Illinois Outdoors at
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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

Mama dove still on the nest

March 09, 2009 at 12:18 PM

The winds that felled power lines, trees and many other structures over the weekend couldn’t dislodge Mama Collared Dove from her nest in my backyard.

And after briefly pondering whether or not to root for this Eurasian Collared Dove—an invasive species spreading rapidly through Illinois—I am now an unabashed fan.

No wonder these birds are doing well. They built a solid nest—at least by dove standards—in the safest part of our maple tree. And that Mama Dove did not leave the nest once while the wind whistled.

I’m finding it impossible to root against that kind of devotion and smarts.

So the next post I hope to post soon will be of young collared doves. I’m betting that should happen soon. And I’m betting the little birds stand a good chance of surviving. To make it through last weekend’s winds they are already survivors.

Story and comments
Illinois hunting and fishing

Wild Things 3-8-09

March 08, 2009 at 04:32 AM

Giant sycamore leaf

Anyone who has a sycamore tree in their yard can tell tales about large leaves from these trees. Few can top the leaf that bonked Alan Cotton in the head last November while he was walking through his Spring Bay yard.

Cotton said the leaf (pictured above) was 21 inches wide and tall. “I’ve seen them as large as a dinner plate before, but this was twice that size,” Cotton said.

Emiquon opener

While no firm date has yet been set, The Nature Conservancy is moving closer to opening its Emiquon Preserve to fishing. Jason Beverlin of The Nature Conservancy said the plan at present is to open the 2,000-acre restored wetland “sometime in April.”

“We’ve still got work to do, but I think we’ll be ready to open” in April, Beverlin said.

There will be no bank fishing allowed once the site opens and boats will be limited to electric motors only. We’ll keep you posted on future plans to fish this lake, which has the potential to be one of the best public bass fisheries in central Illinois.

Tip of the week

Two to three hours after sunset today will be the best time to view the ringed planet Saturn, which will be 780 miles from Earth — the closest it comes all year. Look to the east sky to see the planet.


Millions of dollars Illinois receives in 2009 from the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act for conservation and education.

Paying their way

Hunters, shooters and anglers continue to pay their way. Last year hunters, shooters and archers paid a record $336 million in excise taxes under the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act. Since 1939 Pittman-Robertson has generated $5.6 billion for wildlife conservation.

Illinois will also receive $8.1 million this year from the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Act. Overall anglers paid out $273 million in fishing-related excise taxes in 2008.

Fishing guide

The 2009 Illinois Fishing Information guide is available and includes a few minor changes for area lakes that take effect April 1.

  • Anglers at Dawson Lake will this year be limited to 15 crappie per day.
  • Lake Bloomington has a daily limit of 25 bluegill/redear of any size.
  • Anglers at Snakeden Hollow who use live bait larger than 8 inches must use a quick-set rig.
  • Anglers are not allowed to fish within 250 yards of waterfowl blinds that are owned or maintained by the Department of Natural Resources.
  • Lake Shelbyville has a limit of 15 crappie per day: five under 10 inches and 10 over 10 inches.

    Wild on the Web

    Long-time blogger J.R. Absher — who runs the — has a new companion site. Absher’s newest offering is called Slugs & Plugs and offers another good site to surf for outdoors information.

    Kudos corner

    The Illini Muskies Alliance is spending more than $1,000 to buy two pumps for the muskie rearing ponds at Jake Wolf Fish Hatchery in Manito.

    Turkey tags

    Click here to take part in random daily drawings for remaining spring turkey hunting permits that start Monday.

    Story and comments
Illinois hunting and fishing

Should we root for these doves?

March 04, 2009 at 03:49 PM

For the past two years, we’ve had a pair of Eurasian collared doves living in the neighborhood. And while they are noisy rascals, they are also pretty birds. Larger than a mourning dove and with that splash of black around their necks, they are impressive to watch.

Part of me likes having them around. But part of me frets about them, since they are an invasive species that is moving swiftly through the United States. Click here to read more about the spread of collared doves in Illinois. Here’s an excerpt from that article:

In the mid-1980s, some doves kept as caged birds in the Bahamas escaped and spread to Florida. Amazingly, in less than two decades, the dove has reproduced so successfully that birds are now found in 48 states and provinces. The first official Illinois record came in 1997. Today they occur in 60 of the 102 counties.

All of which leads me to my current moral dilemma. The female is nesting in the crook of a maple tree in the back yard. She has been sitting on the nest diligently for the past few days and I expect to see little doves any day now. Actually, they have been nesting for several weeks, but I think their first effort failed in an earlier cold spell.

Normally, I would be rooting hard for any nesting bird. But as noted above, these are invasive species. And we’ve seen what alien invaders can do to native populations. I’ve heard too many horror stories about sparrows from folks who maintain bluebird nest boxes.

Everything I read about collared doves says they are similarly aggressive. Certainly they cause a ruckus among other birds when they come in to feed. Birders think mourning doves may be negatively impacted by the spread of collared doves, since they compete for the same nesting areas and foods.

So what do you think? Should I root for Momma Collared Dove? Or should I hope for a sudden windstorm that knocks her out of her perch in our yard?

Illinois hunting and fishing


Story and comments
Illinois hunting and fishing

Wild Things 3-1-09

March 01, 2009 at 04:38 AM


Percent decline in duck harvest in 2008 compared to 2007 at 26 Illinois public waterfowl hunting areas.

Big racks displayed

Today’s finale of the Illinois Deer & Turkey Classic offers your best chance to see big bucks like the Bureau County 14-pointer pictured above hat was shot by Rich Josepher on Dec. 5 and that green scored 186 inches. Josepher brought his buck to the Classic on Friday.

More than 600 trophy mounts are expected at the Classic, which runs 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at Bloomington’s Interstate Center.

Trick shooter Byron Ferguson, a crowd favorite, shows his archery prowess at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Duck harvest down

The Illinois River Valley wasn’t the only area that suffered from a depressing duck season. State waterfowl biologist Ray Marshalla released estimates showing a 24 percent decline in duck harvest last season compared to the five-year average.

Data was drawn from 26 public areas that typically according for 80 percent of hunter use days. At those sites, 51,166 hunter days accounted for 50, 692 ducks. The daily success rate of 0.99 ducks per hunters is 7 percent below the five-year average and 6 percent behind 2007.

Did you know?

Illinois writer Ron Willmore has reviewed more than 30,000 whitetail bucks entered in the Pope and Young Club’s record books to find the best time to hunt for trophy bucks. His research showed more entries for Nov. 11 than any other single day.

Birding bits

Once again, I’ve got egg on my face. The recipe listed last week for Herb Unkrich’s home-made bird food was incorrect. Instead of one-half cup of lard, the recipe calls for one-half pound. Here is the correct recipe.

Mix one-half pound lard and 1 cup chunky peanut better; melt and add 2 pounds of yellow cornmeal, 1 cup flour, 2 cups old-fashioned oats, 1 cup sunflower hearts and mix well. You can also add chopped dried fruit.

Kudos corner

Manito’s chapter of Ducks Unlimited has been recognized nationally as one of the top fund raisers for D.U.’s habitat conservation work. Manito earned a spot on the President’s Top 100 list out of more than 3,500 chapters nationwide.

“D.U. volunteers have historically gone above and beyond and these chapters exemplify our grassroots system,” said Bruce Lewis, D.U. president. “Volunteers within these chapters are this organization’s foundation and their passion for conservation is what fuels their hard work.”

Tip of the week

High school teams fishing in the Banner Marsh bass fishing sectional on April 24 will compete out of the Main Access Area.

Critter corner

In the wilds of Illinois in March ...
Sandhill cranes and even some whooping cranes pass overhead as they migrate north.
Raccoons, opossums, coyotes, flying squirrels, muskrats, chorus frogs and skunks breed.
Chipmunks end hibernation.
Resident Canada geese nest.
Rabbits bear first litters.
Turkey vultures and bluebirds return.
Prairie chickens start booming.
Red maples bloom.
Pheasants start crowing.

Story and comments
Illinois hunting and fishing

DNR honeymoon may end March 18

March 01, 2009 at 01:19 AM

The honeymoon is still blissful for Gov. Pat Quinn and his new Department of Natural Resources director Marc Miller (pictured above at the booth on Saturday).

But things could change come March 18. That’s when Quinn will lay out his budget address. That’s when Miller will lay out what could be a call for license or permit fee increases. The cost of hunting pen-raised pheasants at Illinois properties is already expected to increase. But I would not be surprised to see costs of other permits increase. And not just non-resident deer permits, either.

Miller did not say that Saturday during his visit to the Prairie State Outdoors booth at the Illinois Deer and Turkey Classic in Bloomington (pictured above). He made a brief stop at several booths prior to heading off to the Illinois Conservation Foundation’s Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame banquet.

But that’s one conclusion that could be drawn from the state’s present budget deficit and from the fact that DNR programs will not be slashed.

Where to make up the slack? License fees. There are other places, of course. Charging people to use state parks is one possibility. Unfortunately, there is not much support in Quinn’s office for an entry fee to state parks—which is a common practice in many neighboring states. That’s probably understandable right now, since some of those parks have just reopened after their operation was mishandled by the former governor.

But instead of charging a park fee, the costs of DNR management will likely again be passed on to the group of users who already pay the most to enjoy the outdoors in Illinois: hunters and anglers. Understand, I am not complaining loudly about this. I will willingly pay more to hunt and fish if I think the DNR leadership has a clue. For the first time in years, I finally think that’s true.

Even so, it will be interesting to see what reaction will be to any changes that may come March 18.

Story and comments

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