Illinois Outdoors at PrairiestateOutdoors.com
RulesIllinois Outdoors at PrairiestateOutdoors.com
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

Illinois hunting and fishing

The roosters of northwest Iowa

November 13, 2008 at 12:05 PM

Iowa information

If you’d like to make a pheasant hunting trip to Iowa, visit Sportsmanatlas.com or call 1-800-568-8334 and spend $21.95 to purchase an Iowa Sportsman’s Atlas, which lists hundreds of public hunting areas.

 

We had hunted the same hedgerow for years with varying degrees of success. Typically the stumpy trees and grass yielded a pheasant, maybe two.

So it came as a surprise when birds began boiling out of the cover last Sunday. First one, then more and more pheasants flushed out of short, snow-covered grass along the hedgerow.

“That’s the most birds I’ver ever seen in there,” said Clyde Krause, who lives nearby and has spent years hunting the same spot south of Storm Lake, Iowa.

So it went last weekend in northwest and north-central Iowa, where three days of pheasant hunting surpassed expectations.

That’s not been true in all of the Hawkeye State this season. Most of Iowa has benn plagued by fewer birds, late harvest and less land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program. The few bright spots have been in northwest and north-central Iowa, where pheasant counts are up and corn harvest is farther ahead.

Then again, there are usually birds in northwest Iowa. This time of year there’s also often a trace of snow on the ground. For pheasant hunters that’s a great combination and explains why I’m always eager to make the six-hour drive to Buena Vista and Pocahontas counties.

Illinois hunting and fishing

That said, many ask why I stop short of South Dakota, the undisputed pheasant hunting capital of the world.

Part of the allure of northwest Iowa is visiting relatives and the Lampe Marsh, where we bagged six roosters in two days. But I’d opt for Iowa over South Dakota even if Uncle Rick didn’t offer free food, lodging and beverages.

Weather is one reason. The same front that dumped a blizzard in the Dakotas dusted western Iowa. The threat of a crazy storm is always worse in the Dakotas.

Plus Iowa is closer to home, meaning you can leave home in the morning and be hunting by afternoon as we did last Saturday.

Beyond that there are fewer outfitters and less leased land in northwest Iowa. And it’s a definite upgrade from central Illinois thanks to the variety of grassy cover, the healthy bird population and the abundant public ground.

Hunt Iowa and you will not shoot limits every day, as you might in South Dakota. But if you like watching dogs work and pheasants flush, it’s a more affordable compromise.

In three days our group — generally three hunters following two dogs — bagged 14 roosters and lost two cripples. My buddy Springer, pictured below, was on fire early and made most of our shots the first two days. We missed chances at several birds and could merely admire many others. Visit prairiestateoutdoors.com to see a video and pictures.

Illinois hunting and fishing

Overall the most impressive sight for me Illinois hunting and fishingwas not the 25-foot statue of Pocahontas, located in Pocahontas, but the pheasant flocks at a public hunting area near Laurens.

My buddy Springer and I left that site in awe after seeing hundreds of ringnecks heading to roost as the sun set.

“That’s probably more pheasants than we’ll see all year in Illinois,” I told Springer.

Then we started planning a return trip.

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