Illinois Outdoors at
RulesIllinois Outdoors at
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

First duck hunt a success

October 31, 2009 at 10:18 PM

Somehow, in the years since old Buck passed on, I’ve forgotten how much I enjoy duck hunting.

Saturday brought it all home. Ah, it wasn’t just Saturday. It was weeks of watching the Duck Commanders show. It was two weeks of building a duck blind. And it was one morning in the blind with my son and my buddy The Farmer. We shot just two ducks. Many shot more. My friend Rick Miller and his crew shot 24 ducks in Blind 29 at Rice Lake. Nate Herman and his crew shot 23 mallards in a Peoria County corn field.

By those standards, our one gadwall hen and one spoonbill hen paled in comparison. Even so, we had a ball. The blind we had worked so hard on was big enough, comfortable enough and brushed well enough. The boat we had hustled to paint this week was fine. The wind was wrong. Too much south, which whistled into our faces and gave the birds too little room to finish. But we still had action.

Best of all, the oldest boy Henry enjoyed himself. Sure, somehow he got cold on a 40-degree day, a fact that still mystifies me. But instead of getting mad, I went home and got him a heater. I should have known better. Kids get cold. I should have just brought the thing in the first place. From now on I will. Because thanks to Mr. Heater, Henry made it through his first opening day of duck season with a minimum of complaining.

That for me was worth a limit of ducks. Here’s hoping your waterfowl opener was also a success. And here’s hoping the eldest boy and I can share many more mornings in a blind watching birds overhead.

Illinois hunting and fishing

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Illinois hunting and fishing

Duck blind before and after

October 28, 2009 at 06:26 PM

It has been a long few weeks. Lots of building, cutting, painting and then more cutting.

But it’s been a good few weeks. Fun. And with help from The Farmer, Rick Miller, Gordon Inskeep and my son Victor (shown below cutting cattails) we’ve gone from a duck blind that stood out like a sore thumb (above) to one that blends in better.

Illinois hunting and fishing

The blind now has a boat hide and to make it blend in even better, we brushed the entire slope behind it so that it would not look so naked.

Illinois hunting and fishing

Now we will be able to do this. I hope.

Illinois hunting and fishing

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Illinois hunting and fishing

Last-minute duck blind

October 23, 2009 at 01:03 PM

When neighbor Chad Anderson started tearing out his porch recently, the resulting pile of wood made something click in my brain.

“I must build a duck blind,” I thought.

Forget that duck season was just weeks away. Or that I had no blueprints or even much working knowledge of how to build a blind. The one year I had my name drawn at Rice Lake, buddy Rick Miller basically provided the pieces to a ready-made blind. All we had to do then was to screw the thing together.

Not so this time. Nope. I’ve spent plenty of time (too much if you ask my wife) plotting, scheming and working on my blind. It has been a ton of fun, actually. We now have a 10-foot wide by 4-foot deep blind with a tongue-and-groove floor. Almost all of it was built with free wood, the best kind out there.

The end result is not perfect. Not even close. I learned plenty about how I will build my next blind. I wish it was deeper and dug into the bank better. And I wish I’d started earlier, since finding willows with leaves is pretty tough this time of year.

So I’ve still got a full day left to cut brush to hide the thing. Plus there’s a canoe hide to build and a dog ramp and the interior benches. But if we had to, we could hunt out of the thing today.

That’s one reason I’m more excited about this duck season than I have been in years.

We probably won’t shoot many birds out of this blind. A few geese. Maybe some mallards later in the year.

But it will be a good place to take the kids and to spend a few hours watching the world come alive this waterfowl season.

Illinois hunting and fishing

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Finally some luck of the draw

September 23, 2009 at 02:38 PM

After striking out in the lottery for a free upland game hunting permit, I did much better in the raffle for duck hunting permits.

While my first choice of opening day at the Spring Lake Bottoms Unit didn’t materialize, I did draw a blind for Nov. 10. That’s traditionally a good week for duck hunting in Illinois and Spring Lake Bottoms is one of my favorite spots.

Anyway, check your mailbox today to see if you too got lucky.

As for those upland permits, Dale Bowman reported today that the odds were not good. He said that out of 3,029 applicants, 873 (28.8 percent) were issued permits and the other 2,156 grumbling upland hunters were rejected. Last year 865 permits were issued and there were 1,955 rejections.

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Illinois hunting and fishing

The teal have arrived

September 07, 2009 at 02:12 PM

Saturday marked the first time in years that I saw out a teal season opener.

There just didn’t seem to be a compelling reason to go sit in the marsh. While bird numbers were above average on the Illinois River, all those blue-wings were sitting at the Emiquon Preserve, where hunting is not allowed.

Closer to home, The Farmer scouted Snakeden Hollow and saw only one wood duck. My cruising through strip-mine country came up empty, too. Plenty of geese, but no teal.

So I sat home. But no longer. Sometime in the past 24 hours, teal have arrived in central Illinois. The Farmer saw them while fishing at a strip-mine club near Toulon. He heard a hunter shoot at some at Snakeden. I just saw a flock of 20-30 a few minutes ago in strip-mine country here.

And then when I popped on the e-mail, there was a picture of Drake Whitehurst, Garrett Whitehurst, Dennis Whitehurst, and Adam Mottaz who killed nine teal today after a flock of 40 came into their goose decoys outside of Yates City.

Needless to say, I will not be sleeping in and getting the kids off to school in the morning.

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