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

Turkey season ends with a bang

May 14, 2009 at 10:50 AM

At 4 a.m. I pondered staying in bed.

At 4:15 a.m I pondered going back to bed as I stood listening to the wind and fretting about the gnats and ticks everyone has been raving about.

But one thing kept me moving toward the door this morning. At lunch yesterday, Chef Todd had made a rare good point. “Dude, don’t you want to hear them gobble again? I mean this is your last chance. You gotta hunt.”

He was right on all counts.

Yes, today was the final day of the Illinois turkey season. And yes, I did want to hear them gobble again.

And boy did the gobblers deliver. I heard birds all morning in the Peoria County woods I hunted. Most significantly, I heard one bird very close. Twice.

The first time, he pulled a fast one on me. Before I knew what happened he had weaseled his way up to my hen decoy. Before I could put the bead on his head, he slipped away into the tall underbrush.

I figured that’s the way my season was destined to end. But rather than leave the woods, I decided to make a wide circle back in the direction the gobbler last headed. Along the way I took off my face mask. I looked for mushrooms (with no success). I revisited the roost tree where earlier this year during the first season I had heard a bird pooping on the roost. And then, as I started back to my truck, I heard another gobble. Close.

Stop.

Call.

Gobble. Still close. Wow.

Look around. Bad set-up. On the downslope of a hill, with a creek below me. Means the bird will have to come up over the hill and start down toward me. But what else can I do?

Prop up the decoy. Put the face mask back on.

Scramble a few yards behind a tree, because there was no way to get in front of a tree without being seen.

Call.

Gobble. Even closer. Wow. Heart beating strong. So glad I got up. How could I ever think of sleeping in? How can I thank the Chef?

Then silence. Long silence. Nerve-wracking silence.

And then, out of nowhere, a red and white head appears. Then a black body. Headed to my decoy. Close enough to shoot. Just get behind that tree and let me draw the gun up.

Bam.

The bird flopped, flapped and then fell into the creek nearby.

Not a monster (he weighed 19.44 pounds on the certified scale at Presley’s Outdoors), but he had a 9-inch beard and decent spurs.

More important than all that, my season was over with a smile.

And early, too. Early enough that the boys got to see the gobbler before school.

“Looks like a hen,” said the oldest, proving he inherited my turkey-hunting wisdom.

“Nice bird,” said the middle son, proving again why he is so much easier to deal with.

As for the youngest, he just stuck his face to the glass of the back door and gawked until I dragged him out for a picture—a photographic reminder that sleep is seldom a good enough excuse to miss a day of hunting.

 

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