Turkey Hunting in Illinois

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  • C
  • N/A

    Wild Turkey Population

  • Easterns

    Turkey Subspecies

  • 297,243

    Number of Licenses Sold Annually

  • Varies (check regulations)

    Cost of Resident License and Permit

  • Varies (check regulations)

    Cost of Non-Resident License and Permit

Historically, wild turkeys were eliminated here by 1910. According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, starting in 1959 trapped wild turkeys from other states were transferred to begin restoration efforts (the 1970s through 2003).

Illinois now has wild turkeys statewide where suitable habitat provides.

Some 700,000 acres of public land in the state – 290,000 of which are comprised of tracts of federal ground; the 280,000-acre Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois, for instance – are available. Knocking on private-land doors will also get you on some decent hunting opportunities.

Good news is Illinois has had several solid years of turkey production success, so there's that. Inclement weather had resulted in decreased poult production in previous years. Recently, however, sources say warm summer weather has seen something of a surge in nesting and poult observation. 

Late hatches from renesting is also a factor, as hens persevere to raise broods.

So much so that population estimates in 2022 aren't available from the state. Previously, the number 103,000 (NWTF data) was floated as an informed guess. 

As hunting harvest numbers go, 15,831 spring birds were taken in 2020, says the state, down to 13,613 last season.

Nonresident hunters are currently challenged by an intricate lottery system (limited to the second and third lotteries), while residents can apply in all three.

That said, Illinois remains a state worth checking out on your spring turkey tour, tags providing.

– Steve Hickoff

Turkey Hunting in Illinois © Tes Randle Jolly photo

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