Deer Hunting in Illinois

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  • B
  • 800,000

    Est. Whitetail Population

  • 620,000

    No. Licenses Sold Annually

  • $38 and Up

    Resident hunting license is $12.50. An archery deer permit is $26. A firearms deer permit is $25.50. A muzzleloader permit is $25.50. There are numerous lottery permits available that vary in price.

    Resident hunting license and deer permit

  • $358.25-468.75

    A non-resident hunting license is $57.75. An archery deer permit is $411. A firearms deer permit is $300.50. There are several other permits available that vary in price.

    Non-resident hunting license and deer permit

  • 204 4/8"

    Taken by Melvin J. Johnson in Peoria County in 1965 and ranks 4th overall.

    Record B&C Typical Stat

  • 809

    Total B&C Typical Entries

  • 327 7/8"

    Taken by Luke Brewster in Edgar County in 2018 and ranks 3rd overall.

    Record B&C Non-Typical Stat

  • 657

    Record B&C Non-Typical Entries

Cody Tucker poses with his once-in-a-lifetime Illinois buck. (Cody Tucker photo)

Season Dates (2020):

Archery season spans October 1 to January 17, with closed days in certain areas. Firearm season is November 20 to 22 and December 3 to 6. Muzzleloading-only season is December 11 to 13. Youth firearm season is October 10 to 12. Please check the Illinois DNR website to confirm season dates.

Grade: B

Looking solely at records, you’d have to give Illinois top honors. That isn’t the only factor, though. Tags are expensive. Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) keeps coming, and impacted different areas in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. Chronic wasting disease (CWD) continues to be a concern. And finding a place to hunt is no easy task. Fortunately, non-resident tags are available over-the-counter now. But like other top destinations, the secret of its glory has long since become common knowledge. People have flocked here for the last 20 to 25 years, and that isn’t changing anytime soon.

Still, there is a lot of good deer hunting in Illinois. You just might have to pay a little more for it. Plus, if you can find access to private land, chances are good it’ll be a honey hole. The Illinois DNR does a phenomenal job managing its herd. Harvest reports paint this picture, and can even help plan a good hunt.

Antler Nation Knowledge:

More than 95% of Illinois is privately owned. Only about 900,000 acres are public, and less than 10,000 deer are taken on them each season. However, the DNR is good about managing what it does have. It even produces public hunting area reports every year. These are excellent tools for planning a potential hunt.

Despite not having a lot of public, Illinois’ hundreds of public properties fall under a wide variety of categories. Don’t overlook Army Corps of Engineers, wildlife management areas, fish and wildlife areas, national forests, natural areas, natural preserves, reserves, state habitat areas, state recreation areas, state parks, state forests, walk-in, etc.

While the entire state of Illinois contributes heavily to the record books, central and northern counties are a little more consistent at doing so. Some of the top producers of Boone and Crockett and Pope & Young bucks include Adams, Brown, Cass, Clark, Calhoun, Edgar, Fulton, Jo Daviess, Kane, Knox, La Salle, Macoupin, Marshall, Ogle, Peoria, Pike, Schuyler, Lake, McDonough, McHenry, Will and Winnebago. Other counties are hot on their heels, though, especially some that border them.

There are a bunch of urban areas in northern Illinois, and CWD is most prevalent in this area of the state, too. So, southern and central counties are likely the best places to avoid it. Fortunately, the southern two-thirds of the state is also filled with healthy deer herds and solid deer densities.


Illinois Harvests

  • Richard Gaston

    Adams, Illinois

  • billy hammond

    Illinois, Illinois

From the Realtree Trophy Den