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

Scattershooting at ice, ducks, deer & carp

December 11, 2009 at 02:27 AM

Rambling through the outdoors wondering why some people argue that deer do not hide in standing corn.


Given all the grumbling through the first two firearm deer seasons, the upcoming late-winter hunter (Dec. 31-Jan. 3 and Jan. 15-17) will probably be a record setter. Best ever for that late hunt was just over 12,552 last year. Look for this one to top 20,000. ...  Speaking of the late-winter hunt, permits for the antlerless-only season go on sale Tuesday. But for those with leftover tags from the firearm seasons, the youth season or the muzzleloader season you can just use those, provided the county for which they were issued is open. ...  Here’s how the duck/goose season has gone for me. Spent all of Tuesday trying to shoot something in the wind, rain and cold. Never fired a shot. Thursday, while rescuing decoys from the onrushing ice, I had geese of all sorts overhead. Of course, my shotgun was back home, cozy and warm, while I sat there shivering and cursing the bird gods. ...  Missouri has got Illinois beat in one regard in the world of deer hunting. The Show Me State has already issued more than 2,000 tickets for deer poaching this year.


How good is this season for big bucks? Even busy taxidermists are shooting 200-inchers. On Nov. 2 Robyn Rocke arrowed a 19-point buck that had a third beam growing over its left eye. Rocke’s Woodford County giant was green scored at 206 4/8 inches gross. “I rattled him in that morning,” said Rocke, who runs Rocke’s Wildlife Studio in Eureka. He is contemplating doing a full-body mount. ... Speaking of big bucks, this is the last Illinois Deer & Turkey Classic that will be held in Bloomington, since part of the Interstate Center has been sold to an implement dealer. The dealer will move in after the Feb. 26-28 show. Organizer Glenn Helgeland assures his very popular show will remain in central Illinois. Given that it will be interesting to see if the show returns to the Peoria Civic Center, a much better venue than Bloomington’s barn. ... Those who want to stay closer to home to have their buck measured should consider the Elmwood AllOutdoor Show on March 6-7, where both Boone and Crockett and Pope & Young measurers will be on hand.


Duck season is drawing to an early, bitter end for many. As of Thursday afternoon, Emiquon had frozen, Rice Lake was almost unhuntable and even the deep lakes at Banner Marsh were holding ice. Now’s the time to hope for a thaw before the Dec. 29 close to Central Zone duck season. ... Better yet, head to a goose pit. Reports of new honkers have come in from all corners. “I’ve seen cacklers all over,” said the Head Worm. Warmer weather this weekend should have honkers flying. ... Not all duck hunters struggled. The Princeton Game and Fish Club was well over 2,300 ducks and on a pace to post its top total in nine years prior to Tuesday’s end of the North Zone season. ... And Our Neighbor Ash sez he’s been able to duck out of household chores for the entire season. ... Hottest duck shooting of late has been on the Mississippi River, where duck counts topped 500,000 earlier this week — double that of the Illinois River. There were numerous reports of hot mallard and goose shoots in the Oquawka area during Wednesday’s windstorm.


Gov. Blagojevich’s failed regime just keeps on embarrassing us. Under Blago, William Richardson of Benton was named general legal counsel of the Department of Natural Resources. Earlier this month Richardson received six citations for hunting-related offenses, including taking more than two bucks during deer season, failing to tag two deer and failing to check deer in by 10 p.m. Fortunately, Richardson is no longer with DNR. Since June he has been working with the Department of Corrections. Unfortunately, no matter where he’s working he’s still a sad example of what machine politics too often delivers. ... Late-winter pheasant hunting forays to the west can be wonderful, as my buddy Springer and I learned last week in South Dakota and northwest Iowa. Birds were plentiful, limits were common and the dogs had plenty of scent to chase. But I shudder to think what that trip would have been like this week given the blizzard that chased us home. 


Forget the next world record bass. The world’s most valuable fish is the bighead carp netted out of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal last week after the canal was poisoned. While no total has been released, some speculate poisoning the canal will wind up costing at least $2 million and possibly as much as $3 million. All that to kill one costly carp. ...  Chef Todd is itching to go ice fishing and can drill holes this weekend if he’s willing to travel. Brave anglers hit the hard water on the Fox Chain O’Lakes on Thursdsay and were also out on northern Mississippi River backwaters. ...  Met a fascinating guy named Jim McDonnell (712-933-5532) of Spirit Lake, Iowa. A retired school teacher,. he’s 72, runs a 250-mile trap line daily and works as a fishing guide. He also rents ice-fishing shacks and business should be hot this winter. They’ve already got 3-6 inches of ice on Spirit Lake and Lake Okoboji and fishing is expected to be so good for perch, bluegill and walleye that a return visit to northwest Iowa is in order — if I ever get brave enough to tell my wife. ...  Parting shot: It’s muzzleloader deer season this weekend, so be safe if you take to the timber.

Story and comments

Scattershooting at deer, corn and poor old Ash

November 21, 2009 at 12:40 AM

EDITOR’S NOTE: This column ran Friday, Nov. 20 in the Peoria Journal Star.

Rambling through the outdoors wondering how many deer can hide in an acre of standing corn.


Speaking of crops in the field, there’s a running joke on about standing corn being the source of all Illinois deer hunting problems. Joking aside, there’s a very real chance for an impact this weekend, what with 48 percent of the crop still in the field heading into firearm season. My bet is hunters will do OK Friday and then struggle Saturday and Sunday as savvy deer head to the corn. ...That news pleased only Our Neighbor Ash, who sez he’s learned a lesson from the deer. Next time creditors hound him he’s headed for a cornfield. ... Corn or no corn, somebody will still shoot a monster. This has already been the best season on record for big bucks despite a slow harvest. Why should gun season be different? ... Corn has been the bane of upland hunters, with dismal reports from Iowa, Illinois and even South Dakota where standing crops offer birds too many safe havens. ... Bill Stephens of Industry won a set of Lone Wolf climbing sticks for his comments on outdoor television shows. For your chance at a free Lone Wolf tree stand, e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) with your firearm deer hunting stories and pictures. 


Many hunters will butcher and process their own deer this weekend. But how many store deer meat in cans? That thought has stayed with me ever since Chicago hunter Jeff Hall talked about canning cubed pieces of deer meat in a pressure cooker for 1.5 hours at 10 pounds of pressure. Hall kept jars of venison on the shelves of his home and opened them whenever he wanted “a delicious meal.” Seconds anyone? ... Be careful around tree stands. Last year 30 of the 38 reported hunting accidents in Illinois involved falls from tree stands. So far this year, six of 13 accidents involve falls from tree stands. ... Need more incentive to be careful while deer hunting out of a tree stand? A 150-pound person falling from 20 feet up hits the ground with 2,994 feet/pounds. That’s equivalent to a .300 Win Mag bullet. If you are a 200-pounder (and let’s be honest, that’s probably a lie for most of us) you need fall only 12 feet to hit like a .308 rifle bullet. So wear your safety harness.


Old-timers love talking about how much better things were back in the day. But you never hear that about deer hunting. Poring through old files I came across a Nov. 4, 1958 article showing the Illinois harvest as 1,260 for a three-day firearm season open in 33 counties. Only Marshall and Putnam counties were open locally according to former Journal Star scribe Howard Kenny. ... Sadly, that same trip through memory lane visited an article from Nov. 13, 1942 with a headline blaring “Whow! We had 2,530,000 live ducks in our valley.” Of those, 1.15 million were on Goose Pond and Lake Senachwine and another 925,000 were at Chautauqua. And that was just the Illinois River. Two days earlier the Peoria Star ran a picture of four hunters (including Henry Dillon of Peoria) with a limit of “50 fat mallards” shot in a few hours on the Mississippi River. For duck slaying, those were the days. ... One more memory: Peak pheasant harvest in Illinois was 1963 when 242,000 hunters shot 1.064 million roosters and averaged .99 roosters per trip. That missing .01 must have been feathers shot off by a load of lead No. 7s.


Long-time LaSalle-Peru outdoor scribe Al Rostello passed away last week after spending 18 years informing readers about the outdoors in north-central Illinois. Al was never short on words or opinions and I learned to enjoy hearing him opine. But my favorite Rostello tale came a few years back at Donnelley-DePue. Al was hunting by himself in a blind near The Farmer and me and we watched ducks circle his blind for much of the morning. Later at the landing, Al — who wore what could only be called Coke-bottle glasses — said, truthfully, he had not seen a duck all day. ... Roger Woodcock has me worried. The former Farmington city officer retired this spring with plans to spend his days catching crappie, hunting turkeys and chasing ducks. But like too many retirees, Woodcock is busier than ever and somehow fished less this summer. And his duck season in the strip mines near Middle Grove has been painfully slow. At least breakfast is still excellent. ... Good news for waterfowlers is that duck counts in Louisiana are well below average. So there are still birds to come. ... While duck hunters struggle, trappers have it worse due to dismal fur prices. “The only thing we can sell for decent money any more is muskrats,” says veteran trapper Scott Davis of Elmwood.


Bass and sauger are biting. We’ve heard numerous good reports on chunky bass (many from Emiquon, which is still open to fishing) and last weekend’s first Illinois Walleye Trail event out of Hennepin showed there are plenty of sauger under the 14-inch minimum limit on the Illinois River. Sparland angler Rick Parrott placed second with partner Mike Tatera (six sauger, 12.23 pounds) behind winners Steve Sandor of Ottawa and Jeremy Piacenti of Tiskilwa (six, 12.51). ... Oops: Central Zone Canada goose season reopens Tuesday, Nov. 24. We had a wrong date last Sunday. ... Booths are filling fast for the Elmwood AllOutdoors Show March 6-7. Visit to learn more. ... Illinois River Valley Orienteering Club has its final event Saturday at Farmdale Park in East Peoria. This is a bike-o event that will likely require getting wet. Call (309) 494-4799. ... Parting shot: From the aforementioned Bill Stephens, “Sometimes I have to force myself to remember the only reason that the TV show you are watching is on the air is to ‘Sell you something!’”

Story and comments

Scattershooting at deer and peacocks

October 16, 2009 at 04:13 AM

Rambling through the outdoors wishing October and November were 90 days long.


Man what a weekend. Trout season opens. North Zone duck season opens Saturday. Big bucks are running wild. The duck blind still needs brushing. I need a clone. ... Speaking of the fall trout slaughter, hatchery raised fish will be fair game on Saturday at 37 sites including Mineral Springs Park Lagoon in Pekin, Argyle Lake, the Hennepin Canal visitor’s center pond, Siloam Springs and Citizen’s Lake in Monmouth. Canned corn sales should be good. ... Unfortunately, corn harvest is not good. Through Sunday Illinois farmers had combined a mere 6 percent of the corn crop (vs. 19 percent last year and the five-year average of 56 percent) and 10 percent of soybeans (vs. 42 percent and 64 percent, respectively). ... Mike Resetich are you out there? I want my peeing duck decoy back. ... One good thing about a late harvest is that it should delay fall plowing and provide more waste grain for ducks, geese and other critters. Field hunting could be hot — if we ever get fields to hunt.


Deer season has started extremely well for hunters. Cool weather is an obvious explanation for record numbers posted by archers through last weekend (11,945 deer) and for youth firearm hunters. Fulton (331), LaSalle (276) and Peoria (268) rank third through fifth statewide so far for archers. ... Unfortunately, the three counties also rank in the top 10 for deer-vehicle collisions. Peoria (642) was second only to Cook (1,008) in reported deer crashes last year. ... Youngsters shot 2,304 deer, more than double last year’s 1,007 and well over the 863 of 2007. Fulton was fifth at 73 deer and Pike County led with 116. ... One of those Pike County deer was an impressive 9-pointer shot by Blythe Denny, 10, of Peoria. The best deer management change in years was to let kids shoot bucks in the youth season. ... Bowhunters also killed big bucks last weekend despite wearing blaze orange. Best we’ve seen is the 29-pointer Beardstown’s Nate Campbell arrowed in Schuyler County. Campbell’s buck is the second in Illinois that could top 230 inches this season. ... Those big bucks are no shock. Since 2000, Illinois leads all states with 523 entries in the Boone and Crockett Club record books. Wisconsin (442) is second and Iowa (339) is third.


When Vickie Mulligan called seeking a good home for two “wild” peacocks in her Lake Camelot yard, there was only one answer. Flathead. He and his wife have such a menagerie at their Peoria County enclave that a few colorful birds would fit right in. Sure enough, Flathead rigged up a trap into which Vickie and husband Greg Mulligan eventually lured Pretty Girl and Big Boy. Where the peacocks came from, nobody knows. “The first time I came out of the house and saw the male all fanned out I didn’t know what I was seeing,” Vickie said. “I’m sad to see them go, but they needed to find a good home before winter.” ... Speaking of boastful birds, Our Neighbor Ash is the only rooster I know who crows about turning 56. ... Spent Wednesday at Shea Stadium in Peoria on an evening better suited for duck hunting than soccer. Left with two thoughts. 1. What a fantastic venue for soccer. 2. There’s way too much bickering in college soccer. Hearing Bratley players whine reminded me why I never liked forwards back in the day.


Kudos to Mike Barnes of Mackinaw for his win in last weekend’s Illinois Bass Federation Classic at Lake of Egypt. He weighed in seven bass at 22.07 pounds to win a new Ranger 188VX boat valued at $34,000 and cash and prizes. John Southey of Bartonville was third and had big bass of 5.5 pounds. ... Toothy critters are biting just in time for Saturday’s Gregg Tichachek Memorial muskie tourney at Evergreen Lake (309-531-1831). And both Banner Marsh and Snakeden Hollow produced fish longer than 45 inches this week. That said, the hottest bite for numbers right now is the north end of Spring Lake. ... How good is duck hunting at the Spring Lake Bottoms Unit? Consider that 592 people applied for the 104 permits issued at the area’s four blinds. But only 295 hunters showed up last summer for the 20 blinds allocated on nearby Spring Lake. ... Did you know a male peacock has spurs like a turkey? Or that peacocks have been known to live for 40 years in captivity?


It’s time to get out the rattling antlers. Driving to work at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday I spotted two bucks battling along Interstate 74 near the University St. exit. And last Sunday, J.P. Roth of Morton found a pair of Tazewell County bucks locked together. An 8-pointer was already dead but Roth had to dispatch a 10-pointer.  ... Keep an eye on Dunlap’s high school bass fishing team this spring. Justin Siekman of Dunlap was fourth at last weekend’s 27-team Hawk Open tournament on Lake Shelbyville. Siekman had four bass weighing 7.01 pounds. ... Up to 300 teams are expected to compete in this year’s IHSA tournament May 7-8 at Carlyle Lake. It will be interesting to see who takes over prep fishing now that Dave Gannaway announced he will retire after this year. Gannaway has been a great ambassador for the sport…. Parting shot: The outdoors world lost a good soul when Wilbur Moore of Morton died recently. Thanks to his generosity, folks at Wilmor Sportsmen’s Club have had an affordable spot to hunt and fish since 1962. As Moore once said, “I’m one of those guys that wants to see other people enjoy it.” Sadly, too few folks share that sentiment.

Story and comments

Open Blog Wednesday 10-14-09

October 14, 2009 at 03:47 PM

Well, this is supposed to run on Open Blog Thursday, but let’s make an exception here.

FROM “Sittin’ this One Out” of East Peoria:

“I’m a life long Illinois resident (minus 6 years off serving in the USMC) and I have been bow hunting for about 18 years or so. This past Sept. 2, I tore my left rotator cuff while bench pressing. Yup, right before bow season!! Saw my doctor, got an MRI, and am scheduled to see a surgeon this Friday. So, I started to look into using a crossbow so as not to miss an entire season. Step one: check the law. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that crossbows are only allowed for persons age 62 or older, or those with a permanent disability. Surely this must be a misprint, I thought. No way would the fine state of Illinois (read Peoples Republic of Illinois) deny a man an entire season due to circumstances beyond his control, right?

“Step two: call the IDNR office to confirm. The answer I got, in an obviously agitated tone, was basically “take a hike, Mac, no dice.” As a hunter who astutely follows all game laws, I guess I’ll have to sit this one out. The fact that I am going to follow this law doesn’t mean I like or agree with it. It’s absolutely stupid!! No way the state can issue a one season pass to use a crossbow, with a doctor/surgeon’s note, of course? I realize that it’s too late to salvage a season for me, but who do I need to contact (nag) to ensure this doesn’t happen to the next guy? Oh, and what the heck is this state’s big hang up with crossbows anyway?”



Story and comments

Sharpen the treble hooks

July 17, 2009 at 04:17 AM

Rambling through the outdoors wondering if the dog days of summer will ever arrive.


OK. I understand it’s a pain to take a gas motor off your boat, or to set up a boat with no gas motor. And not everybody likes signing up for a free permit. Despite those hurdles, I can’t understand why so few people are fishing The Nature Conservancy’s Emiquon Preserve. The Farmer and I spent Wednesday morning fishing a small portion of the 4,000-acre lake and had a great time catching and releasing 80 bass on every lure we threw. Folks, there’s no easier place — public or private — to catch numbers of bass. ... One thing missing from bass fishing this summer is a strong early morning top-water bite. I’ll bet cooler weather has tempered the usual morning fury. The only consistent top-water bitee has been just before dark. That’s a shame, because there’s no more enjoyable way to catch bass than with buzzbaits, poppers, frogs or other surface lures. ... While national trends reportedly show little decline in spending by anglers on fishing gear in the past year, things are not so stable locally. Bait sales are down everywhere and one local tackle store said receipts trail last year by $15,000.


My buddy Photo Joe and other snagaholics better start sharpening their treble hooks. Wickets went up Wednesday at Peoria Lock and Dam and Asian carp should collect below the dam over the next few weeks. Prime snagging times are usually hot days in July and August. ... Bowfishing Asian carp should also improve, but here’s one warning. There are reports of paddlefish jumping alongside silver carp this summer. Don’t shoot the paddlefish. The only fish legal to shoot with bow and arrow or with spear, gig or pitchfork are carp, carpsuckers, buffalo, sucker, gar (except alligator gar) and bowfin. ... Talk of flying carp always makes me think back to the Carp Armada snagging adventure of a few summers ago. The trip was designed to let a group of Chinese biologists get a taste for the flavor of the Illinois River courtesy of Chef Todd, Photo Joe, Flathead and a few other rascals. Most memorable was Dr. Yu, who claimed to speak no English. But he learned the language quickly when Asian carp started flopping into the boat around him and he sputtered, “Too many fish, too many fish.”


Fishing has not been outlawed yet at the Bernadotte Dam. On Tuesday the state’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules tabled Dam Safety Rule 3703 that would have created a 350-foot exlusion zone at Bernadotte and at 30 other dams. JCAR said the Department of Natural Resources has not proven all dams pose equal danger. DNR is expected to revise the rule. ... In the past week, youngsters caught an alligator on the Iroquois River, somebody captured a two-foot-long African savannah monitor lizard in Libertyville and an 8-foot boa constrictor was declared missing in Quincy. Folks, if you can’t keep your exotic pet, find a home for the critter. Don’t make them a problem for someone else. ... Henry will be the epicenter of bowfishing in Illinois this weekend. For the fourth straight year, the Bowfishing Association of Illinois is holding its state championship on the Illinois River out of Henry. Registration is open Saturday from 6-8 p.m. at the Henry riverfront. The cost is $30. Anglers can bowfish from 8 p.m. on Saturday until noon on Sunday. For details call Ed Devries at (708) 257-5700.


Local duck blind drawings are July 26 and the big question is whether area public marshes will plant duck food after extended flooding. The answer is maybe. Anderson Lake has 60 acres of millet sprouting in the West Point walk-in and plans are to aerial seed 120 acres in Carlson Lake. Rice Lake hopes to aerial seed millet if the state budget will allow. Banner Marsh has corn planted in one refuge compartment and plans to seed millet around Blind 21. Sanganois has 60 acres of millet planted in the Baker Unit and plans to drain and plant another few hundred acres in Chain Lake and Weiner Slough. ... Speaking of duck food, Kevin Palmer of Manito can aerial seed Japanese millet for duck clubs. Palmer, who can be reached at (309) 545-2281, says the plant needs 60 days to mature. ... That news amazed Our Neighbor Ash, who sez he’s gone 55 years without maturing. Also, here’s a belated happy 87th birthday to Momma Ash. ... Parting shot: Most creeks and rivers are finally rounding into fishable shape. That means it’s time to get out the ratty sneakers and go wading for smallmouth bass.

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