Illinois Outdoors at
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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

Illinois hunting and fishing

My gun season is over

November 21, 2009 at 03:14 PM

It is with beer in hand and a refrigerator full of deer legs that I sit here typing the words, “My gun season is over.”

Unprecedented. Illinois hunting and fishingApocalyptic (at least in the view of some who watched me miss the first 12 turkeys I shot at). As someone (I think Frank Baxter) said, “What is happening. Lampe is shooting deer?”

Yes, somehow in this season of standing corn and gazoogles of big bowkills I filled both my shotgun deer tags in just 1 1/2 days of hunting. And I filled the fridge with red biohazard bags (which my hunting buddy Flathead got for free and uses to store deer meat).

And I actually let deer walk. Six came in range and walked off after I shot a doe early on opening morning. For a change I tried hard to hold out for a big, mature buck.

But my resolve weakened this morning at about 8 a.m. when I heard a crash, then a grunt and saw a buck running straight at me (from the downwind side even though I had been drinking beer, eating deer sausage, peanut butter and delicious home-made apple pie the day before). The only reason that buck came at me, apparently, was the doe pee dripped along the trail. And yes, it was Hunziker’s Deer Scent, a PSO advertiser. And believe this or don’t, but I bought the stuff for $11.99 at Presley’s Outdoors (another advertiser that has just launched an online store, so check it out).

Enough gratuitous plugs.

The buck crashed into range and capped what has been my most enjoyable deer season ever. Adding bowhunting to the mix has only made it more enjoyable. And I think the time spent archery hunting has made me a better deer hunter. More attuned to being scent-free. More aware. More in tune with deer and the woods. Or just luckier. Whatever the case, I had deer all over me this weekend.

For that I have to thank Flathead. He had a great gameplan. First, he told me to hunt near standing corn.

Illinois hunting and fishing

That worked perfectly, as a big group of does rambled into the corn opening morning and one did not leave. If you look real hard, you can see her in the right corner of the picture above. You may also see what looks like a slug hole in a tree. Yep. After I spine-shot her and dropped her, I tried to put one more slug in her for good measure. Turns out it wasn’t needed, especially if you were the tree who got thwacked.

Illinois hunting and fishing

And in the interest of full disclosure, I thwacked another tree this morning after the grunting buck came running at me. My first shot grazed his belly. My second shot dead-centered a tree. But my third shot was right on the mark and dropped him in his tracks. Thank goodness I cleaned up the old 870 Express. Last year she was pumping hard. But this year, following some unheard-of Lampe gun maintenance, I can get off three shots in about Mach 1. Good thing.

Speaking of good things, Flathead picked up a Jeep on the cheap this offseason. At first I wondered what he was thinking. He’s a got a few vehicles already and a truck with 34,000 miles on it. But after tooling around through the mud and wet this weekend I can only tell you I love the thing. Who needs a Bad Boy Buggy when you’ve got a used Jeep?

Illinois hunting and fishing

After I shot my buck, the sun came out, my feet warmed up nicely and I drank a Mountain Dew in honor of Jerry Bryant, who killed his Fulton County monster after sipping a Dew.

That got me to pondering what to expect from this weekend. I’m betting kill totals will be on par with last year and well below the previous few years. Too much corn, even though I heard and saw combines running all day Friday and Saturday. Worth noting is this quote from deer biologist Paul Shelton to Dale Bowman of the Chicago Sun-Times: “It is looking like the [deer] harvest is comparable to last year, which wasn’t a particularly good opening day. It is pretty clear it will not be on par with opening days in 2005, ‘06 and ‘07 when crops weren’t an issue.’‘

And while I did my part to up the kill total, a small part of me wishes I had not shot, to be honest. There’s still time to hunt. There are many bigger deer around. And unlike fishing, there’s no catch and release in deer hunting. When the buck went down and the adrenaline of the moment wore off, I looked at him facefirst in the leaves and thought he was too small. After years of editing stories and photos of monster bucks, it’s hard not to want a monster buck.

But part of me is completely satisfied. I also wanted deer meat. I also wanted to hunt. I also wanted a chance at a decent buck. Oh sure, this one is no monster. It will never earn oohs and ahhs at the Illinois Deer & Turkey Classic. But it’s a step up from the forkhorns I let walk. Or from the buck with half-a-rack I let walk.

And there’s the reality that I may never make it as a true trophy hunter. My life has some realities. The boys were glad I came home early (though the oldest two are mad that my success means they won’t get to go out until muzzleloader season).

The dog has been so grumpy he doesn’t even want to come out of the pen. Today I petted him lovingly and whispered into his ear that we are going quail hunting Monday morning. He looks happy again.

Then walking into the garage a goose decoy tried to trip me. I grabbed the decoy, petted it lovingly and whispered to it that we are chasing honkers on Tuesday.

And somehow I’ve still got to find time for a pheasant hunting voyage to northwest Iowa.

There’s a lot to do and too little time to do it all. What wonderful problems to have.


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