Hunter success in Illinois has been increasing in recent years with more than one in every four permits resulting in a harvested deer. However, Illinois is also a complicated state when it comes to seasons, permits and regulations. Make sure you’re aware of the details.
Table of Contents
2023 Season Dates
|Archery||October 1-November 17November 21-November 31December 5-January 15||Counties with a firearm season and Kane County west of Route 47|
|Archery||October 1-January 15||Cook, DuPage and Lake Counties and Kane County east of Route 47|
|Firearm||November 17-19November 30-December 3|
|Muzzleloader||December 8-10||Muzzleloaders also allowed in second firearm season (November 30-December 3)|
|Late-Winter Antlerless Only||December 29-January 1January 13-15||Antlerless deer only with shotgun, muzzleloader or handgun|
|Youth Firearm||October 8-10||Only available for youth under 18 years old|
Licenses, Permits and Bag Limits
Illinois has a relatively complicated system of licenses and permits, which may explain why it doesn’t have as high a percentage of hunter participation as other states. First of all, all hunters must have a general hunting license with the following exceptions:
- Owners and family members on their own land
- Illinois residents who are active-duty military members
- Legally disabled Illinois residents
To get a license, you must have taken a hunter safety course, but there are apprentice and youth hunting licenses that allow you to hunt with supervision before taking the course.
Additionally, hunting whitetail deer in Illinois requires a state habitat stamp that can be purchased online.
You will also need a specific permit to hunt deer in Illinois. Generally, a permit applies to a specific season and allows you to hunt a single deer. The exception is a combo permit that lets you hunt one deer of either sex in addition to a single antlerless deer. The permit may specify the deer sex. You may be able to purchase an unlimited number of permits, or it may only be available by lottery.
Regardless of the number of permits you have or the season, you may only harvest a maximum of two antlered deer in a season.
Illinois Permits and Costs
|Permit Type||Sex||Cost||Max Available||Lottery?||Application Starting Date|
|Firearm or Muzzleloader||Either||$29.00||1 per application, but leftover permits are sold first come, first serve with a max of 5||Yes||March 7|
|Firearm or Muzzleloader||Antlerless only||$21.50||1 per application, but leftover permits are sold first come, first serve with a max of 5||Yes||July 11|
|Firearm or Muzzleloader||Combo (1 either sex + 1 antlerless)||$46.50||1 per application, but leftover permits are sold first come, first serve with a max of 5||Yes||March 7|
|Firearm or Muzzleloader||Either||$304.00||1 per application, but leftover permits are sold first come, first serve with a max of 5||Yes||May 11|
|Firearm or Muzzleloader||Combo (1 either sex + 1 antlerless)||$329.00||1 per application, but leftover permits are sold first come, first serve with a max of 5||Yes||May 11|
|Archery||Combo (1 either sex + 1 antlerless)||$410.00||1||No||June 1|
Illinois Permit Lotteries
As you can see from the table above, firearm and muzzleloader permits are provided through lotteries in Illinois. The first lottery runs from March 7 to April 30 and is only available to residents. Residents who weren’t successful in the first lottery, those who didn’t apply and non-residents can then enter the second lottery, which runs from May 11 to June 30. Then there is a final third lottery from July 11 to August 19.
Any permits that weren’t awarded in the three lotteries are sold over the counter starting on October 18. During this period, you can buy permits first come, first serve up to five until they’re gone or until 72 hours before the start of the relevant season.
What Weapons Can You Hunt With in Illinois?
Illinois allows both vertical bows and crossbows. Vertical bows have a minimum draw weight of 30 pounds, crossbows 125 pounds. Other regulations include:
- Arrows for vertical bows must be at least 20 inches long not including the point
- Crossbow bolts must be at least 14 inches long not including the point
- Crossbows must be at least 24 inches long
- Crossbows must have a working safety
- Broadheads must have a minimum ⅞-inch cutting diameter
- Fixed broadheads must be metal, flint, chert or obsidian
- Mechanical broadheads must be metal
Muzzleloaders must be single- or double-barreled rifles loaded via the muzzle. The barrel must be at least 16 inches, and it must shoot rounds of at least .45 caliber.
Archery equipment can also be used during muzzleloader season.
During firearm season, you can use the following guns:
- Between 10 and 20 gauge
- Barrel length between 18 and 26 inches
- Not capable of holding more than three shells in magazine and chamber combined
- At least .44 caliber
- Centerfire revolvers or single-shot handguns
- At least .30 caliber
- Barrel length of at least four inches
- Centerfire ammunition
- At least .30 caliber
- No full-metal jackets
- Not capable of holding more than one round in magazine and chamber combined
You can also use muzzleloaders during firearm season.
Can You Hunt With an AR-15 in Illinois?
No, you cannot hunt with an AR-15 in Illinois. Illinois only allows single-shot rifles for hunting, which excludes most AR-15-style rifles. Additionally, true AR-15s fire .223 Remington cartridges, which is too small for Illinois regulations. That said, you could theoretically hunt with an AR-15 clone chambered for cartridges bigger than .30 caliber and modified to only hold one round.
What Types of Deer Are Popular in Illinois?
Whitetail deer are the only species of deer native to Illinois. There are no mule deer, and elk have not been sighted since 1855 with most herds eliminated by the 1830s. As a result, whitetail deer take up an even larger share of Illinois hunting than nationally. For instance, nearly 150,000 deer were harvested in the 2021-2022 season, more than 10 times the number of wild turkeys.
What Else Is Popular to Hunt in Illinois?
Though not as popular as whitetail deer, Illinois has a number of other game animals you can hunt, such as:
- Wild turkey
- Waterfowl (ducks, geese, coots, etc.)
- Rabbits and squirrels
- Upland birds (pheasants, quail, doves, etc.)
- Furbearers (coyotes, skunks, raccoons, foxes, bobcats, etc.)