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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

Illinois hunting and fishing

Wildlife biologist Kevin Oller walks across a field of burnt wheat after retrieving a downed dove.

Wheat a key for dove success

September 05, 2009 at 07:14 AM

As the hours ticked down to Tuesday’s dove season opener, my buddy Springer started getting nervous.

There weren’t many birds in the McLean County field he planned to hunt and he was almost ready to jump ship and slum with me and the Farmer in Peoria County. Wisely, he stayed put. Instead of less birds, Springer “was attacked” by doves in his best opener in years.

Few shared that experience this week in what was generally a below-average Illinois dove opener. For every hot private field there were plenty more slow ones. And with a few rare exceptions, hunting on public ground was well below average.

Others saw doves leave last weekend, when chilly temperatures in the 40s and a northeast wind offered plenty of incentive for the always-flighty birds to migrate.

“I think a big push of birds left Sunday night, I really do,” said Rick Valois at the Double T Goose Management Area near Canton. “Before that we were covered up in doves.”

Instead of a sizzling opener, Double T managed 4.9 doves per hunter — putting it in the middle of the pack for Peoria area public sites. Jim Edgar-Panther Creek led the way at 8.75 dph while Banner brought up the rear at 0.27 dph.

At Double T all but two doves came out of sunflower fields. Field planted with buckwheat, whose maturation was delayed by this wet summer, were far less productive.

Ironically, just the opposite was true elsewhere. The trend this week seemed to be that hunters who were near mature wheat fields that had been burned generally did well.

Larry Hill of Maquon has one such spot along the Spoon River, where he planted 3.5 acres of wheat and 2 acres of sunflowers. Tuesday’s opener was red-hot and even Thursday morning’s hunt was very good, as six of us bagged 15-bird limits by 9:30 a.m.

“I’ve got a buddy in Topeka named John Crum and he always said that burnt wheat is the best dove bait in the world,” Hill said. “These birds here have been in the wheat for three or four weeks and they’re still here.”

As Hill said that, a flock bombed into the blackened stubble, proving dove season is far from over even though most will hang it up after this weekend.

Similar stories came from most areas that held good numbers of birds opening week. Wheat attracted doves and held them long enough to allow late-maturing sunflowers to produce seeds. Landowners who relied only on sunflowers often wound up frustrated.

Illinois hunting and fishing


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