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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

Some born to turkey hunt, others…

April 17, 2009 at 05:35 AM

Some people are born to turkey hunt.

People like Dani Valois, whose father Rick works at Rice Lake. Dani has accompanied dad in the field since she was 5. Now 11, she shot her first turkey during the youth season in Sangamon County. Naturally it was a beautiful 23-pounder with 1 3/4-inch spurs and an 11-inch beard.

Dani was one of several youngsters who proved they’ve got what it takes to bag a big gobbler. Others were Scott Copple of Wyoming (26 pounds), Matt Hanley of Kickapoo (25), Drake Fandel of Germantown Hills (24), Alex Anderson of Fairview (24), Tyler Rocke of Congerville (23) and Drake Whitehurst of Yates City (22).

Yep, some people are born to hunt turkeys.

People like Jerry Nicholson of Bartonville, who shot five gobblers with his bow before the Illinois season even started. Three came in Nebraska and two in Kansas, including one 27.8-pound Rio Grande gobbler that broke the state’s archery record.

People like Steve Bryan of Germantown Hills who needed only 19 days to shoot four birds with his bow this spring for a Grand Slam of turkey hunting.
I envy those people. Because some of us are not born to turkey hunt, as I proved once again during the North Zone’s first season. Despite shooting five birds in my lifetime, I own a deserved reputation as a terrible turkey hunter.

Understand, I hate that label. I’ve worked to get better by patterning my shotgun, joining the National Wild Turkey Federation, reading articles and even watching a few of the thousands of turkey hunting shows on television. I’ve tried to hunt my way through the errors and missed shots.

None of that helped Wednesday, a morning that was supposed to complete my learning curve at a new property. On opening day — after the rain — I found the birds. On Tuesday I could only watch as birds flapped off the roost onto neighboring ground, never to return.

So on Wednesday I got up early and vowed to be in better position to lure them into range.

And I got close enough to hear turkey droppings hit the ground after walking around a lake and through a flooded field. But it was during the final 100 yards in the wide open that a turkey spotted me from its perch and vacated with an angry “Putt, putt, putt.”

At least one bird remained. Unfortunately, it was perched over the path I needed to pass to reach the woods. Rather than bump that bird, I sat tight in flooded grass, my back to a fencepost, decoys at my side.

About 20 minutes later, a gobble ripped through the air, seemingly inches away. Then another. Then another. Then the bird perched over the path fanned his tail feathers and gobbled.

Perfect. Four gobblers within close range. All I needed was for one tom to fly down in range and I’d be a hero before the kids even went to school.


Several gobbles later, a big tom suddenly left its perch behind me — sailing over my head, across the lake and toward a hill behind which my truck was parked. Then another gobbler followed his lead. Then a third bird flapped into the distance behind me, leaving only the one pooping noisily nearby.

Evil thoughts entered my mind. It is illegal in Illinois to shoot turkeys on the roost before 7 a.m. Temptation is a terrible thing.

Instead, I prayed the bird would drop to the path below and give me a chance. Watch enough television shows and you’d think that happens every time.


When he jumped off the branch, that stinking gobbler headed across the lake toward my truck. I shot at his rear end, more a salute than anything else. Even so, I ran around the lake and spent an hour scouring the terrain to make sure he had not miraculously died.

Instead I found a dead rabbit, four pieces of black pipe and several charred stumps.

The consensus from my cadre of turkey hunting advisers is that the birds were spooked by my presence. “Next time, just moo like a cow and they won’t even worry,” Alderman Clanin said.

Was he joking? Guess I’d better run that one past Dani. She’ll know.


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