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

Illinois hunting and fishing

Planting duck food in the heat

July 17, 2010 at 12:25 PM

On last year’s opening day of duck season, the little wet spot pictured above was filled with water. And ducks. And geese.

Once the wet spot dried out, the ducks left. We still had some shots at geese from our blind, but the ducks wanted the shallow wet spot.

Well, when wet weather drowned out corn planted in the wet spot, a thought occurred to me. “Why not plant millet?”

Hey, if it works for duck clubs, why not for us? Besides, even if the ducks don’t use the spot, quail and other birds will.

So I bought 10-pounds of Japanese millet from Kelly Seeds. They said they had been selling lots of millet to duck clubs in the past few weeks. No wonder, as most corn was drowned and millet can develop seed heads in just 45 days (at least that’s what the seed sellers claim). My helper today, Victor, was pretty unimpressed with the sack of seeds. “Ducks will eat that?” he asked. Let’s hope so.

Illinois hunting and fishing

Everything I’ve read about the stuff says it is best to work up the soil some. But on state sites they also merely aerial seed the stuff. So I tried a combination of the two.

Victor and I worked up a few small spots, including the one below. Those are our test plots. We also scattered seed over the ground elsewhere and hoped it would fall in the cracks and find enough soil contact that way. We’ll check back frequently to see what happens. I may even buy another 10 pounds and seed some more later, depending on how this grows.

Before we had even finished, small birds were already showing up to enjoy the millet buffet. I’m betting doves will be in the worked-up ground in force by this evening.

Illinois hunting and fishing

We would have worked up more ground, but we were relying on hand rakes on a hot day. “This is too hard,” Victor said, shortly before running off to shoot at various things with the b-b gun. Can’t say I blame him. It was hot and the ground was harder than I expected.

Illinois hunting and fishing

Next fall, if we get another chance to do this, I will rig up something I can drag behind the truck to work the seed in better. A four-wheeler would be nice, but it’s not in the budget.

Until then, it will be interesting to see what grows in the area we seed. Even more interesting will be to see if the ducks and geese use the wet spot this fall.

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Illinois hunting and fishing

Rice Lake meeting went well

July 06, 2010 at 07:33 PM

Rice Lake officially has more friends than ever.

An entire organized group of friends, actually, following today’s open meeting at Presley’s Outdoors in Bartonville.

The consensus of the 25 people and one dog gathered today was to create a group called The Friends of Rice Lake Properties. I don’t love the name, but the Properties part is pretty important so people understand this group will also be working for the betterment of Banner Marsh and of the Double T Goose Management Area. In all, the staff at Rice Lake oversees 13,000 acres. Obviously, there’s lots of room in all that ground for improvement.

The new group hopes to help in any way possible. Right now, officers have plenty of work to do just to get ready for the July 25 duck blind drawings. That’s when volunteers will be taking names, signing up members and raffling off the impressive hand-carved decoy pictured below. Butch Louck said he’s got more than 300 hours in this carving of a drake mallard. The plan right now is to sell raffle tickets for this unique artwork.

Illinois hunting and fishing

That’s one of many conclusions we came to in a well-run 79-minute meeting.

Other notable items:

>> Officers: President—Adam Jaegle, Vice presidents—Jeremy Thornton and Kelly Presley, Treasurer—Scott Klasing, Secretary—Jeff Lampe (the only reason I got the job was because the Head Worm was trying to spell Secretary with an X).

>> Duck Pushers (aka board members)
Butch Cook, Pat Miller, Dave Finney, Dave Asbell, Dave Anderson, Merl Cotton, Denny Guppy, Larry Guppy, Milt Wernsman, Don Tucker, Gary Stevenson and Tim Presley.

>> An escrow account has been set up in which to deposit any funds we raise for Rice Lake. None of the money will be in state hands. We just didn’t feel like we could trust the state government right now, given the penchant for sweeping funds.

>> The group will coordinate the youth duck hunt at Banner Marsh and Rice Lake. There’s a possibility of having meals served at both sites at the conclusion of the hunt.

>> Membership levels are as follows:

$25 Member
Entitles you to two newsletters.

$50 Sponsor
Entitles you to two newsletters and a hat or t-shirt with our still-to-be-finalized logo.

$250 Major Donor
Entitles you to two newsletters and a hat and a t-shirt.

>> We will also have a box for donations at the Rice Lake duck blind drawing on July 25. Remember, every little bit helps.

>> We hope to help support Bill Douglass and his staff in any way possible. Possible ideas for the next year are: providing pits for Double T, buying a no-till planter or brush cutter, buying rock for roads as needed, providing political support when Springfield isn’t listening real well.

There’s plenty more to work out. We hope to have plenty more figured out by our next meeting on July 13 at 6 p.m. at Presley’s Outdoors. The public is welcome to attend.


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Illinois hunting and fishing

Waterfowler project: build this blind

March 23, 2010 at 06:42 AM

Waterfowlers are always looking for ways to pass the time from one hunting season to the next.

One sure way to make this offseason pass quickly would be to replicate this blind in your timber hole.

Illinois hunting and fishing

Story and comments

Fourth waterfowl zone for Illinois?

January 12, 2010 at 06:29 PM

Chicago Sun-Times writer Dale Bowman is reporting on his Web log Stray Casts that there are rumors of a push being made for a fourth waterfowl zone in Illinois.

Writes Bowman:

We hear the IDNR honchos aren’t hot for it, but big shooters with connections are pushing a fourth waterfowl zone in far southern Illinois.

The public hunting areas on Rend and Carlyle lakes, which tend to freeze earlier than private clubs (like the scene on Rend above four years ago), would remain in the third zone.

The added zone would allow later season dates in far southern areas, but allow earlier dates at Rend and Carlyle.

A fourth zone would surprise me, since I’ve always heard the federal government folks were against it. Maybe I was wrong.

This is something I will be trying to track down this week.

While a fourth zone would allow for a a split in the South Zone, there’s a simple fact to remember here: Even 50 zones would probably not be enough to make all waterfowlers happy.


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Illinois hunting and fishing

An icy finish to duck season?

December 10, 2009 at 08:16 PM

I left the decoys out as long as I could.

The Farmer and I hunted Tuesday morning and picked up half the goose decoys and a few ducks.

We left a few behind because my plan was to return this morning, shoot some geese or ducks as the other shallower ponds froze, and then get the dekes out to safety.

Half the plan worked perfectly. More than half, actually. The pond did not freeze, thanks to strong west winds. The decoys came out safely, if a bit icy.

But as for shooting ducks and geese, well that part fell short. Not that it had to. It’s just that hunting all day Tuesday in the cold and rain with no luck took the starch out of me. In other words, I wimped out this morning. Instead of hunting, I slept in and then got the kids to school.

And then, while picking up decoys without a gun, I watched geese fly overhead for a solid 10 minutes. First a flock of 40 cacklers, two big honkers, one snow goose and three white-fronts soared overhead as I sat picking up decoys, with my truck running near the bling. Then came another flock of geese. Then another.

Oh well. At least the decoys are safe from gnawing coyotes and ice.

I’m not so sure about our duck season. North Zone hunters are done Tuesday and likely won’t get out again. We in the Central Zone have until Dec. 29 and will likely see a thaw ahead. But will we see any ducks once the ice goes out? Hard to say.

At least there’s still plenty of goose season left to even the score. No doubt the lake will freeze tonight. No doubt it will open again before Jan. 31. And when it does open again, I’ll be even hungrier.

Illinois hunting and fishing

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