Illinois Outdoors at
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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 week in the uplands

November 30, 2008 at 01:12 PM

How to fill time between deer seasons? For me the answer was to chase pheasants and quail. Time was I would have gone duck hunting, but waterfowl action has been slow of late. So it was off to the uplands for several hunts this week.

Wednesday I spent the morning with Ted and Ron Gilles on some of their many acres of ground enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program. I consider their property the crown jewel of pheasant hunting in Peoria County, with wild birds in abundance. We saw plenty of birds, shot seven roosters and probably should have had a limit for our six-person group (which included Paul Cokel, Big Mike and Tom Heinz of Kickapoo).

My little setter had a tough day in the tallgrass and did not seem to be scenting well. Not sure if it was the dry conditions or what. Plus, the birds were running plenty. Oh well. Seven pheasants in Illinois is a great day by any standard.

Illinois hunting and fishing

From there it was on to a Stark County hunt on Friday with The Farmer, Springer, Springer’s son Alex and my brother-in-law, Tony Vandercar. We wound up with four quail and one rooster (shot by Tony, his first ever) and should have had a few more quail and one more rooster (he ran off). But once again we saw birds everywhere we stopped. We also saw some standing corn near one of our areas, which surprised me. The flushing dogs had a good day and Farmer’s Lab Indy even started pointing. She pointed quail twice, despite no indication there is pointing lab in her pedigree. Very interesting. Maybe she has decided to steal a page from my setter’s book.

Finally on Saturday was the youth pheasant hunt held each year by the Gilles family. It’s a great event. First they hold a hunter safety class for kids in the summer, complete with a meal. Then comes a trap shoot to get ready. Then on the day of the youth hunt (held on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving) 120 kids get a chance to hunt pen-raised birds in some of the Gilles’ ground. They also get cookies, soda and some more clay-bird shooting to get warmed up. At times it was like a sea of blaze orange out west of Princeville.

Illinois hunting and fishing

This is the second year I was asked to help and I consider the event a real privilege. The more kids hunting the better. And there are plenty of young hunters here, not to mention every type of shotgun you can imagine. My group (including The Farmer, Tim Donsbach and Marv Donsbach as well as dogs Hawk, Indy and Hershey) helped run 16 kids through the fields and set 30 birds. We had some great points, flushes and fun. In the picture below, my dog Hawk shows off his low-tail form (a problem for field trial dogs but OK with a meat hunter like me).

Illinois hunting and fishing

Because the kids are not real accustomed to hunting, we have to crawl ahead and flush the birds occasionally. Here, Marv shows his form. Not sure if he’s a Lab or a springer, but he got the job done.

Illinois hunting and fishing

Every kid we took hunting got to take home a bird. And I think all of them at least believed they shot a bird Saturday. All in all it was a great cap to a busy week of bird hunting. Hope your Thanksgiving week was similarly bountiful.

Illinois hunting and fishing

Story and comments

Wild Things 11-30-08

November 30, 2008 at 03:39 AM


Department of Natural Resources workers laid off today due to budget cuts.

Too many old ducks

Duck hunters along the Illinois River are lamenting the same thing these days: educated birds. But there’s more than that working against waterfowlers. A below-average hatch for mallards means there are fewer young birds for hunters to shoot this year.

“We’re holding more ducks than usual for this time of year, however, our first half was average to a little below,” said Randy Root, who owns the Mallard Farms club near Spring Bay. “Not many young mallards.”

That’s the same word from staffers at Banner Marsh, where the refuge is loaded with mallards but hunters have struggled mightily.

Swimming for deer

Elation turned to frustration for Chad Johnson on Nov. 15 while bowhunting along the Spoon River near Ellisville.

The good news for Johnson was that he shot his first buck with a bow. The bad news was the 9-pointer made it into Spoon River and wound up on the opposite bank.

But Johnson was only slowed for a moment. He wasn’t going to lose his first buck. So despite the cold he stripped down, jumped into the river, swam across and retrieved his buck.

Wild on the Web

The Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, Wisc. has a new Web site ( that features historic information, articles and past issues of The Splash magazine.

Birding bits

If you are a birdwatcher and have not yet added The Nature Conservancy’s Emiquon Preserve to your must-visit list, do so now. Birders have regularly been spotting a wide variety of species this fall at the restored wetland near Havana, including white-faced and glossy ibises that had been lingering early last week despite ice. 

Gearing up

Anyone looking for a thoughtful gift for the cold-blooded outdoorsman in their life may want to consider Mr. Heater’s Portable Buddy heater. These are truly portable heaters that run on the small, 1-pound propane cylinders and can be carried easily into a deer blind, duck blind or ice-fishing shack.

Critter corner

In the wilds of Illinois in December ...
Raccoons den up during snow and ice storms.
Rabbits use abandoned dens during heavy snows.
Bald eagles move toward open water at locks and dams.
North American bats hibernate or spend winter in deep sleep in caves.
Screech owls, barred owls call.
Skunks sleep during weather of 15 degrees or colder.
Gray squirrels begin breeding now through February.
Red foxes begin mating.
Beavers feed on sapling reserves.
Evening grosbeaks eat sunflower seeds at feeders.
Unbred does enter second estrus.
Whitetails form winter groups.
Racoons begin to breed.
Badgers dig up, kill and feed on hibernating woodchucks.

This ‘n that

Turkey hunters in Illinois are reminded that Monday is the deadline to apply for the first lottery of spring permits. ... Fergie Jenkins and Ozzie Smith Jr. were back in central Illinois hunting ducks, deer and pheasants last week. They’ll return again Jan. 24 for the Independent Sportsman Club’s wild-game feed. Also expected for the banquet at the Kickapoo Sportsman’s Club are Lee Smith and Steve Trout, with a possible appearance by Harlem Globetrotters great Meadowlark Lemon. For tickets call (309) 691-9200.

Story and comments

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