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Hunting in Illinois

Illinois is a paradise for hunters, offering an impressive array of game species. Deer reigns supreme among the 600,000+ annual hunters who take part in deer season.

Turkey and small-game birds like pheasant and quail are also popular prey in both spring and fall seasons. Waterfowlers flock to Illinois too—the state lies within the Mississippi River Flyway, making it one of the Midwest’s best duck and goose hunting spots.

Or try something exotic like woodcock or snipe. No matter your preference, there’s no shortage of adventure waiting in The Prairie State!

In this guide, we will cover everything you need to know about hunting in Illinois. We go over the type of animals you can hunt here, where to hunt them, hunting license information, regulations, and hunting seasons.

Hunting in Illinois

What Can You Hunt in Illinois?

For big game hunters, deer season is the highlight of the year in Illinois. Fall hunting offers up antlered and antlerless bucks to be taken with either firearms or archery equipment while special youth hunts are available during certain times.

Turkeys can also be hunted in spring and fall, using shotguns or bows, as well as waterfowl like ducks and geese at designated times. Small game hunters will find plenty to pursue too – from cottontail rabbits to grouse to squirrels.

Whether you’re after trophy whitetails or looking for a tasty meal of wild turkey, Illinois has something for everyone.


Deer hunting is one of the favorite pastimes of hunters in Illinois. However, it’s imperative to be knowledgeable of the deer hunting regulations in Illinois.

Get a valid license and tags for each deer you intend on harvesting. Familiarize yourself with the state’s bag limits, season dates, and other rules prior to heading out into the field.

Essential items include a quality rifle or bow as well as ammunition/arrows, camouflage clothing, and scent control products. There are numerous public lands that provide great opportunities for successful hunts while private land owners may grant access if asked ahead of time.

When it comes to safety – don bright orange attire so hunters can distinguish you from far away. Never point your weapon at anything unless planning on shooting. Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire!

Please note that no hunter is permitted to take more than two antlerless deer in a single calendar year, regardless of the number or type of licenses they have. This applies to all and any type of deer season.

Deer Season Illinois

Season Dates
1st Firearm Season Nov 17 – Nov 19
2nd Firearm Season Nov 30 – Dec 03
Muzzleloader Season Dec 08 – Dec 10
Archery Season (Cook, Lake, Dupage & Some of Kane County) Oct 01 – Jan 14
Archery Season (Other Counties & parts of Kane County) Oct 01 – Jan 14
 Youth Firearm Season Oct 07 – Oct 09
Late Winter Antlerless Season Dec 28 – Dec 31, Jan 12 – Jan 14


When hunting coyotes in Illinois, it’s important to remember a few things. First and foremost, these animals are protected by law and must be hunted according to state regulations; you’ll need the proper permits before taking them on.

Secondly, understand the firearms rules when pursuing coyotes – stealth is key. Also, pay attention to local population dynamics: food sources can affect how many of these territorial beasts roam around an area.

Knowing this will help determine when and where your hunt should take place for maximum success.

Coyote Season Illinois

Species Dates
Coyote Jan 01 – Dec 31 (Closed in Firearm deer season)


Skunks in Illinois are a common problem and need to be dealt with appropriately. Year-round hunting is allowed, though the season is closed from March 1st until July 15th. To hunt skunks, you’ll need a valid license; however, firearms are prohibited so you must use traps or snares instead.

It’s also important to note that while it’s legal to hunt them recreationally, commercial harvesting isn’t allowed by state law, and transporting live skunks across state lines without proper permits is illegal too.

Hunting Skunks in Illinois

Skunk Season

Species Dates
Skunk Jan 01 – Dec 31 (Closed in Firearm deer season)


If you’re looking to hunt Turkey, then Illinois is the place for you. Boasting some of the best turkey hunting opportunities in the Midwest, this state has something to offer both new and experienced hunters.

From Southern Illinois’ rolling hills to Northern’s expansive woodlands – there are plenty of places where one can score their next trophy bird.

In terms of species, Illinois offers Eastern wild turkeys and Merriam’s varieties throughout its lands. While Easterns are more common down south, Merriams tend to be abundant up north.

Turkey season runs from April 1st through May 31st and having a valid permit is necessary for any hunter wanting to take part in these great outdoors experiences.

Illinois also provides an abundance of public land options such as state parks, wildlife areas, and national forests – perfect spots for bagging your prized catch. Check with your local Department of Natural Resources office or website for all regulations before embarking on your adventure.

Turkey Season Illinois

Season Dates Notes
Spring Youth Mar 25 – Mar 26 ——-
Spring Youth Apr 01 – Apr 02 ——-
Spring South Zone Apr 03 – Apr 07 1st
Spring South Zone Apr 08 – Apr 13 2nd
Spring South Zone Apr 14 – Apr 19 3rd
Spring South Zone Apr 20 – Apr 26 4th
Spring South Zone Apr 27 – May 04 5th
Spring North Zone Apr 10 – Apr 14 1st
Spring North Zone Apr 15 – Apr 20 2nd
Spring North Zone Apr 21 – Apr 26 3rd
Spring North Zone Apr 27 – May 03 4th
Spring North Zone May 04 – May 11 5th
Fall Season Oct 01 – Jan 14 Archery
Fall Season Oct 21 – Oct 29 Shotgun


Illinois is home to two types of rabbits: the Eastern cottontail and the swamp rabbit. The Eastern cottontail is an ever-present sight across this great state, being active at dawn and dusk as they munch on clover and grasses. If you’re looking to hunt these speedy critters, you’ll have to be quick on your toes.

For those seeking a less common variety, there’s also the swamp rabbit — large in size with darker fur than its cousins — which can usually be found near streams or rivers in wetland areas where it prefers solitude over socialization. So whether you’re after something more common or rarer finds – Illinois has plenty of furry friends just waiting for you.

Rabbit Season in Illinois

Species Dates
Rabbit Nov 04 – Feb 15


Hunting doves in Illinois is a popular outdoor activity, and it’s important to stay informed about the season dates and bag limits. From mid-September through mid-November, hunters are allowed to take up to 15 birds per day with shooting hours starting one-half hour before sunrise until sunset.

When choosing your hunting spot, there’s plenty of public land available such as those managed by the Department of Natural Resources or local conservation districts. If you’re looking for something more private, try asking around for permission from landowners near you.

To make sure your hunt runs smoothly, don’t forget these essentials: a shotgun (12 gauge or smaller lead shot), a valid hunting license, plus snacks and water to keep you energized throughout the day.

Dove Season

Season Dates
Early Dove Season Sep 01 – Nov 14
Late Dove Season Dec 26 – 09 Jan


Quail hunting in Illinois is a great outdoor activity that can reward you with some delicious game. Before getting started, it’s important to understand the regulations for quail hunting – a valid license and Habitat Stamp endorsement are both required. Also keep an eye on bag limits, which stand at four birds per day and eight in possession.

If you’re looking for where to hunt quail in Illinois, look no further than grassy fields or wooded areas dense with vegetation. Early morning and late afternoon hours are your best bet since they tend to be most active during these times of day.

Make sure you bring along binoculars so you don’t miss out on any potential targets from afar! When it comes to weapons, shotguns are preferred due to their power allowing quick shots should your quarry take flight unexpectedly; light loads such as #7 ½ or #8 shot will give you the best results.

Hunting Quails in Illinois

Quail Season Illinois

Season Dates
North Season Nov 04 – Jan 08
South Season Nov 04 – Jan 15


Duck hunting is a thrilling sport for all levels of hunters in Illinois. It’s important to stay up-to-date on the regulations, seasons and bag limits that govern this activity. To get started, you must obtain a valid hunting license and any applicable stamps or permits from your local wildlife office before heading out.

Once you’ve done your homework on the rules, it’s time to gear up. Make sure you bring along a shotgun with ammo, decoys, waders and other necessary items as well as transport such as boat or canoe if needed for your hunt.

When scouting potential areas for duck hunting ahead of time take into account different wetlands and rivers.

Duck Season

Season Dates
North Zone Oct 22 – Dec 20
Central Zone Oct 29 – Dec 27
South Zone Dec 03 – Jan 31
South Central Zone Nov 12 – Jan 10

Teal Season

Species Dates
Teal Sep 09 – Sep 26

Coot Season

Season Dates
North Zone Oct 22 – Dec 20
Central Zone Oct 29 – Dec 27
South Zone Dec 03 – Jan 31
South Central Zone Nov 12 – Jan 10

Merganser Season

Season Dates
North Zone Oct 22 – Dec 20
Central Zone Oct 29 – Dec 27
South Zone Dec 03 – Jan 31
South Central Zone Nov 12 – Jan 10

Goose Season

Hunting Geese in Illinois

Species Dates
Canada Goose Sep 01 – Sep 15

Crow Season

Species Dates
Crow Oct 28 – Feb 28

Bobcat Season

Species Dates
Bobat Nov 10 – Feb 15 (Closed in Firearm deer season)

Fox Season

Species Dates
Fox Nov 10 – Feb 15 (Closed in Firearm deer season)

Pheasant Season

Season Dates
North Season Nov 04 – Jan 08
South Season Nov 04 – Jan 15

Partridge Season

Season Dates
North Season Nov 04 – Jan 08
South Season Nov 04 – Jan 15

Snipe Season

Species Dates
Snipe Sep 09 – Nov 18

Rail Season

Hunting rails in Illinois

Species Dates
Rail Sep 09 – Nov 18

Woodchuck Season

Species Dates
Woodchuck Jun 01 – Mar 31, Oct 21 – Dec 03

Illinois Hunting License Information

Hunting in Illinois requires you to have a valid license before you can take part. Different licenses come with varying costs and times of validity, like an annual license which is good for one year from purchase, or a multi-year that is available for three years after the date of buying it.

Lifetime and senior lifetime permits are also offered at authorized retailers – these ones are good forever. All hunters must also get an Illinois Habitat Stamp if they’re planning on turkey or deer hunting; this fee is $7.50 annually.

A Resident hunting license costs $12.50 while a non-resident hunting license costs $57. Veteran & Disability licenses are also available to purchase at very low prices.

It’s important to follow all laws when out in the field too: familiarize yourself with bag limits, use safety equipment properly (like blaze orange clothing), and respect other people’s property rights while hunting – not doing so could result in hefty fines.

Where Can You Hunt in Illinois?

Illinois is a veritable paradise for hunters of all kinds. Whether you’re chasing down deer, turkey, small game or waterfowl – the Prairie State has something for everyone.

For deer hunting enthusiasts, Shawnee National Forest is an obvious choice with its 280 thousand acres of prime hunting ground. But if you don’t mind state parks and wildlife conservation areas, there are also plenty of opportunities in those too.

Turkey hunters should look no further than Illinois River Valley – which offers some of the best populations in the state as well as nearby Southern and Central Illinois regions.

If your prey is smaller game animals like rabbits, squirrels, or quail, then you can find excellent conditions across many wildlife management areas throughout Illinois (not to mention foxes and coyotes). And when it comes to waterfowl hunting – be sure to head over to Lake Michigan where ducks & geese abound during migration season.

Let’s take a look at some of the best public places for hunting in Illinois.

Public Hunting Places in Illinois

Shawnee National Forest

Shawnee National Forest is an outdoor paradise, boasting over 280,000 acres of land in Southern Illinois. Here you’ll find a plethora of wildlife like deer, turkey, and waterfowl. The terrain spans from flatlands to rolling hills and bluffs — all providing the perfect hideouts for hunters.

Before heading out into this lush landscape, make sure you know your way around the forest’s regulations and restrictions on hunting so that you can stay safe (and legal!). You may even need special permits or licenses depending on where you decide to venture.

But hunting isn’t the only activity available here; Shawnee also offers camping, hiking trails, fishing spots as well as horseback riding and bird-watching opportunities.

Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan, one of the five Great Lakes and the second largest by volume in terms of water mass, is a Midwest gem. With its awe-inspiring aquatic diversity including walleye, lake trout, smallmouth bass, muskellunge, and northern pike – this body of water has become a haven for bird hunters too! Elk and bears roam around in search of food while ducks and geese flock to its shoreline.

When out on your hunt, it’s important to stay safe; check local regulations before setting off as certain areas may have restrictions or closures due to weather or environmental conditions. Also, remember that boating safety should always come first regardless if you plan on hunting from land or sea.

Lake Michigan offers an incredible opportunity for hunters looking for all sorts of wildlife species – so take advantage of such an amazing resource today.

Jim Edgar Panther Creek SFWA

Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area (JEPC) offers a wild adventure for all ages. This sprawling public access point in central Illinois is home to an array of wildlife, from deer and turkeys to pheasants, quail, woodcock, snipe, and rabbits.

Furbearers like possums, red foxes, gray foxes, striped skunks, and coyotes are also calling this place their own. Whether you’re hunting these animals or just enjoying the diversity of mature forests combined with grasslands and rare hill prairies – JEPC will surely provide something exciting for everyone.

Siloam Springs State Park

Siloam Springs State Park is a Midwestern mecca of natural beauty and recreation minutes away from Quincy, Adams County. Boasting 3,323 acres of lush wooded terrain, shimmering lake, and impeccably maintained facilities – this park captivates generations of outdoor enthusiasts.

From hunting to fishing, camping to boating, picnicking to hiking or bird watching – Siloam Springs has something for everyone.

Mississippi River State Fish and Wildlife Area

The Mississippi River SFWA is an ideal place for hunting in Illinois. With its diverse wildlife, including white-tailed deer, wild turkey, waterfowl, small game, and furbearers – you can get the full hunting experience here. Fishing opportunities are plentiful too with a variety of lakes and streams offering a range of species.

Deer hunters will find plenty of whitetail to pursue while turkey hunters have the chance to bag their quarry in spring or fall. Waterfowlers won’t be disappointed either; ducks and geese provide winter hunting options for those after winged prey.

Small game seekers can hunt rabbits, and squirrels among other critters while trapping raccoons, opossums, or beavers provides an interesting challenge as well! But don’t forget about regulations; make sure you know what they are before heading out into this great outdoors paradise.

Private Hunting Places in Illinois

When it comes to hunting in private places in Illinois, there are some important things to be aware of before you get started. First off, all hunters must have a valid license and follow state regulations when out in the field. Also, depending on where you’re going, you may need certain permits or fees for access.

In terms of what game is available for pursuit, deer, and turkey tend to be two popular species among those who hunt private land here. That said, with the right paperwork pheasant, quail, rabbit, and squirrel can also make up part of your catch if that’s something that interests you.

It’s worth keeping in mind that each property has its own set of rules so double-check with landowners ahead of time about specifics like what type of firearms or archery equipment is allowed on their premises. And remember – if you plan to bring friends along they need to have proper licensing too.

Overall, private hunting places in Illinois provide excellent opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts looking for quality hunting experiences.