Illinois Outdoors at PrairiestateOutdoors.com
RulesIllinois Outdoors at PrairiestateOutdoors.com
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
 

Scattershooting

A Web log by Jeff Lampe of the Journal Star

Scattershooting at bass, Bullseye and a czar

April 22, 2010 at 08:24 PM

Rambling through the outdoors wondering if a prep angler will land a 7-pound bass Friday.

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Friday’s expected rain comes at a bad time for Illinois High School Association bass fishing sectionals. Even so, timing of today’s tournament could be perfect at Banner Marsh, as bass have been biting well all week. My money is on Farmington. Weigh-in is 3 p.m. at the three lakes hosting area teams: Banner’s Johnson Lake, Evergreen Lake and Argyle Lake. ... Sectionals halted by lightning, high winds or other weather will be moved to Monday. Anglers must fish have the scheduled time for a sectional to be official. ... Prep anglers would fare better for numbers of fish if they focused on crappie. Papermouths are on a tear in the northern two-thirds of Illinois, with excellent reports from all over the state and numerous slabs caught. If you like catching crappie, get out soon. ... Just how good is fishing? Minister Morris sayeth you can cast a net on either side of your boat and feel confident about feeding your flock. More impressive still, the Panfishing Preacher reports 50-fish sacks of bluegill coming out of the shallows at the Emiquon Preserve, otherwise known as the Bass Wasteland.

X X X

Gobbler fever is in high gear across Illinois and hunters have made the most of favorable weather. The South Zone was on a record pace of 1,497 gobblers through two seasons and the North Zone was 2,752 toms after one season — well ahead of last year’s 2,248 and best since 2002. Fulton County ranked third so far. ... Biggest gobbler I’ve seen a picture of is a 27-pounder from Brown County shot by Pastor Jim Dawson of Pekin’s God and Country Baptist Church. ...  Any hopes a dry spring would stop the annual plague of gnats were dashed as the pests showed up in force this week. Time to steal vanilla out of the baking cabinet again. ... Anybody want a good farm cat? Our feisty feline Bullseye is turning me into more of a hyprocite every day. See, I don’t like city cats roaming outside and killing stuff for no reason. So when Bullseye comes home with a mouth full of cardinal feathers it drives me crazy. Even as a Cubs fan. But when she catches a mouse or corners a chipmunk, as she did Thursday, I don’t mind. Help. ... Bullseye is no doubt unwelcome at Saturday’s 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. celebration of Earth Day at Forest Park Nature Center — a haven for birds and little critters, but not killer cats.

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Predicted rains this weekend would come at the perfect time for mushroom hunters heading into the traditional peak of the central Illinois fungus season. Morel growth has been hampered by dry conditions but there’s time to finish with a flourish between now and mid-May. ... Best ‘shroom reports so far are from Peoria and Fulton counties. Journal Star scribe Matt Buedel sacked up 500 morels last Thursday through Sunday, biggest a 3.5-inch yellow. But some shroomers in southern Illinois lament what they call one of their worst picking years in recent memory. ... Much easier is finding wild asparagus, which is visible from a vehicle and doesn’t require much walking or tick-to-privates contact. Ultimately, though, morels taste better than asparagus. ... A lungless frog, a flying frog and an amorous slug that shoots love darts are among 123 new species found in Borneo since 2007. If ever an entry called for Our Neighbor Ash, that’s it. Amorous slug. Boy do I miss you today, Ash. ... A dry spring is good news for deer hunters. With so much corn planted, odds increase for an early fall harvest and fewer hiding places for wily whitetails.

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Kudos to Ed Barnabee of Farmington, who returned from Oporto, Portugal on Monday after helping a three-shooter U.S. team win the Match of Nations target shoot for the first time since 1953. “Those Europeans did not like that,” Barnabee said. He also tied for first among shooters 70 and over. ... Campers itching to pitch a tent at Anderson Lake may get a chance next week. Staffers had 80 percent of the oft-flooded campground cleaned by Thursday and, barring monsoons this weekend, hope to have the rest done soon. Call first to be safe at (309) 759-4484. ... Need help getting your pooch to perform? The Illinois River Hunting Retriever Club has a training day Saturday out of the East Point Access at Banner Marsh at 8:30 a.m. ... Parting shot: What was DNR Director Marc Miller thinking by hiring an $85,000-per-year canoe czar for a few hours last week? My bet is Miller saw that as a chance to rewrite Illinois’ woefully archaic stream access laws. While that’s a noble goal, the timing was still horrible and could hamper Miller’s future hirings.

 

Story and comments

Scattershooting at bears, gobblers and asparagus

April 04, 2010 at 02:46 AM

Rambling through the outdoors wondering why wild asparagus tastes so much better than the store-bought variety.

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Try reading this note from Joe Draher of Hanna City without running outside, tossing a few rods in the truck and heading for a lake. “Saturday (March 27) was my first time out for 2010. The wind was howling and I was chilled to the bone. However, I was still able to catch three quality largemouth bass on a black-and-blue jig and pig. One was 6 pounds, 9 ounces. The next 4-9 and the third 3-5. Amazing how your hands warm up quickly when you’re catching quality largemouth and the wind chills are in the low 40’s. Just goes to show you don’t know unless you go.” ... That said, there’s room for improvement on the local fishing scene despite the recent warm spell sayeth Minister Morris, the Journal Star’s panfishing preacher. Oddly enough, he had no comment when asked if Jesus went fishing after the Resurrection. ... Seriously, though, fishing is behind the trees, grass and bushes in terms of overall progression. Water is still warming and crappie and most other species are generally slower than the thermometer might make you think. 

X X X

For sheer numbers, the best bet for fishing right now is on the Illinois River. Sauger are still surging and white bass are ready to run soon. Anglers report huge numbers of sauger under the 14-inch limit and enough fat keepers to keep things interesting. “All week long they’ve been almost tired of catching fish there’s so many of them out there,” said Mike Hurless, who runs the Cabela’s MWC tournament out of Spring Valley. Those young fish paint a bright future for the Illinois River, which last weekend coughed up 10 fish weighing 25.55 pounds to Cheeseheads Kevin Dahl and Steve Stack — who fished jigs near Peru to win the 24th annual MWC. I’ll bet within two years we see a winner’s sack over 30 pounds. ... One reason for all those sauger is the state’s stocking program, which relies on tournament anglers to provide breeding stock. With a total of 1,047 fish (averaging 1.68 pounds apiece) weighed in two days, there were more than enough eggs for fisheries staff.

X X X

One of these days my turkey-watching habits are going to cost me. But this is prime time to go gobbler-watching from a vehicle, as the grass is low, the leaves are not out yet and birds are very visible. The thing that never fails to amaze about turkeys is how black they look in the distance yet how spectacular their feathers are up close. ... Here’s a reminder to everyone who frequents the woods that turkey season starts Monday in the South Zone and on April 12 in the North Zone. Youngsters are also in the woods today for the end of the North Zone youth season. ... As if on cue, toms are gobbling across central Illinois. But the overall flock health is not great, since we’ve had at three straight years of poor hatches. Given a lack of two-year-old, love-starved birds who gobble just because they can, we hunters will be contending with some battle-tested, tight-beaked vets in the weeks to come. ... One critter never accused of keeping his beak shut is Chef Todd, who offers a reminder that there’s still time to pay $5 and enter Gobble Quest at Presley’s Outdoors. The three heaviest birds win cash.

X X X

Mushroom hunters licking their lips in anticipation of an expected bumper crop of morels would do well to remember you can’t rush Mother Nature. Jason Johns spent last Tuesday in the woods of southern Illinois without finding a morel. Ever the optimist he said, “Next week is looking good down here.” ... You may recall Johns from a story last spring about hunting wild asparagus. His rule of thumb is to start searching in mid-April once daytime temperatures hit 70 degrees and evening temps stay in the 60s. Closer to home we’ll be scouring ditches by the third week of April. ... In the wake of numerous Illinois “wolf” sightings, it was interesting to read a report concluding: “Ohio wildlife officials worry that wolf-dog hybrids in the wild are increasing in numbers and could threaten livestock.” That was after a hunter shot a 120-pound wolf-dog running in a pack. ... Parting shot: People spend too much time fretting about life with wolves or cougars in Illinois. The more likely co-habitating critter is the black bear. Consider that Wisconsin’s bear population has tripled since 1986 and is adapting to humans, with bruins sighted in Milwaukee suburbs and active dens within 500 yards of subdivisions.

Story and comments

Scattershooting at fish, geese and ice

March 11, 2010 at 08:58 PM

Rambling through the outdoors while eagerly awaiting pictures of the first bass of 2010 to top 7 pounds.

X X X

While following a few thousand snow geese the other day, I realized counting flocks is way too hard for laymen like me. Suffice to say there seem to be more migrating geese in the area than usual. So many, in fact, that Peoria Air National Guard temporarily halted flights of C-130 cargo planes to avoid possible collisions. ... If you aren’t wading through mud to hunt snows or to find shed antlers, you should consider wetting a line. Fishing season improved overnight in Illinois thanks to the recent warm spell, with reports of big muskie, fat walleye and abundant crappie and sauger suddenly flooding in. ... Biggest so far is guide Chad Cain’s 49 7/8-inch muskie caught out of Kinkaid Lake last Saturday. Cain thought the fish might top the state record of 38 pounds, 8 ounces. But the toothy rascal (with a girth of 25.5 inches) weighed 37.4 pounds before swimming off to freedom in Kinkaid. ... Muskie chasers are also out in force on north Spring Lake, which was virtually ice-free Thursday. Surely it’s no coincidence that Larry’s Family Restaurant reopens today on the south lake.

X X X

Ice fishing quickly went from fun to dangerous in central Illinois, but a few anglers enjoyed memorable outings last weekend. Best story came from Peorian Derek Hunn, who hauled a 23-pound flathead catfish through 13 inches of ice at Lake Bracken last Saturday. Hunn was fishing for crappie with a minnow and silver jig. “I fought the fish for 45 minutes and then had to hold him for a few more minutes while they drilled four holes side by side so I could get him out,” Hunn said. ... Time was a fish that big would have prompted some comment from Our Neighbor Ash. Sadly, Ash was laid to rest on Feb. 11. Here’s hoping he shuffled off to someplace short on public address men but long on multi-color pens. ... Who can fill the void left by Ash’s passing? How about Minister Morris, the only ordained man of the cloth we know who compiles a fishing report. Crappie are biting sayeth Minister Morris, who advises his flock to cast their nets toward the south end of Spring Lake, Crab Orchard Lake or Sangchris Lake. ... Visit prairiestateoutdoors.com to see the full Illinois fishing report. We’ll run local reports in the paper starting March 25.

X X X

Among the crowd of 5,000 at last weekend’s first Elmwood AllOutdoors Show was Al Hayden of Dahinda, who will be honored as an Illinois Outdoor Hall of Famer on Saturday at Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles. The owner of Al’s Sporting Goods in Galesburg, Hayden is a long-time outdoor columnist and radio host, has helped organize the Kid’s Fishing Derby at Lake Storey and hosts fishing clinics every year. “If it gives someone as much enjoyment as I’ve got from being outdoors then it’s worth it,” Hayden said. ... Speaking of the Elmwood Show, here’s a heartfelt thanks to everyone who attended or volunteered. You helped raise more than $27,000 for athletics and athletes in Elmwood and assured we can do the show again next March 5-6. ... One of many memorable moments at the show was hearing that a youngster caught a smallmouth bass in the fishing pond and rushed the fish inside to Glasford taxidermist Bob Hammerich. ... Ice-out can produce whopper bass in strip mines, as Ron Boyer will no doubt tell you during a free fishing seminar Saturday at 10 a.m. at Peoria’s Gander Mountain store. John Askins discusses muskie Sunday at 11.


X X X

If this week is any indication, the Illinois River sauger fishery is in great shape. Big catches are the norm from Starved Rock to Hennepin with vertical jigging or pulling floating jigs working well in 16-18 feet of water according to Darrell “Buster” Culjan. Anglers report plenty of small fish along with enough fat keepers to keep things interesting. Farther afield, anglers caught three walleye of more than 9 pounds in the past week, two on the Rock River near Oregon and one on the Kankakee River near Momence. ... As for bass, the best is yet to come in this area. In other words, Emiquon did not have enough open water to launch a boat on Thursday. That will change soon and when it does, anglers are advised that the parking lot is flooded and access is difficult. Even so, please do not park along the very busy Illinois Route 97/78. If water levels allow, plans this summer are to build four parking lots, boat ramps and other facilities that should be above the current high-water levels. ... Parting shot: Thank heavens nobody is talking about making prep bass fishing a multi-class event. Yet.

Story and comments

Scattershooting at ice, deer and fried trout

January 22, 2010 at 01:04 AM

Rambling through the outdoors with fingers crossed, hoping ice will last through the Jan. 30 Lake Camelot tournament.

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While warm rain is preferable to freezing rain, this heat wave threatens to ruin a very good ice-fishing bite and jeopardize three weekends of tournaments. Everybody from the Head Worm to Art Mott of Toulon report excellent fishing in recent days. Mott spent last weekend at Lake Storey with buddy William DeWester of Farmington and they combined for slab crappie of 16.5, 13.5 and 13.5 inches. Minnows were the key. The Head Worm filled a bucket with bluegills using only a tube jig. So don’t let the crafty bait dealer tell you waxworms were the key. ... I spent Thursday afternoon drilling holes with The Pond Guy and the aptly named Chris Rock of Princeville, whose family runs a quarry. We caught huge bluegill and had safe ice. But that’s my last hard-water outing until cold weather returns. ... If ice does go bad, don’t forget Powerton Lake. Several blue cats, bluegill and a few smallmouth came in this week. The big news is hybrid striped bass up to 8-10 pounds according to Jason Grider of Riverside Bait in Pekin. “I can’t believe they are that big already,” said Grider, who has personally seen a few of the huge stripers.

X X X

Two things are luring me to the Kickapoo Sportsman’s Club Saturday from 4-7 p.m. for the annual Independent Sports Club wild-game feed. 1. Where else can you appease a hankering for alligator, turtle and fried trout in one sitting? 2. Show organizer Dan Kelch asked me to judge homemade wine. Not sure what qualifications I have for that job, but how can you say no to a good cause? Tickets are sold at the door and there’s a bus to shuttle patrons from the ballpark in Kickapoo to the club if grounds get muddy. All proceeds benefit youth sports. ... Also Saturday is the Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever state meeting at Par-A-Dice Hotel. Here’s hoping the dice are good to those guys because they deserve recognition for their habitat work. ... Speaking of upland birds, Bill Moyers of Banner has had a quail roosting on his windowsill each night for the past week. “He flies up there most nights about 6 p.m. and some days doesn’t get down until 10 a.m.” Moyers said. This is the time of year quail are drawn to birdfeeders and barnyards to find food and get out of the elements.

X X X

Is the Illinois deer herd declining? Or was standing corn the cause for fewer deer killed by archers and shotgun hunters this year? Or are fewer hunters reporting the deer they kill in the absence of check stations? Those are some of the items deer hunters are arguing in the wake of a season that saw 189,277 whitetails head to the freezer. While that’s slightly ahead of last year, it’s well off the 2005 record of 201,210, despite more permits sold and more hunting days available. Actually, the last few years are part of a steady downward trend from that record-setting 05 hunt. ... Also upsetting some deer hunters is a quietly orchestrated rule change that will allow non-resident bowhunters to obtain a second archery permit. At $410 apiece there may not be many sold. Even so, there’s no question this was done to appease outfitters. Also, non-resident youngsters can now participate in the youth deer hunt for the same $10 fee residents pay.

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The folks who spend each fall leading whooping cranes south to Florida define the word committed. This year’s flock reached its final destination in Florida on Wednesday, capping an 89-day, 1,285-mile journey. The irony is that the cranes are on their own from now on and will probably make the same trip in five days next fall. ... Darrin Symonds of Brimfield had trouble finding Dale Hamm’s out-of-print book, “Last of the Market Hunters.” Internet users can buy the intriguing story of a fun-loving Illinois River duck poacher at amazon.com and a few other booksellers. Presley’s Outdoors also has a few copies for sale. ... Bass 25 has sign-ups Feb. 21 from 9:30-10:45 a.m. at the Turkey Hill Saloon near Tremont. You’ve got to love bass clubs that meet in taverns on a Sunday morning. Maybe that’s one reason Bass 25 is so popular. Learn more at bass25.com.  ... Speaking of being popular, Our Neighbor Ash spent a few days luxuriating in the hospital recently but sez there’s no cause to worry. He just enjoys chatting up the nurses.

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Silver carp DNA has been found in Calumet Harbor, which feeds directly into Lake Michigan. Anybody still think spending millions to poison the Chicago Shipping Canal was such a good investment? Now there’s word the Illinois DNR may be adding five biologists to handle invasive species and to oversee the Asian carp containment effort. I sure hope those hires come after a turkey biologist is added. ... In an earlier column about top picks for outdoor shows there was no mention of the Henry Decoy Show, held this year on Feb. 14 at Henry-Senachwine High School from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. That was a major mistake. The decoy show is a must-attend event if you have any interest in ducks, carving, folk art or just need a chance to get out of the house for a few intriguing hours. Sadly, event founder Don Clark passed away Dec. 16. He and his trademark gray hat will be missed. ... Parting shot: Does it strike anyone else as hypocritical that most national politicians showed little interest in Asian carp until the Great Lakes were threatened?

Story and comments

Scattershooting at deer, rabbits and ice

December 30, 2009 at 07:50 PM

Rambling through the outdoors while wondering how loud some bows will be this weekend.

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Well, the Farmer and I ambled through the uplands Tuesday afternoon in two Stark County ditches that normally yield a few coveys of quail and a few pheasants. What did we see in the fluffy snow? Coyote tracks. Some bird tracks. A few rabbit tracks. One set of pheasant tracks and a few little quail tracks. As for living things, the only critters the dogs could raise were a lone rabbit. He, of course, came with Hawk on point and me dismissing the point as worthless. So I was out of range and the rabbit will live to see another day ... or coyote.

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So we head out in a few hours for the latest Illinois firearm deer season. Due to the variety of tags I have left, I will be bringing a shotgun and a muzzleloader. While I had planned to bring a bow, as well, I found an interpretation that made that seem illegal. So the bow stayed in the truck.

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I’m betting hunters will do pretty well this weekend. There was plenty of grumbling after the last few seasons and from what I’m seeing, the deer are yarding up pretty good. Plus, with lots of layoffs, vacations and shaky ice, there will be plenty of guys looking for something to do. Shooting a deer will be a good option for many. If the weather is decent, we could easily top 25,000 deer when the two weekends of late-winter season are over.

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Hope your holidays were good. I spent the past week sitting around the house with friends and family, sipping, eating and relaxing. I did not hunt or fish at all. Just relaxed. And for almost the entire time I left the computer off. Sorry for the lack of posts on PSO, but I needed the break. Now it’s back to reality. Lots to do in the days to come. Lots of deer stories and pictures to catch up with. And hopefully a few more to come.

X X X

Incidentally, there’s nothing to this rumor that firearm deer season has been expanded to every weekend in January. And there’s even less to the rumor that leftover tags can be left to shoot bucks. No sirree. This late-winter season is antlerless-only.

 

 

 

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