind the trees, grass and bushes in terms of overall progression. Water is still warming and crappie and most other species are generally slower than the thermometer might make you think. 

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For sheer numbers, the best bet for fishing right now is on the Illinois River. Sauger are still surging and white bass are ready to run soon. Anglers report huge numbers of sauger under the 14-inch limit and enough fat keepers to keep things interesting. “All week long they’ve been almost tired of catching fish there’s so many of them out there,” said Mike Hurless, who runs the Cabela’s MWC tournament out of Spring Valley. Those young fish paint a bright future for the Illinois River, which last weekend coughed up 10 fish weighing 25.55 pounds to Cheeseheads Kevin Dahl and Steve Stack — who fished jigs near Peru to win the 24th annual MWC. I’ll bet within two years we see a winner’s sack over 30 pounds. ... One reason for all those sauger is the state’s stocking program, which relies on tournament anglers to provide breeding stock. With a total of 1,047 fish (averaging 1.68 pounds apiece) weighed in two days, there were more than enough eggs for fisheries staff.

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One of these days my turkey-watching habits are going to cost me. But this is prime time to go gobbler-watching from a vehicle, as the grass is low, the leaves are not out yet and birds are very visible. The thing that never fails to amaze about turkeys is how black they look in the distance yet how spectacular their feathers are up close. ... Here’s a reminder to everyone who frequents the woods that turkey season starts Monday in the South Zone and on April 12 in the North Zone. Youngsters are also in the woods today for the end of the North Zone youth season. ... As if on cue, toms are gobbling across central Illinois. But the overall flock health is not great, since we’ve had at three straight years of poor hatches. Given a lack of two-year-old, love-starved birds who gobble just because they can, we hunters will be contending with some battle-tested, tight-beaked vets in the weeks to come. ... One critter never accused of keeping his beak shut is Chef Todd, who offers a reminder that there’s still time to pay $5 and enter Gobble Quest at Presley’s Outdoors. The three heaviest birds win cash.

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Mushroom hunters licking their lips in anticipation of an expected bumper crop of morels would do well to remember you can’t rush Mother Nature. Jason Johns spent last Tuesday in the woods of southern Illinois without finding a morel. Ever the optimist he said, “Next week is looking good down here.” ... You may recall Johns from a story last spring about hunting wild asparagus. His rule of thumb is to start searching in mid-April once daytime temperatures hit 70 degrees and evening temps stay in the 60s. Closer to home we’ll be scouring ditches by the third week of April. ... In the wake of numerous Illinois “wolf” sightings, it was interesting to read a report concluding: “Ohio wildlife officials worry that wolf-dog hybrids in the wild are increasing in numbers and could threaten livestock.” That was after a hunter shot a 120-pound wolf-dog running in a pack. ... Parting shot: People spend too much time fretting about life with wolves or cougars in Illinois. The more likely co-habitating critter is the black bear. Consider that Wisconsin’s bear population has tripled since 1986 and is adapting to humans, with bruins sighted in Milwaukee suburbs and active dens within 500 yards of subdivisions.

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