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Jeff Lampe
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

Bowhunting lessons and fears

November 04, 2009 at 07:56 PM

For years people seemed shocked when I told them I didn’t bowhunt. They acted like I was some nut. They assumed because I posted deer stories all the time that I had to be a bowhunter too. Little did they know how sane I once was.

No longer, of course. I joined the ranks of the archery world this season thinking I would go out a few times in October and then hang up the bow. Well, that didn’t work too well. Problem is, I enjoyed it too much. It’s fun to be out there when it isn’t freezing, when you can just sit and admire the forest and enjoy the scenery without shivering. And it’s a huge challenge, obviously.

But it’s also a big problem for a guy who also loves to hunt ducks and geese and soon will start chasing pheasants and quail. The other day while in the stand, with geese flying in range of a shotgun, I actually started pondering hunting honkers out of a tree stand. Is it legal? I’m not sure but the thought has some merit, I think.

Because basically there’s not enough time to do everything. Even taking vacation days hasn’t freed up enough time.

Even so, I’m trying to do it all. It feels like I haven’t slept in days. Today I started at the Banner Marsh drawing, then spent some time at a goose pit near Canton and wound up in a Knox County tree stand. While I didn’t fire a shot all day, it was still a great day to be out. I watched several thousand geese pile into a field just past where we were and then watched a nice 8-pointer sniff his way along the ridge opposite me this evening, well out of bow range but cool to watch even so.

Long-term how I am going to fit bowhunting into my schedule is beyond me. My dog Hawk is already mad at me and will become furious if he doesn’t take top billing after Saturday’s upland opener. But he doesn’t do water retrieves, so he can’t be relied on in the new duck blind (which calls to me like a woman every morning and night, particularly when I hear geese honking). And then there’s this darned bowhunting. My desire to hunt is so strong right now that I feel like I’m in the whitetail rut.

I can’t wait to retire. Until then, here are 10 bowhunting lessons I’ve learned the hard way already in my 10 outings.

  • 1. Arrows don’t do well when fired through a thicket of saplings. I tried this the other day when a doe got real close, but wound up missing her low (not looking through the peep sight didn’t help any, either). Heading home that night, I told myself, “I’ve got to cut a shooting lane through those saplings.” Which leads to Lesson No. 2.
  • 2. Cut shooting lanes before the season. Or at least cut them when it becomes obvious they are needed. Tuesday morning at about 9:40 a.m. I had a shooter 10-pointer walk behind those same saplings the doe had passed behind one day earlier. He was wider than his ears, fairly tall and had good mass. Would have been a great first buck to shoot at with a bow. Problem is, I had not cut a shooting lane. So I could only watch as the buck sniffed, strolled and then walked off into the ravine below me.
  • 3. Get the mud out of your boots before climbing up the stand. Or at least get as much out as possible. While it was plenty windy tonight so the mud didn’t matter, on calm days that stuff falls out every time I move, making quite a racket below.
  • 4. Leave the rattling antlers at home. I’ve got too much stuff along as it is. Those things just clink and clank too much.
  • 5. Get a bigger tree stand. I love the silence of my Lone Wolf Alpha Assault stand, but a big guy like me needs a bigger platform. Not to mention a bigger seat.
  • 6. The Hunter Safety Systems safety harness is great. I feel so much more comfortable in the tree than I ever expected. That thing is slick. It goes on easy and fast. And no, they are not PSO sponsors. They just have a great product.
  • 7. Speaking of great products, I’ve been using Hunziker’s Deer Scents with great success. Yes, they are sponsors. And everybody I talk to swears they’ve got good stuff. But because I am cheap, I didn’t like paying $10.99 for a bottle of Hot Doe Urine. I did like watching the shooter 10-pointer sniffing around near where I had put the stuff on the ground. That led to one other lesson, though.
  • 8. Put doe scent where you want the buck to wind up, not behind a bunch of saplings where you can’t take a shot.
  • 9. Scout better next year and hang more stands. I keep watching deer (and bucks, four in the last four outings) crossing along a field edge across a ravine from where I sit. I know the time has come to make a move and get over there, but there’s not really any good trees in which to hang a stand. Do I hunt from the ground? Not sure. I do know now is not the time to be wandering around looking for someplace to hang a stand.
  • 10. My plan is to only shoot at does in the mornings during the rut. That way I can concentrate on bucks and not worry about losing focus by tracking a doe in the dark. I want to save that wild ride for a buck.

Overall, bowhunting has far exceeded my expectations. I came into this hoping to spend some nice days in the woods and to see some bucks showing rut behavior. Based on that alone, my season is already a huge success. I’ve heard bucks fighting, seen bucks trailing and chasing and even seen a (relatively) big boy up close. Plus I’ve enjoyed every outing, even tonight when the wind was whistling from the northwest and I was glad to have a warm hood.

Even so, I guess I will revise my expectations. Now I want to kill a deer.




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