All About Hunting In Illinois

Illinois, a U.S. state, which is also nicknamed “The Prairie State” and is surrounded by vast swathes of farmland, forests, undulating hills and wetlands.

The Midwestern State of Illinois is renowned as one of the best states of USA that bestows great opportunities for trophy whitetail deer and eastern-strain wild turkey hunting.

In addition to being the abode of big bucks and trophy gobblers, Illinois also provides hunting opportunities for a diverse species of other game animals. Upland game animals in Illinois include pheasant, bobwhite quail and so on.

Hunting is a vital tool of wildlife management that maintains the health and abundance of game species and the balance of natural resources.

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1. Hunting Season

The dense foliage of Illinois and the variety of game species available there makes the state a must to be visited by the hunters.

Hunting seasons in Idaho mainly varies depending on the primary factors like breeding or nesting, age or gender distribution, economic and recreational concerns. If the animal population is large, moderators will time it to provide hunters a greater advantage to hunt. If the population is dwindling, they will set the dates to give the animals a greater survival advantage. 

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has established different hunting seasons according to the size of the species of the game animal and is mainly bifurcated into- Big game Hunting Season and Small Game Hunting Season.

1.1 Big Game Hunting Season

Big game species in Idaho mainly include a large variety of deer. The different seasons according to the weapon used are enumerated below.

  • For archery hunters, Illinois deer season starts from October 1 to January 17.
  • For Muzzleloader hunters, Illinois deer season starts from December 11 to December 13.
  • For Firearms hunter, the Illinois deer season commences from November 20 to 22 and ends on December 3 to 6.
  • For Youth Firearms Deer Hunt, the season is between October 10 to October 12.

1.2 Small Game Hunting Season

The category of small game species in Illinois largely incorporates animals like Turkey, Bobwhite Quail, Hungarian Partridge, Rabbit, Gray and Fox Squirrel and Crow. The hunting season for each is as follows.

  • Illinois wild turkey season starts from October 24 to November 1 (Fall Firearms) and from October 1 to January 17 (Fall Archery).
  • Bobwhite Quail hunting season is between November 3 to January 15.
  • Hungarian Partridge can be hunted between November 7 and January 15.
  • Rabbit hunting season commences from November 7 to February 15.
  • Gray and Fox Squirrel can be hunted between August 1 to February 15 (closed during deer firearms season).
  • Crow can be hunted between October 28 to February 28.

In Illinois, the small game hunting season mainly varies by different zones and hunting of certain game animals is disallowed during deer firearms season for the safety of the hunters.

2. What Species to Hunt in Illinois?

Illinois contains certain cool animals that are the native to the forests of the state. They are mentioned below.

2.1 Deer

In Illinois, there has been a nearly stable deer population from 2013 to 2019 of around 645,000 to 670,000 deer with a modest upward trend. White-tailed deer are available throughout the state of Illinois.

Their body hair is reddish-brown to tan and in winter it turns to greyish-brown, while throat, belly, inner rump, inside of the legs and underside of the tail are white. Whenever they perceive the arrival of a threat, they produce loud vocalization called snorts to alert others.

Harvesting deer during the regular archery and firearm deer hunting seasons aids to keep deer from becoming overabundant. Hunters are required to adhere to the hunting norms while pursuing deer in Illinois.

2.2 Turkey

The turkey is one of the largest birds among their ranges. Male turkeys are much larger and more colorful than the females. If you aspire to hunt turkeys in Illinois, you need to have a valid Wild Turkey permit, a hunting license and an Illinois Habitat Stamp.

Certain exemptions may apply for hunters under the age of 16, disabled hunters and veterans and former military members.

2.3 Bobwhite Quail

Quail hunting in Illinois was very popular for most of the early and mid-1900s with well over 150,000 hunters. The name “bobwhite” derives from its characteristic whistling call. The bill is short, curved and brown-black in colour. Both sexes have pale legs and feet.

The syllables of the whistle “bob-WHITE” are slow and widely spaced, rising in pitch a full octave from beginning to end. The hunters need to strictly follow the rules and bag limits, while pursuing quails.

2.4 Hungarian Partridge

The Hungarian Partridge, also known as Grey Partridge, is a rotund bird, brown-backed, with grey flanks and chest. They are a seed-eating and non-migratory terrestrial species.

Hunters willing to shoot partridges, are required to abide by the hunting regulations in Illinois.

Wildlife Illinois

2.5 Rabbit

Plenty of rabbit hunting opportunities in Illinois can be considered to be a huge blessing for the hunters. Rabbits have multiple litters and can breed at an age of only a few months. Disease and predation are the primary factors that check the growing rabbit population.

Searching for good rabbit hunting land is not as difficult as you may think. All that is required is a little pre-season leg work. Bag limits are 4 rabbits daily with 10 in possession after the third day of the season.

2.6 Gray and Fox Squirrel

The Gray and Fox Squirrel are native to North America in general, and to Illinois, in particular. They use scent marking to communicate with other fox squirrels. They are tolerant of human vicinity, and even exist in crowded urban and suburban environments.

They are excellent jumpers, easily spanning fifteen feet in horizontal leaps and free-falling twenty feet or more to a soft landing on a limb or trunk.

Rend Lake offer some of the superb squirrel hunting in Illinois. The fox squirrels are usually more active after 7 A.M. and during mid-day. The daily bag limit is 5 with 10 in possession, may be taken.

2.7 Crow

Crows are largely available in Illinois and is one of the most pursued upland birds. Formerly, Illinois offered a split crow season July 1 to August 15 and December 15 to March 1.

The crow hunting season has been changed in order to provide more opportunity during the crows’ fall migratory period. Hunters now may take crow from October 15 to February 28, though the hunting season is closed during the gun deer seasons.

3. Where Can You Hunt?

3.1 Public Lands

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources owns, leases and oversees over 200 sites for the purpose of public hunting. Hunters looking for public hunting lands need to take into consideration the past harvest rates. The land open to public hunting require certain special permits such as vehicle permits.

It is suggested that the aspiring hunter should check the rules published in the official website of the department of Illinois itself. Certain public hunting grounds of Illinois are enumerated below.

  • Pyramid State Park (Illinois’ largest State Park)
  • Crab Orchard NWR
  • Rend Lake SWFA
  • Wolf Creek and Eagle Creek State Park
  • Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish & Wildlife Area
  • Clinton Lake State Recreation Area
Top 5 Illinois Public Hunting Areas

3.2 Private Lands

Illinois ranks 46th in the nation for publicly-owned land with more than 97% of the land being privately owned.  IDNR has created the Illinois Recreational Access Program (IRAP) by using resources obtained from the US Department of Agriculture’s NRCS Voluntary Public Access-Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP).

Since the commencement of IRAP in 2011, more than 24,000 acres in 50 countries have been leased for outdoor recreational ventures. Millions of outdoor activity lovers have approached these sights, hundreds of youth and adult turkey hunters have completely took pleasure in pursuing gobblers and deer.

IRAP has penned down more than 70 forestry plans and undertook more than 13,000 acres of habitat projects on IRAP leased private property which comprises control of species with the implementation of aerial sprays and prescribed burning, establishment of pollinator and much more.

4. License Requirements

Usually, in order to go for hunting in Illinois, each and every one is required to purchase a hunting license, though there are some exceptions to this requirement.

Anyone born after January 1, 1980, will need to complete a Hunter Safety Education Course before obtaining a hunting license. Proof of completion of the course is required. Mostly, an electronic state habitat stamp is also required.

Waterfowl hunters will also need both the electronic state waterfowl stamp and the federal waterfowl stamp. However, if you are willing to hunt migratory birds, you need to register yourself for the Harvest Information program (HIP).

Hunters willing to use firearms need to procure a Firearm Owner Identification Card (FOID) from the Illinois State Police.

4.1 Age Requirements

For resident hunters of age 16 or older need to have a hunting license and must be followed by a licensed hunter of age 21 or above.

4.2 Types of Illinois Hunting Licenses

4.2.1 Illinois Resident

A resident is a person who has stayed in Illinois for at least 30 days. Active-duty military members are also considered to be residents. All Illinois residents must possess a resident hunting license. The state habitat stamp and species-specific permits may also be needed.

4.2.2 Non-Resident

All non-residents must have a non-resident hunting license. The state habitat stamp and species-specific permits may also be needed.

4.2.3 Youth Hunting License

Illinois residents of age 16 or below may purchase the Resident Youth Hunting License. They must be under the direct supervision of a licensed hunter of age 21 or older.

4.2.4 Senior Hunting License

Illinois residents of age 65 or older are eligible for the reduced-fee Resident Senior Hunting License.

4.2.5 Disability License

Illinois residents with disabilities may not be required to have a hunting license. The state habitat stamp and species-specific permits may be required. You can also check out the website of Illinois Department of Natural Resources for further details.

4.3 License Expiration

Hunting licenses are valid from January 1 to March 31 of the next year. Illinois residents are able to purchase a lifetime hunting license.

5. Hunters Education

To cover the basics of hunter responsibility and ethics, tree stand safety, first aid and field safety, the Hunters Education Course has been introduced.

Anyone born on or after January 1, 1980 may not be issued a hunting license unless he or she presents a valid Hunter Education Certificate of Competency issued by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Safety Education Division or other state.

An Illinois Hunter Safety Education certificate is accepted by all other states. There are three methods to take the course, as mentioned below.

5.1 Traditional Hunter Education Course

Traditional method of course is preferred and conducted through a 10-hour instructor-led class and demonstrations.

Classes may be a few hours a night for 2-4 nights or a full weekend class. The final class will end with a test to pass the course. This type of class is free, unless there is some form of activity provided that the student may choose to participate in.

Students completing the minimum 10 hours of instruction and successfully completing the final examination will be awarded with a State of Illinois Certificate of Competency.

5.2 Online Self- Study Course

Also known as Field Day Course, in this method, students of 17 years old and younger may study and complete each section of the course online, taking exams as they proceed. There is a fee charged and the student must attend a field day which implies hands-on participation and a final exam.

5.3 Online Certification

If you are 18 years old or above, you may finish the online course and obtain your Hunter Education Certificate. This option is offered by outside companies and there is a fee charged for the service.

6. Rules and Regulations

6.1 Distance Regulations

In Illinois, there is no such well-defined distance that you have to be from a house when hunting with a bow or shotgun. However, you must ask permission from the owner of the house or premises if you are hunting within 100 yards of that house or building.

This rule is applicable, even if you are hunting on your own property. Moreover, even if you are within 300 yards of a house and hunting with a rifle, handgun, or deer slugs such as a muzzleloader, you still need to seek permission.

Hunter Safety

6.2 Legal Hunting Hours

There are no specially proclaimed hunting hours in Illinois except that you need to follow the legal hunting hours of one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.

6.3 Hunter Orange Requirement

In Illinois, a hunter is required to wear a solid blaze orange or blaze pink cap or hat and an upper outer garment exhibiting at least 400 square inches of solid blaze or orange or pink material in order to hunt deer during all firearm deer seasons and track wounded deer with a dog during all firearm deer seasons.

6.4 Bag Limit

In Illinois, the bag limit or tag permits depend on the size of the game animal. The number of bag limit is more if it is a small game and vice-versa.

6.5 Can You Hunt at Night?

In Illinois, it is illegal to use lights of, any light from, or any light connected to a vehicle in areas where wildlife can be found. However, this does not restrict normal use of headlamps for driving upon a roadway.

Skunk, opossum, raccoon, red or grey fox and coyote may be pursued using a small hand-held light by a person who is on foot and not in any vehicle. Lights with any color of lens can be used while hunting coyotes as long as the lights are not used from any vehicle.

7. Bowhunting

In Illinois, hunters willing to practise crossbow hunting, have to be mindful of the space around the crossbow when he is pulling the trigger, being sure not to interfere with the bow’s limbs during the shot process.  That implies you cannot use a tree or corner of a box blind to steady your aim as you can do with a gun,

At the end of each unsuccessful hunt, you have to throw the crossbow, which requires you have to target and an extra regular tipped bolt, or you can simply shoot a discharge bolt into the ground, as long as the ground is not frozen.

Early Season Bowhunting | 3 Keys To Success!

7.1 Bow and Arrow Requirements

Certain specifications for bowhunting in Illinois are enumerated below.

7.1.1 Long, recurve or compound bows

  • Minimum draw weight of 30 pounds at some point within a 28-inch draw length is required.
  • Minimum arrow length must be 20 inches and broadheads must be used. It is unlawful to use electronic arrow tracking devices.

7.1.2 Crossbows

  • Minimum peak draw of weight 125 pounds is needed.
  • Minimum length must be 24 inches.
  • Fletched bolts or arrows of not less than 14 inches in length and broadheads must be used. Electronic arrow tracking devices are illegal.
    • Broadheads may have fixed or expandable cutting surfaces, but they must have a minimum 7- or 8-inch diameter when fully opened.
    • Broadheads with fixed cutting surfaces must be metal or flint-, chert-, or obsidian-knapped; broadheads with expandable cutting surfaces must be metal.
Treestand Safety

8. Game Calls

Game calls refer to the signals emitted by the hunters in order to tempt the animals to the trap. There are two kinds of game call: hand-held and electronic. Hand-held game calls are carried out with the aid of wood or plastic and are extremely cost-friendly.

Electronic game calls are, however, not always considered legal. Recorded or amplified sounds may not be used to hunt any non-game bird or non-game mammal except coyotes.


Adequate hunting opportunities are made available to the avid hunters in the ‘Prairie State’, to keep the hunters happy. Rich wildlife and beautiful greenery fascinate one to visit this beautiful land and pursue any animal they wish to, provided that the hunting norms are strictly obeyed.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources oversees hunting and forest lands. For further information, please visit the official website of IDNR:


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