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

Of geese, hair helmets and antlers

January 08, 2009 at 04:59 PM

Rambling through the outdoors wondering how Canada geese decide when and where to fly.

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Longer firearm deer hunting seasons and over-the-counter permits are among the final recommendations from the Joint Task Force on Deer Population Control. Department of Natural Resources staff is reviewing proposals to: 1. extend the first firearm deer season to Monday, 2. extend the late-winter season to nine days, 3. sell remaining firearm permits over the counter after the second lottery, 4. sell late-winter tags over the counter, 5. sell unlimited late-winter permits in some counties,  6. form a task force to review programs designed to reduce crop damage. Don’t count on all of these being implemented. ... But if the first firearm season is extended to a Monday, savvy observers say we should dedicate it as “John Sullivan’s Outfitter Day.” That’s to dishonor the Quincy state senator who surprised task force members with that proposal at the last minute. Money, not deer population control, is his obvious motivation. ... Muzzleloader hunters shot 4,310 deer in 2008 — down 23 from 2007. But archery harvest is up 1,200 from 2007 through Wednesday.

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This year is a perfect example of why buck hunters dislike the late-winter deer season. Ice and cold appear to be hastening the pace of antler shedding this winter. Several bowhunters report seeing bucks with half a rack and shed hunters are already busy. Derrick Hart of Yates City found eight sheds last weekend alone near Roseville. So be on the lookout for huge does that aren’t if you hunt this late-winter season, Jan. 16-18. ... Though he immediately started mumbling when asked, I’m betting Our Neighbor Ash has some experience with a doe that turned out to be a buck. ... Help: If anybody hears a cell phone ringing in a field near Secor, please mail me a letter. Or send word via carrier pigeon. At least pigeons fly home when you accidentally release them. ... Speaking of feathered friends, Helen Packard spotted a pileated woodpecker on Grandview Drive Wednesday. That big red-headed bird is proof Peorians are truly blessed with natural beauty close at hand.

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Our ever-worsening economy is taking a toll on the outdoors. Hardest hit so far have been boat dealers, some of whom report sales off by 17 percent or more in 2008. That’s one reason R&B Productions canceled its East Peoria Boating and Fishing Show scheduled for Feb. 20-22. And Mike Bolton reports in The Birmingham News that pro bass fishing is taking a hard hit. “Everybody is losing sponsors,” pro Randy Howell told Bolton. “The fishermen are losing sponsors. BASS is losing sponsors. We’re keeping the lure companies but the big, non-endemic sponsors are saying they can’t do it right now.” ... The economy hasn’t hurt gun sales. The FBI reports a 24 percent increase in background checks last December compared to 2007. Background checks are required for firearm purchased and overall in 2008 were up 14 percent. ... Have you seen the record elk shot last October on public land in Utah? The beast measured 478 5/8 inches and looks like a Photoshop fake. Check it out at

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While boat ramps at Starved Rock are open, sauger chasers are being kept at bay by high, dirty water and floating ice in the Illinois River. “We’re two to three weeks away,” said Darrell “Buster” Culjan. ... Ice fishing is a better bet, with good action on bluegill at Banner Marsh, the Hennepin Canal and farm ponds. Lake Storey crappie are best afternoons and evenings. Just be careful. Many report thin spots in odd places. Ice addict Rich Klockenga of Edwards is generally drilling 5-7 inches but said Oak Run is still dicey. ... Upland game biologist John Cole retired after more than 30 years of battling on behalf of birds and bunnies. Replacing Cole is unlikely since the DNR is such a mess and we are still awaiting a turkey biologist — an omission worth noting at a time hunters are being rejected for permits because quotas have not been adjusted. ... Another veteran stepping down is Don Baker. He spent 40 years writing Journal Star sports stories but still learned something new last summer. “I never knew catfish and carp ate mulberries,” said Baker, who helped with the weekly fish report. Don, when the time is right this spring, you can expect a batch of mulberry-flavored doughballs for fishing or table fare.

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Speaking of eating dough, if the extra pounds don’t kill me, Canada geese might. I’ve wasted too many hours driving and looking for honkers or sitting in a field waiting for them. Others report similar problems. “The Triple L effect is in,” said Dan Vinovich of Pekin, who hunts west of Ameren’s Duck Creek reservoir. “The geese we see Look, Lock and then Leave. We’re whittling a few down, but we haven’t had a flock of birds work in all year.” ... In the wake of hunters shooting a trumpeter swan last week in southern Illinois, here’s a timely reminder. If you see a huge, white bird overhead that resembles an airplane, don’t shoot. If you do shoot, don’t claim you thought it was a snow goose on steroids. That argument has been used. Unsuccessfully. ... Have you seen the world record elk shot last October on public land in Utah? The beast measured 478 5/8 inches and looks like a Photoshop fake it is so big. But it’s no fake It’s a real official record. Check it out at

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An anonymous letter being circulated touts Brent Manning as the answer for myriad problems plaguing the DNR. “There is only one man that can save me now, and you know his name,” reads the letter signed “The DNR.” While I agree Manning would be a welcome change from do-nothing Sam Flood, I can’t see Pat Quinn selecting the long-time Republican. ... Phil “The Duck Commander” Robertson is returning to Peoria. He’ll speak at a Wild Game Dinner Feb. 7 at Peoria’s Expo Gardens. Tickets are $10. Call (309) 712-1462 or 688-3641. We’re giving tickets to the first person who names the famous quarterback Richardson started in front of in college. Leave a message at (309) 686-3212. ... Parting shot: When I worry about the economy or the sad state of Illinois, there’s one mental image that always makes me smile: Rod Blagojevich coiffing his helmet of hair in jail.


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Flathead's Picture of the Week :: Big bucks :: Birdwatching :: Cougars :: Dogs :: Critters :: Fishing :: Asian carp :: Bass :: Catfish :: Crappie :: Ice :: Muskie :: Humor :: Hunting :: Deer :: Ducks :: Geese :: Turkey :: Upland game :: Misc. :: Mushrooms :: Open Blog Thursday :: Picture A Day 2010 :: Plants and trees :: Politics :: Prairie :: Scattershooting :: Tales from the Trail Cams :: Wild Things ::

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