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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

Quail quest ‘08 a failure, again

December 08, 2008 at 02:59 PM

OK, somewhere the critter gods are mocking me. They are saying, “Enough hunting, go do some real work.” Or something.

After a weekend of not seeing deer, I opted to spend this morning chasing quail. The dog and I have vowed to shoot eight wild birds in one day in 2008. Well, the dog didn’t actually vow anything, but he agrees with the idea. So this morning, despite some freezing rain early, we headed out full of optimism. That was a mistake.

The first ditch yielded nothing, though we did watch one, lone, sad little quail fly out of some cover near a bunch of old trucks and buildings. By the time we got there all we found were tracks. One bird? Flushing wild? Turns out that was a bad omen. Because for the rest of the morning all we saw were quail tracks in the snow. Well, that and rabbits, deer, geese and other critters that all seemed to smile at us as they ran or flew off.

Here’s a rundown on the three Peoria County spots we hunted before stopping to go see the dentist (this day has been a real winner).

Ditch 1
The rain is actually welcome, since it means temperatures have warmed considerably. And this should be a good spot since there’s lots of corn on the ground and several spots with tall weedy cover. Last year in one fine day we found two coveys in this ditch and shot five birds. Today, no tracks of quail or pheasants.

Ditch 2
The corn came out fairly recently and nobody has bird hunted here, to my knowledge. This spot traditionally holds a covey, though they are usually very flighty and tough to shoot. Today, though, all we see are deer and rabbit tracks. Lots of deer and rabbit tracks. Fresh ones, too. So fresh that we spook two does at close range—closer than any deer I’ve seen so far during the entire gun season. At the end of the ditch we also come across deer tracks that are mixed with blood. For every step there’s a little blood. Must have been a doe that was shot but survived last weekend.

Fencerow 1
This is a great fencerow that always holds rabbits and usually has one covey of quail. Problem is, we’ve only got access to one side and the other has campers in shooting range. While I see quail tracks all over, the dog does not point. Then he does, with his tail wagging. Hmmm. Sure enough, a rabbit runs off. For the next half hour we repeat the same thing about 20 times. Point, wag, rabbit runs. Once I decide to shoot, they start running near the campers, under logs and into brushpiles. Long story short, I never got a shot at all those bunnies. But it was fun to watch the dog point 30 times. And it was also fun to see all the geese flying around and keeping a nearby strip-mine lake open. Hmmm, maybe I should try a goose hunt Tuesday morning. The way this hunting season is going lately, that would probably guarantee I’ll see five coveys of quail.

NOTABLE: Scorer Tim Walmsley reports that on Sunday he saw a buck that had already shed its antlers.



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