Illinois Outdoors at PrairiestateOutdoors.com
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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
 

Scattershooting

A Web log by Jeff Lampe of the Journal Star

Quail Quest 2008 not so easy

January 04, 2008 at 04:53 AM

New Year’s resolutions should not kill you.

This one might.

From the comfort of a padded chair in a warm office, vowing to bag eight quail in a day sounded safe. And 30 years ago — when coveys were common — that would have been a fairly simple task.

But as Wednesday morning’s first attempt at Quail Quest 2008 proved, an eight-bird limit of bobwhites is no longer a sure thing.

7:54 — Sunrise was 30 minutes ago, but it seemed wise to let the mercury rise from 6 to 7 before wading into a promising Peoria County ditch.

7:58 — A face-first fall into a snowdrift raises questions about my sanity, not for the last time.

8:12 — My little Llewellin setter Hawkeye locks up on point. Unfortunately, while a strong west wind helped Hawk scent a covey of quail, they are a fair distance away on the other side of a thick stand of brambles and trees. Birds flush without a shot.

9:10 — Unable to locate the covey again despite criss-crossing the area, we move to a second ditch.

9:15 — Countless tiny tracks make me reconsider starting Mice Unlimited. Snow reveals just how many tail-dragging varmints there are in the wild.

9:20 — So much for high-tech reporting. A Journal Star video camera malfunctions for the second straight frigid outing (falling in the snow probably didn’t help).

9:22 — Hawk trespasses and wags his tail excitedly, as though on the trail of birds. I grudgingly whistle him back.

9:32 — Returning to the truck we pass six calves huddled in a low spot out of the wind. They look at me as if to say, “Are you an idiot to willingly be out in this?”

9:36 —The dog, bothered by ice balls in his paws, gets to ride in the front seat instead of his kennel in the truck bed.

9:45 — We approach another ditch, this one filled with trees. Eventually the ditch will become a lake. At present the downed trees offer fabulous cover. After trudging 200 yards Hawk points, again on the sunny east side. Birds flush. I shoot. A bird drops. Elation gives way to depression as we are unable to find the bird despite an eventful 10-minute search.

9:49 — A lens pops out of my sunglasses.

9:50 — I fall into the ditch after a branch slaps me in the face and my bruised shin bangs a log. Stars swim in front of me.

9:54 — Sunglasses fall apart again as I scramble to find Hawk, who moved on after finding fresh scent.

9:55 — Point. Shot. Bird in hand. Only seven to go.

9:58 — Point. Shots. Curses.

10:03 — Point. Shots. Quail down, again in thick treetops. Again we are unable to make a retrieve. The bitter cold seems to hinder scenting conditions and thickets of tree branches make it impossible to reach certain areas. Frustrated, we leave for an open fencerow.

10:18 — I call a legal consultant for a rules interpretation before hunting the fencerow. My permission extends to only half the area.

10:45 — Hawk trespasses again and this time freezes in a point. Chunks of ice tossed in his vicinity raise no birds. Finally, after leaving my gun behind, I flush a small covey, which flies deeper into the no-permission zone. We back out.

11:03 — Hawk points what turns out to be a pile of feathers and bones. Blood frozen on nearby reeds is a reminder we are not the only hunters chasing bobwhites.

11:43 — Legs ache after walking a mile of plowed, frozen fields.

11:53 — We move to Two Covey Ditch, scene of a five-bird-in-one-hour hunt earlier this season. Snow has filled the ditch. I ponder quitting as Hawk sleeps. But when the door opens he wakes and leaps out. I follow.

12:36 — Aside from one relatively fresh pheasant roost, we find no sign of game birds. Wind is whistling. The thermometer reads 11. Lunch calls. Though upland season closes soon (Tuesday in the North Zone and Jan. 15 in the South Zone) Quail Quest 2008 has been put off for a warmer day.

ICE REPORT: Ice conditions improved dramatically in the past week, with anglers reporting 4-6 inches of safe ice in most smaller lakes and ponds.

Larger lakes are another matter, even near Galesburg, which is typically an early ice hotspot. Al Hayden of Al’s Sporting Goods said Lake Storey, Oak Run and Lake Bracken all had a good amount of open water Thursday afternoon.

There’s also some open water at Evergreen Lake, though park operation supervisor Mike Steffa said he saw groups ice fishing Thursday near the boat rental, in Osprey Cove and at the mouth of Six-Mile Creek Bay.

SHOW YANKED: What does Chef Todd have in common with Howard Stern and Don Imus? Like those shock jocks he’s been fired from a radio gig.

So have I. Two days before our 18th outdoors show was to air, Independence Media pulled the plug on the hour-long Saturday show, sponsored by Presley’s Outdoors and Jim McComb Chevrolet.

“It’s purely a business decision that has nothing to do with how good the show was,” said Daryl O’Neal, an Independence Media honcho. “The things that don’t make enough money here have to go away.”

More about this later. For now, here’s hoping the show can find a new home.

ET CETERA: Peak of the annual Quadrantid meteor shower is today from 1 a.m. to dawn.

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