Being the fall guy is a real pleasure

Jeff Lampe

The calendar says there are 10 days to wait.

The calendar is wrong.

Fall is here.

The birds told me so.

On the water the other evening I could barely fish for all the winged commotion. Bass weren't biting, but who could concentrate? The skies were filled with doves, blue-winged teal, Canada geese and swallows.

Others have reported similar sightings in recent days. Geese moved everywhere this morning, allowing some hunters to bag a few bands in advance of Saturday's early season finale. Teal arrived this week with the first real cold front, providing good gunning in places.

And everywhere are the swallows and other migrants, darting overhead as they move south.

The migration is on. It's time to flip the switch. Fishing, off. Hunting, on.

Every September is the same. I intend to fish well into the fall to take advantage of the season's best action. Read this week's fishing report and you'll see what I mean. Prospects have improved for every species in the past few days.

But something always replaces my fishing resolve. A cold night arrives and is followed by a cold morning. Jackets emerge from closets. The air feels different and smells different. Ducks fly overhead.

Next thing you know I'm on the phone with The Farmer planning a hunt. This week two trips to Snakeden Hollow near Victoria yielded one green-winged teal. A meager total, but the time was still well spent. Farmer's dog looks ready for the months ahead. So are we.

So give me a 40-degree day with wind-driven rain, please. I'll smile, load the dog up and go walk a hedgerow or hunker down in a duck blind.

Some people lament the passing of summer and the cooler days and nights ahead. Not me. I look forward to fall more than any other season. Yes, even more than spring. Spring is an easy season to love.

Fall is best savored with a shotgun, trailing a dog. Or with a bow, standing in a tree.

And it's here.

EHD DEER:

While southern Illinois has been hit hard by epizootic hemorrhagic disease, the Peoria area has seen only scattered cases of deer dying from the insect-spread malaise.

One such report came from Chad Hunzicker of Eureka, who runs Hunzicker's Deer Scents. He raises several deer behind fences for his scent-collection business and recently lost a buck to EHD.

'I don't ever want it to happen in a big way at my house,' Hunzicker said. 'The story I'm hearing from southern Illinois is they have lost big numbers.'

At present, 30 counties in southern and south-central Illinois have been hard-hit by the disease.

Hunzicker said some deer farmers lost nearly their entire herd. Reports of wild deer dying have also been widespread.

'Pretty much the whole southern tip of the state has reported cases,' biologist Tom Micetich told the Belleville News-Democrat. 'I'd say I-64 south is pretty solid.'

YOUTH SHOOT:

Oak Ridge Sportsman Club and the Illinois State Rifle Association have a youth shoot Saturday starting at 8:30 a.m. on the club grounds between Mackinaw and Tremont.

Youngsters age 10-16 who have completed a hunter safety class can receive instruction in shooting shotguns, rifles, pistols and bows. Ammunition will be provided, as will safety glasses, earplugs, rifles, pistols and bows. Shooters are asked to bring their own shotguns.

Cost is $10, which includes lunch. There will also be major prize giveaways. Admission is limited to the first 50 shooters. Call (309) 208-2624.

Et cetera:

The 2007-08 Digest of Waterfowl Hunting Regulations is now available in sporting goods stores. .?.?.

Chris Brackett

of Bartonville and

Danny Borland

of Glasford brought home massive black bears this week after a bowhunting trip near Wollaston Lake in Saskatchewan with Cochrane Creek Outfitters. Both hunters shot bears close to 400 pounds and Borland's had a skull measuring 20 inches around and Brackett's was 18 inches.

JEFF LAMPE

is Journal Star outdoors columnist. Write to him at 1 News Plaza, Peoria, IL 61643, call (309) 686-3212 or e-mail jlampe@pjstar.com