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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

Quinn really does care about DNR

February 26, 2009 at 06:20 PM

We’ve all heard politicians mouth platitudes they quickly forgot or ignored.

And when Gov. Pat Quinn announced a few weeks ago that the Department of Natural Resources was one of Illinois’ most important agencies, I figured he was offering a sound byte for the moment.

Quinn’s quote came at the Capitol Building while naming Marc Miller as DNR director. So a certain amount of posturing was to be expected. But I’m starting to think Quinn actually believes what he said.

In less than one month the new governor has worked to restore endangered federal funding for DNR. He got rid of a politically connected director in exchange for Miller, a trusted aide with a background in natural resources.

His actions have collectively “changed the entire mood of DNR” according to one staffer. That was obvious Thursday when Quinn announced he was reopening the seven parks closed under former Gov. Blagojevich, the He Who Must Not Be Named of Illinois conservation.

To make the announcement, Quinn actually went to DNR headquarters. I doubt our former governor knew where that building is located.

At one point Quinn started saying he was going to “rebuild this agency” only to be met with applause from staffers that drowned out his remaining words.

The string of conservation coups has me wondering what’s next?

Is this the administration that can create an access program to benefit Illinois resident hunters and not just outfitters?

Is Quinn’s crew savvy enough to table politically motivated suggestions from last year’s deer task force in favor of science-based decisions?

What about tackling the thorny issues of stream access?

How about hiring a turkey biologist and making more permits available for hunters?

Some of those issues may be too much to tackle in less than two years and with little or no money. Even so, it’s nice to think positive changes are possible again.

Story and comments

Open blog Thursday

February 26, 2009 at 06:21 AM

We’ve got to get ready for the deer show. Please help fill this space.

FROM Roger Cox of Astoria:

Dear Landowners of Fulton County,

A couple of years ago Fulton County implemented a tax on property that they considered to be used for recreational use as it was not fit or appropriate for farming or other commercial uses. Although they had been warned by state lawmakers not to do it, they began to pick and choose property without regard to the tax being fair and equitable to all landowners. This tax increase sent our annual taxes from $300 to almost $4,000 over night. Keep in mind no improvements have been made on this property. Although we protested through the appropriate channels we soon learned that this tax appeal process is merely a joke.

State legislators began hearing from constituents about this injustice and Sen. John Sullivan sponsored the Conservation Stewardship Act, which was to provide tax relief for landowners who provide quality habitat for wildlife. We quickly applied for and submitted a 10-year conservation plan that was subsequently approved. We were expecting a tax refund credit for the previous year and also expecting a two-thirds drop in taxes for the current year it came as quite a surprise when we received our tax statement to find that our taxes did not lower but were some how raised, again.

If any other landowners are out there going through the same tax injustice please contact me at(309) 759-4474. We have hired a tax-relief consulting firm and there is a good chance that a class action lawsuit will be filed against Fulton County if more landowners will come forward. This county is basically sticking its nose in the air at Sen. John Sullivan and all of the other legislators who passed this bill. The legislators fully understand that over 90 percent of wildlife habitat exists on privately owned property in Illinois and that wildlife habitat needs to be protected. 

If all else fails we will just hire a bulldozer to come in and clear everything off so that we can begin farming for crops and not wildlife. At least our taxes will drop!

FROM Ronald Dahlgren:

I just had to comment on this lead ban proposal. Where is it going to end ?

The non-smokers got their way in the State of Illinois and what were the results of that? Lost revenue for the state for one thing. Gambling boat attendance is down, bingo parlors are closing up, mom and pop small bars are closing up, and restaurants are seeing less customers. Now the State of Illinois is complaining they have no money to pay their bills. (go figure)

Well this lead ban surely won’t help the state either. I have nothing against birds or nature, as a matter of fact I live in a rural area and I have bird houses all over the yard and have fed the birds sunflower seed and suet all winter and the feeders have never been empty. But every now and then a bird will fly into our picture window and break it’s neck, are the tree huggers going to try and ban GLASS next?
I think these politicians should be working on legislation that will help the people in these troubled times and forget about this little problems they are spending so much time on.

FROM Terri Shockency of Peoria:

The morning of the big freeze my husband and I were outside looking at the damage to our trees. I looked up into the hackberry tree by our house and there sat over two dozen bluebirds. They were also on the ground and flying through the woods behind our house Being a city girl I did not know if this was common for this time of the year. A lot of them are still here, and I enjoy watching every day. Now they even set on my deck and try to come in through the window! I had not seen them until this winter.

FROM Donald “Ike” Hackett:

Are you aware of House Bill 687, introduced by Rep. Ken Dunkin (D) which was assigned to the rules committee on Feb. 6, 2009. As a sportsman, hunter and gun owner we need to be aware of this and oppose this bill. This is a legislative back door to prohibit guns. Call you insurance agent and see if you can get a policy with this type of language. I have copied a synopsis.

Synopsis As Introduced
Amends the Firearm Owners Identification Card Act. Provides that any person who owns a firearm in this State shall maintain a policy of liability insurance in the amount of at least $1,000,000 specifically covering any damages resulting from negligent or willful acts involving the use of such firearm while it is owned by such person. Provides that a person shall be deemed the owner of a firearm after the firearm is lost or stolen until such loss or theft is reported to the police department or sheriff of the jurisdiction in which the owner resides. Provides that the Department of State Police shall revoke and seize a Firearm Owner’s Identification Card previously issued under this Act if the Department finds that the person to whom such card was issued possesses or acquires a firearm and does not submit evidence to the Department of State Police that he or she has been issued in his or her name a liability insurance policy in the amount of at least $1,000,000 specifically covering any damages resulting from negligent or willful acts involving the use of such firearm while it is owned by such person. Effective January 1, 2010.

FROM Dan Stephenson:

I noted in your online article regarding the upcoming IHSA tourneys, there were comments about what lakes were picked and why. I’ve been working with Dave Gannaway, IHSA, on setting this thing up and logistics is the answer to most questions. There are better bass lakes than some picked, but Dave was looking for location (how close to the schools in the area) and then getting permits from the various authorities which takes a little more time and effort than working strictly with state-owned lakes. The north-eastern lakes he had to go through the Chicago park district. A few of the lakes require not only state but the utility approval (ie Heidecke, Sangchris, Coffeen). Some also require city approval such as Evergreen and Argyle. 

The far Southern lakes he tried to get such as Kinkaid or Crab Orchard require going through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the U.S. Forest Service. Those he was unable to get this year simply due to time constraints, so Lake of Egypt was picked. It is a city water supply and power plant cooling lake too, which required approval from those entities.

Anyway, there are a few birthing pains with this, it is the first year, and as it grows we and the IHSA will learn how to make it work better. It is still a great event and we’re glad the IHSA has incorporated bass fishing into their sanctioning process.

FROM Ron Bleiss:

A state House panel is recommending that the General Assembly give Illinois residents the right to carry concealed weapons.

The proposals are expected to garner opposition from Chicago-area lawmakers, who have expressed concern about increased gun violence Supporters of a concealed weapon law say the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last summer overturning a handgun ban in Washington D.C., and an endorsement of concealed carry by the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association gives a boost to their efforts.

House Bill 245—sponsored by Rep. John Bradley (D-Marion), would allow the Illinois State Police to issue the permits. It was endorsed recently on an 11-1 vote, with Rep. Julie Hamos (D-Evanston) the lone no vote.

FROM John Mullen, assistant chief naturalist at Forest Park Nature Center in Peoria Heights:

This winter I have been getting an increasing number of calls of sightings of large numbers of robins in the area. It hasn’t been unusual to see some flocks over winter here, although we usually don’t get the really big flocks until March. While birds fluctuate their movements in relationship to a number of factors such as habitat, weather patterns, bird feeders and changing landscapes, the probable reason for these large numbers over wintering is the increasingly mild winters.

Now, some would say that January & February weren’t exactly mild, but when the temperatures across the full winter are compared with the past, they will probably compare as relatively mild (hence a few days recently of 60+ degrees). As robins, like some other birds, will only move south as is utterly necessary for survival, and as the “warming” winters continue, we may see more of this.

National Audubon Society just released a report on this very subject: Birds and Climate Change: Ecological Disruption in Motion. Data was used from the Christmas Bird Count and showed that nearly 60% of the 305 species found in North America in winter are on the move, shifting their ranges northward by an average of 35 miles. More than 60 species moved over 100 miles north. This has a variety of impacts on future populations of birds, whether it’s those birds like the snowy owl which has no where north to go or others who are obligate to certain habitats that they will be disrupted from to severe weather fluctuations that could potentially knock down birds that have stayed too far north to increased competition as ranges of one species pushes into another. Click here to view the actual report.



Story and comments

Snow geese around Elmwood

February 25, 2009 at 08:33 AM

If not for all the frustration in the voices of snow goose hunters I’ve talked to in recent weeks, I might join their ranks.

For the past three days, we’ve had flocks of snow geese around Elmwood. I’ve seen them north and southeast of town. This morning Gordon Inskeep called to tell me they are southwest of town.

Jane Ward reported a flock of an estimated 250,000 birds on Tuesday at the Emiquon Preserve. Here is her note: “It was an amazing sight! I will process photos in the morning to give you all an idea. I wish I did video! the sound was overwhelming!”

The other day I posted a video of Canadas, white-fronts and snows. Kind of makes me wish I’d gone back to that field to try for them the next morning.

But there are plenty of problems in trying to hunt snows in what remains of our conservation order season here in Illinois.

1. No snow goose decoys.
2. Mud.
3. The dang things are so smart that they drive you crazy.

So I am left being content to marvel at the spectacle of flocks of geese and hoping the birds come back this fall.

Story and comments

Thousands of geese in the area

February 24, 2009 at 11:00 AM

My apologies to Jennifer Towery. While driving home last night and attempting to have a cell phone conversation with Jennifer, I was mesmerized by the sight of thousands of geese flying overhead. And I only got more distracted when many of the geese (white-fronts and Canadas) started dumping into a field for which I have permission to hunt.

Not that hunting these birds is possible any longer. But it’s fun just to enjoy the spectacle of thousands of birds in one area. And it’s nice to see so many birds headed north during the spring migration. We’ve had huge flocks of snow geese pass overhead a few weeks ago and now this latest flock. I’m betting they are already out of the area. But just in case, the dog and I will go out later today to see what we see. Here’s what I saw yesterday.

Story and comments

Wild Things 2-22-09

February 22, 2009 at 02:49 AM


Percent of attendees at the Illinois Deer & Turkey Classic who say they lease land for hunting.

Bluebirds arriving

As yet another sign of spring’s arrival, bluebirds are back in central Illinois. Herb Unkrich had a pair arrive on Feb. 7 and took the picture above on the deck of his Edwards home.

Unkrich puts out home-made food for his bluebirds. His recipe: mix one-half cup lard and 1 cup chunky peanut better; melt and add 2 pounds of yellow cornmeal, 1 cup flour, 2 cups old-fashioned oats, 1 cup sunflower hearts and mix well. You can also add chopped dried fruit.

Steve Havera of Lewistown has had bluebirds around for the past two weeks. “They are sitting on boxes already, they sure know when spring gets here,” Havera said. “But in terms of serious nesting that won’t be for another month or so.”

Havera has studied bluebirds since 1980 and said March 23 is his earliest documented nesting.

Wild on the Web

Want to learn more about Illinois muskie fishing? Click here to visit Pekin resident Duane Serck’s for maps, reports, guides and more.

Deer classic

A broadhead collection, seminars by firearm expert Ron Spomer and an increased emphasis on deer decoys are new features to look for at next weekend’s 18th annual Illinois Deer & Turkey Classic at the Interstate Center in Bloomington.

Old standbys like trick shooter Byron Ferguson will also return to the popular show that runs Friday (2-9 p.m.), Saturday (9 a.m. to 7 p.m.) and next Sunday (9-4).

If you attend, take time to visit our booth in spaces 801 and 802. On hand during the show will be Marc Anthony, Jonn Graham, Todd Clanin, Mike Steffa, Chef Todd and yours truly.

Gobble, cluck and hoot

The Mackinaw Valley Gobblers chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation has turkey calling and owl hooting contests Saturday at the Illinois Deer & Turkey Classic.
In addition to open and youth events, there’s a new hunter’s division designed to boost participation. Contests start at 2:30 p.m. and registration starts at 1:30. Or call Gary Eichelberger at (309) 454-6502.

Yugo for director?

Don’t be shocked to see new Department of Natural Resources Director Marc Miller arrive in an economy vehicle if you see him out and about. Miller turned down the usual state pool vehicle assigned to a DNR director and is driving his own vehicle to work. He plans to use pool vehicles only for travels outside Springfield.

“And I want the pool vehicle to be the most fuel-efficient possible,” Miller said. “It’s not enough of a savings (to fund a biologist) position, but every little bit helps.”

Contrast that with former acting director Sam Flood who averaged more than $700 per month in travel reimbursements in addition to a Ford Crown Victoria from the motor pool.

This ‘n that

Despite heated talk about whitetail bucks shedding early, several people report bucks with antlers. “I just saw two nice bucks on Tuesday that still had their antlersand a buddy had seven bucks with antlers under his bird feeder,” Phil Blackburn said.

Story and comments

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