Hunting in Illinois is a popular outdoor activity that offers a diverse range of game species, beautiful landscapes, and the opportunity to connect with nature. The Prairie State provides hunting opportunities for its popular hunting species.
This blog will cover everything from hunting seasons, regulations, and game species to practical tips for a successful and enjoyable hunt.
So grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and dive into the world of hunting in Illinois.
Table of Contents
Illinois Hunting Season
Hunting in Illinois offers a wide variety of game species for outdoor enthusiasts, with designated hunting seasons spanning from early fall to late winter.
Here’s an overview of the general hunting season in Illinois for popular game species:
|Deer Hunting Season||Archery: Early October to mid-January|
Firearm: Mid-weekend of November and early weekend of December
|Wild Turkey Season||Fall Archery: Early October to mid-January|
Fall Firearm: Late October
Spring (both methods): Early April to mid-May
|Waterfowl Season||Duck: Late October to late January|
Geese: Early September to late February
|Upland Game Bird Season||Crow: Late October to late February|
Dove: Early September to mid-November & Late December to early January
Pheasant: Early November to early & mid-January
Quail and Partridge: Early November to mid-January
|Small Game Season||Rabbit: Early November to mid-February|
Squirrel: Early August to mid-February
|Furbearer Season||Bobcat: Mid-November to mid-February|
Fox: Early November to mid-February
Raccoon: Mid-November to mid-February
What to Hunt in Illinois
Illinois offers a variety of game species for hunters to pursue, making it a great hunting destination. The state’s diverse habitats and healthy game populations provide ample opportunities for a memorable hunting experience.
Here’s an overview of popular game species to hunt in Illinois, their population status, and where to hunt them:
If you’re interested in white-tailed deer hunting in Illinois, you’re in for a treat! Illinois is renowned for its healthy deer population and has gained a reputation for producing trophy-sized bucks.
Illinois is home to a robust white-tailed deer population thanks to a successful management program by the IDNR. The state’s diverse landscape, with a mix of agricultural lands, forests, and grasslands, provides the ideal habitat for deer to thrive.
Over the past few years, the deer population has remained stable, with an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 deer residing in the state.
Illinois has numerous state parks, wildlife management areas (WMAs), and conservation areas that allow deer hunting during the designated seasons. Some notable locations include:
- Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area
- Sand Ridge State Forest
- Pere Marquette State Park
Private land hunting also offers hunters exclusive hunting opportunities and experience.
Illinois has a thriving wild turkey population. The state has made remarkable progress in restoring its wild turkey population, making it a fantastic hunting destination for these impressive birds.
Public lands, including state forests, parks, and wildlife management areas, provide hunting opportunities, while private lands may also be accessible with permission from the landowner.
The state’s woodlands and forests provide ideal habitats for these birds, making their population grow to an estimated 150,000 wild turkeys today.
Illinois hunters can enjoy the state’s forests, parks, and WMAs to pursue wild turkeys. Some popular turkey hunting destinations include:
- Siloam Spring State Park
- Shawnee National Forest
- Apple River Canyon State Park
Aside from the state public lands, many private Illinois landowners lease their land for hunting turkey. Accessing private lands can offer a more exclusive and tailored hunting experience. Make sure to obtain permission and follow all rules set by the landowner.
Duck and Geese
Illinois is home to a diverse and abundant waterfowl population. The state’s location along the Mississippi Flyway, a major migration route for ducks and geese, provides hunters ample opportunities to pursue various species during migration seasons.
The waterfowl population in Illinois includes species such as mallards, pintails, green-winged teal, Canada geese, and snow geese, among others.
Public hunting areas, such as the Chain O’Lakes, Horseshoe, and Rend Lake, offer excellent waterfowl hunting opportunities. Private hunting clubs and guided outfitters are also available for a more exclusive experience.
Rabbit and Squirrel
Want to hunt rabbits and squirrels while enjoying the great outdoors? Illinois has something for you.
Illinois is home to various small game species, including rabbits and squirrels. The state’s diverse habitats, from forests to grasslands, support healthy populations of these animals. Eastern cottontail rabbits and gray and fox squirrels are abundant in Illinois, providing enjoyable hunting experiences for outdoor enthusiasts.
Public lands like state parks and wildlife management areas are great places to hunt small game. Here are some of the fantastic hunting spots for you to track these exciting small games:
- Kankakee River State Park
- Sand Ridge State Forest
- Pyramid State Recreation Area
Always consult the IDNR website or contact the specific location for information on hunting regulations and permit requirements.
Where to Hunt in Illinois
Illinois offers numerous fantastic hunting locations for outdoor enthusiasts. Here’s an overview of three of the best hunting locations in the state, known for their diverse habitats and abundant game populations:
Jim Edgar Panther Creek
The Jim Edgar Panther Creek (JEPC) State Fish and Wildlife Area is a 16,000-acre hunting location in central Illinois. This rich hunting spot is pretty famous for every hunter as it offers diverse landscapes to pursue Illinois game species.
The area is popular for its white-tailed deer, wild turkey populations, and small game species like rabbits and squirrels. Waterfowl hunting is also possible at the site’s numerous ponds and lakes.
The area provides hunting opportunities during designated seasons, and hunters must adhere to the site-specific regulations and obtain necessary permits.
Shawnee National Forest
This top hunting destination in Illinois spans over 250,000 acres in southern Illinois. The Shawnee national forest is known for its diverse terrain, from rugged hills and bluffs to wetlands and hardwood forests.
Shawnee National Forest provides excellent opportunities for hunting white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, and small game species like rabbits and squirrels. Waterfowl hunting is also available along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, which border the forest.
Rend Lake is a large reservoir in southern Illinois, covering around 19,000 acres. The lake and surrounding areas offer exceptional waterfowl hunting opportunities, particularly for ducks and geese.
The area is divided into different waterfowl hunting zones, and hunters must obtain site-specific permits and follow the regulations established by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). In addition to waterfowl hunting, the Rend Lake area also provides hunting opportunities for white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, and small game species.
Illinois Hunting Regulations
Hunting regulations in Illinois are established by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) to ensure the safety of hunters and the sustainable management of wildlife populations.
Here’s an overview of some key hunting regulations in the state:
All hunters in Illinois are required to possess a valid hunting license. These licenses vary depending on your age and residency status.
Note: Illinois requires hunters born on or after January 1, 1980, to complete a state-approved Hunter Education course before obtaining a hunting license. The course covers firearm safety, hunting ethics, and wildlife conservation.
Resident Hunting License
(Ages under 18)
(Ages above 65)
Nonresident Hunting License
(Ages under 18)
In addition to a state hunting license, hunters may need specific permits or stamps, such as a Habitat Stamp, Migratory Waterfowl Stamp, or species-specific permits, depending on the game they intend to hunt.
|State Migratory Waterfowl Stamp||$15.00||$15.00|
|Federal Duck Stamp||$25.00||$25.00|
|Archery Deer Permit||$26.00||$421.00|
|Firearm Deer Permit||$28.00||$300.00|
A non-toxic shot refers to shotgun ammunition made from materials other than lead. The use of non-toxic shots is a critical aspect of hunting regulations in Illinois, particularly for waterfowl hunting. This requirement is to reduce the risk of lead poisoning in wildlife, as lead can be harmful to the environment and the animals that ingest it.
This regulation applies when hunting the following waterfowl and upland bird species:
Remember that when using a non-toxic shot, you must use the appropriate shot size and choke combination for the game species you are pursuing. Non-toxic shot behaves differently than lead shot, and making necessary adjustments can help ensure an ethical and effective hunt.
Harvest reporting is essential to hunting regulations in Illinois, as it helps the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) track game populations and maintain sustainable wildlife management practices.
In general, hunters are required to report their harvested deer or turkey within 48 hours of taking the animal. Reporting your harvest promptly ensures accurate data collection and aids in effective wildlife management.
Hunters can report their harvest using one of the following methods:
- Online: Visit the IDNR’s website and navigate to the harvest reporting system, where you’ll need to provide your hunting permit number and other relevant information.
- Phone: Call the toll-free telephone check-in system provided by the IDNR. The phone number can be found on your hunting permit or the IDNR website.
- In-person: Some check stations may still accept in-person harvest reporting, but this option has become less common. Check with your local IDNR office or hunting area for available check stations.