Illinois Hunting Laws

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Open season is just a few weeks away for most of the US. It's an exciting time of year for veteran hunters and beginners alike. But before heading out on your first hunt in the Prairie State, make sure you're familiar with Illinois hunting laws.

Most seasoned hunters may be well aware that hunting laws evolve almost on a yearly basis. The governments’ main objective is to address public safety. Both for the benefit of the hunter and the hunted.

Illinois Hunting Laws

It's vital to know the latest Illinois hunting laws before heading out on your first hunt. Studying your state's hunting laws might be a bit time-consuming, and most of us are impatient to get out there and start shooting. But breaking the law and having to pay a fine can put a serious damper on your hunting season.

Keep reading to learn about Illinois hunting laws including dates, which animals you’re allowed to hunt, which weapon you're allowed to use, how to get a hunting license, and much more.

 1. Deer Hunting in Illinois

Deer Hunting in Illinois | Illinois Hunting Laws
  • Firearm Season (Handgun, Muzzleloader & Shotgun):
    • Nov. 18–20; Dec. 1–4, 2016
    • One deer per firearm permit
  • Deer (Muzzleloading rifles only):
    • Dec. 9 – 11, 2016 (also allowed Dec. 1–4)
    • One deer per muzzleloading rifle permit
  • Special CWD Deer Season:
    • Dec. 29, 2016 – Jan. 1, 2017 and Jan. 13–15, 2017
    • One deer per valid deer permit
  • Late-Winter Antlerless Deer (Handgun, Muzzleloader & Shotgun)
    • Dec. 29, 2016 – Jan. 1, 2017 and Jan. 13–15, 2017
    • One antlerless deer per permit
  • Deer (Archery in counties with a firearm season and west of Rt. 47 in Kane County)
    • Oct. 1 – Nov. 17, Nov. 21–Nov. 30, and Jan. 13–15, 2017
    • One deer per archery permit
  • Deer (Archery in Cook, DuPage, Kane [east of Route 47] and Lake counties)
    • Oct. 1, 2016–Jan. 15, 2017
    • One deer per archery permit
  • Youth Firearm Deer Season
    • Oct. 8–10, 2016 and Nov. 18–20, 2016
    • One deer

Legal Methods of Take

Legal Firearms & Ammunition:

  • Single or double barreled muzzle-loading rifles with a barrel of at least 16 inches in length. Shooting a single projectile of at least .45 caliber.
  • Shotguns capable of firing a maximum of 3 slugs only, not larger than 10 or smaller than 20 gauge.
  • Centerfire single-shot handguns or center fire revolvers with a minimum barrel length of 4 inches firing .30 caliber or larger.
  • Only soft point or expanding bullets are allowed to harvest white-tailed deer. (copper/copper-alloy rounds designed for hunting are included)
  • Handguns:
    • A straight-walled centerfire cartridge (no case length limit) or a bottleneck centerfire cartridge of .30 caliber or larger with a maximum case length of 1.4 inches, which must be available as a factory load with published ballistic tables of the manufacturer showing a capability of at least 500 foot pounds of energy at the muzzle.
  • Muzzleloading firearms and shotguns:
    • The minimum size of the projectile shall be .44 caliber.
    • A sleeve or wad shall not be considered a projectile or part of a projectile.


  • A compound, long, or recurved bow:
    • must have a minimum pull of 40 pounds at some point within a 28-ince draw.
    • Arrow length should have at least 20 inches.
    • Expandable (must be metal) or fixed blades broad heads (must be metal or chert-, obsidian-, or flint-snapped) must be used. However, when fully opened, must have a minimum diameter of 7/8 of an inch.


  • Must have a working safety.
  • The peak draw must have a minimum of 125 pounds and a maximum of 200 pounds.
  • Have a minimum overall length of 24 inches from butt of stock to front of limb.
  •  Be used with fletched bolts or arrows with a minimum length of 14 inches (not including point).
  • Expandable (must be metal) or fixed cutting surface broad heads (must be metal or chert-, obsidian-, or flint-snapped) must be used. However, when fully opened, must have a minimum diameter of 7/8 of an inch.

For other details on legal firearms for late-winter antlerless deer, special CWD season, and youth deer season, aim for page 15 – 17 of the Illinois Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations 2016 – 2017

 2. Duck Hunting in Illinois

All Zones:

  • Teal: September 3 – 18

North Zone:

  • Youth Hunt Duck:    October 8–9 / Oct. 15–Dec. 13 / Oct. 15 – Jan. 12, 2017

Central Zone:

  • Oct. 15–16
  • Mergansers:    October 22 – December 20, 2016
  • Nov. 12–January 31

South Central Zone:

  • Nov. 5–6
  • November 11–January 9
  • November 11–January 31

South Zone:

  • Nov. 12 -13
  • November 24–January 22
  • November 24–January 31

check out more for details on goose seasons and waterfowl zone maps on page 9–10 in the Digest Waterfowl Hunting Regulations.


Hunting Devices & Ammunition Restrictions

For hunters 62 years or older, a handicapped person, you may use a crossbow to take waterfowl.

A hunter can use a shotgun that can hold three shells or fewer. If it can hold more than that, a one-piece filler must be plugged in to limit the total shell capacity to three.

It is unlawful to:

  • Use a pistol, shotgun, rifle, larger than a 10-gauge, battery gun, punt gun and machine gun.

Daily duck bag limit:

  • Six (6) and may include no more than four (4) mallards (two hens), three (3) wood ducks, three (3) scalp, two (2) redheads, two (2) pintails, two (2) canvasback, one (1) black duck, and one (1) mottled duck.
  • The proposed daily bag limit of mergansers is five (5), only two of which may be hooded mergansers.

The possession limit for ducks and mergansers is three times the daily bag limit by species and sex.

For more details, fill in on page 13 of the summary of state and federal regulations.


3. Turkey Hunting in Illinois

Turkey Hunting in Illinois | Illinois Hunting Laws

Youth Turkey Season:

  • South Zone:     March 25 – 26, 2017
  • North Zone:     April 1 – 2, 2017
  • Both Zones Limits: One gobbler or bearded hen, counts toward maximum of 3 spring permits

Spring Shotgun or Archery

  • South Zone:     April 3 – May 4, 2017
  • North Zone:     April 10 – May 11, 2017
  • Both Zone Limits: One gobbler or bearded hen per limit, maximum of 3

Fall Shotgun Season:

  • Oct. 22–30, 2016
  • Limit: One either-sex turkey per permit, maximum of 2

Fall Archery

  • October 1, 2016 – January 15, 2017
  • Limit: One either-sex turkey per permit, maximum of 2

Legal Hunting Devices

  • Long, recurved or compound bow with a minimum pull of 40 pounds within a 28-inch draw
  • Crossbows shall have a minimum peak draw weight of 125 pounds, with a minimum overall length of 24 inches from butt stock to front limbs.
  • Shotguns with an overall minimum length of 26 inches using 20 gauge to 10 gauge only.

You can learn more detailed information on what a hunter can legally use to take wild turkey or if you're just new to hunting, you can learn how to master the art of setting your rifle scope first.


How to Get a License

There are different kinds of hunting licenses that you can apply for. You can avail of it either online, via vendors, and also thru paper application.

You can learn more about the different kinds of licenses and permits as well as its costs by clicking here.

Once you have your game, you might want to learn how to make your own deer jerky recipe.

There's more to learn about waterfowl hunting licenses and permits and public duck permit applications.

Do you want to know what it's like to hunt during the youth waterfowl hunt in Sangchris Lake? Watch this video by Illinois DNR

As long as you are knowledgeable with Illinois hunting laws and regulations and abide by them to the letter, you and your hunting buddies will surely enjoy every minute of hunting.

Hunt safe and hunt proud!

Illinois Hunting Laws

If you want to learn more about hunting laws and regulations, hunt your way by clicking here.

Did you like this hunting article? Learn more hunting laws in the state of Alabama.

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