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

Wild Things 9-12-10

September 12, 2010 at 06:11 AM


Fish and game violations written by Illinois conservation police officers over Labor Day weekend.

Area’s top bow spots

The Oct. 1 opening day of archery deer season is just a few weeks away but some bowhunters are still scrambling to find a place to hang a stand. Each year Illinois offers more public areas open to bowhunters, some that offer a decent chance at a deer.

Here’s a list of the top 15 public spots in central Illinois last year in terms of archery deer harvest: 1. Jim Edgar-Panther Creek 236, 2. Clinton Lake 216, 3. Jubilee College SP 102, 4. Starved Rock SP 81, 5. Sand Ridge 62, 6. Siloam Springs 59, 7. Banner Marsh 44, 8. Siloam Springs-Buckhorn 39, 9. Big Bend 34, 10. Marseilles 34, 11. Marshall 33, 12. Spoon River State Forest 33, 13. Mackinaw River 23, 14. Green River 19, 15. Argyle Lake SP 18.

Overall, last year’s archery deer harvest of 3,688 on public land was down 6 percent from the year before.

Ever go skishing?

The newest fishing craze in the northeast is for anglers to don wetsuit and flippers and swim out into the ocean with rod and reel. While some purists frown on the practice, manufacturers have started producing products with the skisher in mind.

Don’t believe me? Fire up Google and check it out yourself.

Did you know?

Over the past three seasons, more than 60 percent of the ducks shot in Illinois were mallards. Gadwall are the second-highest species in Illinois at just under 10 percent and green-winged teal rank third at just under 7 percent.

Griz-ified benefit

Among the most generous folks you’ll meet in central Illinois is Milt “Griz” Wernsman. So it comes as no surprise that Griz has yet another cause to champion.

The latest focus of his attention is The Children’s Center of Tazewell County in Creve Couer. To help raise money for the school, Wernsman is holding a benefit fund-raiser Saturday at the East Peoria VFW Hall on Meadows Road from 5-8 p.m.

Griz has assembled an impressive list of prizes and auction items for the event, including duck and goose calls, guns, bows and an original carving by Bill Swango.

Tickets cost $6 for adults or $4 for kids. Add $1 at the door. For tickets or to make a donation call Griz at (309) 678-2159.

Bluebird nest results

Drum roll please ... here is “Bluebird Herb” Unkrich’s final tally for his 95 nest boxes in 2010. Out of 179 nests, Unkrich counted 770 bluebird eggs, 612 hatchlings and 562 fledglings. That’s up from 2009 when he had 482 fledglings. The last nest fledged on Sept. 1. Unkrich offers to turn in nest reports for any other bluebird enthusiasts in the area. E-mail him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Birding bits

The target starting date for this year’s ultralight-let whooping crane migration from Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in central Wisconsin is Oct. 5. A group of 13 birds are being groomed for this migration, which is the earliest starting date on record.

This ‘n that

Sign-ups are underway for Presley’s Outdoors big buck contest, which this year offers a Kawasaki ATV as top prize. ... Raise a rod to Matt Molitor and Dave Cufaude of Manito, this year’s Anglers of the Year for the Central Illinois Bass circuit. ... Lakeview Museum has an exhibit of art and artifacts from the life of John James Audubon that opens Friday and runs through Jan. 9. ... Powerton Lake will be closed to fishing Sept. 20-22 for more levee repairs.

Story and comments

Wild Things 9-5-10

September 05, 2010 at 04:35 AM


Percent of the 873,182 doves shot in Illinois last year that were on public ground.

Mushrooms emerging

While fall is not as popular of a time to search for mushrooms, fungi lovers can still sack up tasty finds as summer ends. Two of the more common and edible mushrooms that will emerge soon are the hen of the woods and the sulfur shelf.

Hen of the woods often reappear at the same location for several years according to Tom Nauman of It’s best to harvest these early before the bugs.

Gearing up

Here are some of the 47 winners listed in Field & Stream magazine’s annual review of outdoor gear: bow — Mathews Z7; crossbow — Parker Tornado HP; hunting blind — Gorilla Gear Undercover FX2; waterfowl blind — Final Approach Eliminator Cargo Blind; tent — Eureka Suite V4; water purifier — SteriPen Adventurer Opti; turkey decoy — Montana Decoy HD Series Mr. T Gobbler; insect repellent — ThermaCell Outdoor Lantern.

You speak

“Thanks for the article about trout fishing on Lake Taneycomo. We fished for the trout with a very small gold hook baited with Red Balls of Fire salmon eggs. We fished on the bottom much like we do here for catfish. Three Red Balls of Fire on that little hook was all it took.”
— Bud Neptun, Peoria

Conservation opportunity

Conservation clubs and organizations are welcome to set up free booths this Oct. 1-3 at Comlara Park as part of the Boy Scout Centennial Camporee. Event organizers anticipate as many as 3,000 scouts will attend the event. Conservation groups interested in attending can call Mike Steffa at (309) 242-5806 or Todd Volker at (815) 431-1999.

This ‘n that

Applications can be submitted through Sept. 17 for the Illinois Outdoors Hall of Fame. Visit or call (217) 785-2003. ... This summer was the seventh-warmest ever in Illinois with an average of 76.4 degrees and the sixth-wettest with 16.7 inches of rain. ... High winds last Friday prevented Aaron Yetter of the Illinois Natural History Survey from flying his aerial waterfowl survey of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. “I was bouncing my head against the ceiling of the airplane,” he said. He hopes to fly Monday.  ... Junior duck stamp artworks will be displayed at Dickson Mounds Museum Sept. 21 to Oct. 12. .


Story and comments

Wild Things 8-29-10

August 29, 2010 at 04:35 AM


Teal shot last year at Rice Lake, tops among Illinois River public sites. Teal season opens Saturday.

Good goose opener?

If banding results are accurate, local goose hunters should see plenty of honkers when the early season opens Wednesday. Goose reproduction was 12 percent above the five-year average in west-central Illinois. Surveys showed 2.31 immature geese per adult.

Early season runs through Sept. 15. Hours are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset. The daily bag is five in the North, Northeast and Central zones and two in the South Zone.

Walleye tour schedule

The Illinois Walleye Trail has added a few new venues for its 2011 tournament schedule, but will still focus mainly on the Illinois River. New this year is a Mississippi River event and a tourney out of Ottawa.

No membership is required and the entry fee for events is $200 per team. Learn more at or call Bob Kidd at (309) 527-6328. The IWT is a qualifying circuit for the Cabela’s National Championship and the AIM Walleye Circuit.

Here is this year’s schedule: Oct. 10 — Henry; Oct. 24 — Hennepin; Nov. 7 — Rapid City, Mississippi River; March 6 — Spring Valley; April 9 — Ottawa; April 10 — Spring Valley.

Did you know?

Forbes Magazine ranked the fish hook as the 19th most important tool of all time.

Fishing award winners

Maui Jim of Peoria won a best of show award for its Guy Harvey Collection of sunglasses at this year’s ICAST event in Las Vegas. Other winners at the sportfishing industry’s annual event were Koppers Fishing & Tackle’s Live Target Hollow Body Frog (soft lure), Shimano’s Waxwing Sub-Surface Swimming Jig (hard lure), Frabil’s FXE Stormsuite (apparel), Lowrance’s Elite-5 DSI (electronics), Rapala’s Sufix 832 Advanced Superline (line), Shimano’s Stella FE (freshwater reel), G. Loomis’ NRX (best of show and freshwater rod) and Sebile’s Soft Weight System (terminal tackle).

More friends needed

Friends of Rice Lake hopes to purchase a goose hunting pit or two for Double T this fall. But to make that happen, the new non-profit group needs more members or a few major donations. Visit for a membership application.
Or mail your name, address and check ($25, $50 or $250) to: Friends of Rice Lake, P.O. Box 4004, Bartonville, IL 61607.

Critter corner

In the wilds of Illinois in September ...
Ducks, songbirds, monarch butterflies and bats migrate south.
Muskrats build lodges.
Rabbit breeding finally ends.
Snakes enter winter dormancy.
Swallows stage in large flocks.
Persimmons and hazelnuts ripen.
Acorns fall.
Puffballs and other fall mushrooms appear.
Aster and goldenrod blooms.

This ‘n that

South Dakota’s statewide average increased to 6.45 pheasants per mile, compared to 6.26 last year and the 10-year average of 5.71. Highest counts were near Chamberlain (17 birds per mile), Pierre (13.95) and Mobridge (10.85). The South Dakota season opens Oct. 16. ... In an otherwise difficult time, some encouraging news for Wildlife Prairie State Park is that attendance is up 15 percent this year and Midwest Living Magazine recently cited Prairie Park as one of the best state parks around.

Story and comments

Wild Things 8-22-10

August 22, 2010 at 04:09 AM


Number of Asian carp Randy Stockam of Havana “caught” to win this year’s Redneck Fishing Tournament on the Illinois River out of Bath.

Flatheads are old

Ponder this the next time you catch a massive flathead catfish and take it home for a fish fry.

Last Tuesday while fishing with Guide Matt Jones on the Rock River, Scott Dean of East Peoria caught a 40-inch, 32-pound flathead catfish. The fish had been tagged by the Department of Natural Resources in 2001 when it was 36 inches long and weighed 22 pounds.

In other words, the fish added just 10 pounds in nine years. Now imagine how long it takes a flathead to reach 50, 60 and 70 pounds.

As for Dean, he was happy to release that fish and a 53-pounder also caught that same day. And he was sure to think his wife, Ann Dean, who bought him the trip as a 14th anniversary present.

You speak

“It was like watching piranhas eating a cow swimming across a river.”
— Darrell “Buster” Culjan, Utica, describing white bass feeding on shad in the Illinois River last week

Carp removal

Not that you will likely notice a difference, but anglers and fun-seekers helped remove thousands of Asian carp from the Illinois River the weekend of Aug. 7-8.

Of those, 3,239 were caught by competitors in the Redneck Fishing Tournament held by Betty DeFord at the Boat Tavern in Bath. “That’s what this event is all about, getting some carp out of the river and raising awareness of how many fish are out there,” said DeFord, who has scheduled next year’s tourney for Aug. 5-6, 2011.

Bowfishermen also did their share at a pair of events in Spring Valley. Top team in an evening shoot bagged 354 fish, well under the winning total of more than 4,000 last year but still a good number of carp.

Did you know?

More than 17,700 students took hunter safety classes in Illinois last year.

EHD outbreak

Residents of Chicago suburb Crete have been finding dead and dying deer that appear to be suffering from EHD, epizootic hemorrhagic disease.

The virus is spread by insects and is more widespread during dry years when deer congregate at remaining waterholes.
Illinois typically has small outbreaks of the disease most years but the last widespread problems came in 2007, when thousands of deer died in 57 counties statewide.

Birding bits

The fall migration of birds and bugs is well underway across Illinois. Ruby-throated hummingbirds and other birds have been passing through since late July and dragonflies and butterflies are following suit.

Here are bird species to watch for in mid- to late-August: nighthawks, warblers, gnatcatchers, blue-winged teal, shovelers, cedar waxwings, various shorebirds, mourning doves, ring-billed gulls, Mississippi kites and grasshopper and song sparrows.

This ‘n that

Thanks to relatively mild winters and good spring moisture, elk populations are in good shape as hunters prepare to head west. Visit for in-depth review of elk hunting prospects in the U.S. and Canada. ... Monday is the last day to apply for the second lottery for 2010 Illinois fall shotgun turkey permits at

Story and comments

Wild Things 8-15-10

August 15, 2010 at 01:18 AM


Whooping crane chicks at Wisconsin’s Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. Of those, 13 will follow ultralight aircraft this fall, 11 will be released with older cranes to migrate and two are wild-hatched.

Ducks Unlimited plates

Look for the Ducks Unlimited logo in yet another spot on Illinois vehicles. While D.U. stickers already adorn many pickups, hunters will soon be able to opt for a specialty D.U. plate.

Gov. Pat Quinn signs legislation establishing the plates on Tuesday in Conservation World at the Illinois State Fair. On hand will be D.U.’s new CEO, Dale Hall, who will also tour the Illinois River before attending an open house at Presley’s Outdoors in Bartonville. The open house is from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and is open to the public.

Remember when

Fishing with soft plastic lures for bass is nothing new. Read this entry from an Aug. 7, 1960 Journal Star column by Howard Kenny. “Artificial worms already have proved to be great killers of bass. Now, with the development of the soft plastic material, it is possible to mold just about anything that crawls, flies or swims.”

You speak

“With the odds of drawing a duck blind at over 1,000 to 1, whose bright idea was it to let non-residents also draw for blinds at state areas? Only the resident, tax-paying citizens of Illinois should be allowed to draw.”
— Bill Krautwald

Emiquon low water

Anglers grumbling about low water at the Emiquon Preserve near Havana may have to adapt. Low water is not merely to facilitate work on boardwalks, boat ramps and other infrastructure (which should be open by late spring of 2011). Jason Beverlin of The Nature Conservancy said the drawdown also mimics traditional ebbs and flows of Illinois River backwaters. If funds allow, you can expect similar summer water levels at Emiquon in years to come.

Did you know?

The Latin name for purple coneflower is echinacea, which is derived from the Greek word for hedgehog. On coneflowers this refers to the spiny bracts between the flowers and the point tips that look similar to a hedgehog’s spines. The plant has been used for years to cure everything from rattlesnake bites to syphilis and is today used to treat or prevent colds, the flu and infections.

Top squirrel sites

Cooler days have to come soon. With hopes for cooler weather, here’s some information on which nearby public sites provided the best harvest for bushytails during the 2009 season. 1. Sand Ridge 757, 2. Jim Edgar-Panther Creek 653, 3. Marseilles 425, 4. Marshall 323, 5. Spoon River State Forest 283.

Wild on the Web has launched a new fishing report application that offers solunar table information, hourly fishing reports, weather information and a catch of the day feature.

This ‘n that

Presley’s Outdoors has an archery sale Friday through Aug. 29. ... Deadline to apply for the second lottery for 2010 Illinois fall shotgun turkey permits is Aug. 23.  Apply at ... Flooding on the Mississippi River has forced Bradford catfish guide Tim Scott to head south. So far this summer he has caught blue catfish and flathead catfish up to 74 pounds on the Ohio River. ... Junior duck stamp artworks will be displayed at Dickson Mounds Museum Sept. 21 to Oct. 12.


Story and comments

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