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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

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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Wild Things 1-18-09

January 18, 2009 at 04:51 AM


Number of deer shot by bowhunters in Peoria County during the 2008-09 archery season.

IHSA fishing update

Selecting and receiving permission to fish 18 lakes as sectionals for this year’s first state bass fishing tournament has been no easy task for the Illinois High School Association.

But Dave Gannaway, the IHSA administrator in charge of the fishing tournament, hopes to have the April 24 sectional lineup set by February. Presently the plan is to have no more than 26 boats per sectional site.

“That just makes for better fishing,” Gannaway said. “But it’s a little tougher than people think to get 18 lakes open on the same day in April.”

Gannaway expects three sectionals in the Peoria area. Candidates are Banner Marsh, Clinton Lake, Evergreen Lake and Powerton Lake.

Area’s lone show ahead

The area’s lone fishing and hunting show is next weekend in Bloomington, when the Illinois Fish & Feather Expo visits the Interstate Center. Hours are noon to 8 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. next Sunday. Visit the Web site for details.

Speakers are walleye pro Ted Takasaki, Ken Freeman on catfish, Steve Welch on crappie, Jonn Graham on smallmouth bass, Bill Hancock Jr. on waterfowl and bass anglers Jim Crowley, Jerry Martoglio and Steve Serio. 

Archery harvest up

Illinois bowhunters shot 64,934 deer this season according to very preliminary numbers. That’s up slightly from 2007 (63,441) but down from 2006 (65,154) and the record year of 2005 (66,538). Pike County led the state with 3,762 deer, while Fulton was second at 1,825 and Peoria County ranked fifth.

The late-winter antlerless-only season ends today, closing all deer hunting until next fall.

Wild on the Web

The Illini Bluffs’ high school bass club has started a Web site at that provides fishing tactics, schedules and more. offers to create free Web sites for any interested Illinois fishing teams. On the Illini Bluffs site, team sponsor Don Garmon has created a section with resources that could be helpful to other coaches.

Birding bits

At first, Pam Sprout thought the little birds eating seed on the porch of her Toulon home were strangely marked sparrows. “But there were probably a dozen of them and they all looked the same,” she said.

Only after poring over bird books last week did Sprout identify the birds as Eurasian tree sparrows. This relatively uncommon species has slowly expanded its range since 20 birds were released in St. Louis in 1870.

Eurasian tree sparrows can often be seen in southwestern Illinois and are regulars around Spring Lake.

This is not the first time Sprout has had a brush with a rare bird. In 2000 she was the first in Illinois to document a Scott’s oriole, a species normally found in the southwest.

Chillicothe bird count

Birders counted 70 species on Jan. 3 during the annual Chillicothe Christmas bird count held in Peoria, Woodford and Marshall counties.

Highlights of the count, dedicated to the late Louise Augustine of Chillicothe and Bert Princen of Peoria, were 17-year highs for canvasbacks (16), hermit thrushes (4) and yellow-bellied sapsuckers (4).

This ‘n that

Due to conflicts the annual Henry Decoy Show is Feb. 15 — the third Sunday of the month. ... The federal government is again trying to take the gray wolf off the threatened and endangered species list next month, which would shift wolf management to state agencies.

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