Illinois offers more hunting opportunities than most people might suspect, and the state is home to several excellent hunts if you are looking to bag a trophy this year. But understanding the basics of the state’s hunting requirements is important first. With that in mind, it’s worth taking a look at the basics of big game hunting in Illinois.


To start with, you’ll need a license just as you would with any other state. Licenses can be purchased online through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources website, and range from $6.50 up to more than $765 depending upon the type of license being purchased. Residents will find lower prices than out of state hunters, but overall Illinois has lower license fees than many states in the country.

Additionally, youth hunting licenses are available for those under 18 and there is a special apprentice license for first time hunters looking to experience the thrill of the hunt for the very first time.

Once the license is bought you will need to pay for species specific permits and stamps depending upon the type of animal that you want to hunt. And those looking to use firearms in their hunts will need a Firearm Owner ID Card from the police in order to legally hunt with a rifle.

The Animals

Illinois is more limited on its available big game hunts. While waterfowl, turkey, dove, and other animals can be hunted or even trapped here, for big game hunters it is deer that will be the primary focus.

Deer hunting runs throughout the fall and winter, but the type of hunt you are doing will dictate the specific seasonal dates. Here’s a breakdown of the basics:

· Firearms – November 22 – 24, then again on December 5-8
· Muzzleloader – December 13-15
· Archery – October 1 – January 19
· Youth Firearms – October 12-14
· Late Winter and CWD – December 26-29, Then January 17-19

Due to the smaller population of deer in Illinois than many other states, there is actually a lottery system in place as well. You must submit an application to hunt and then wait to see if your name is drawn. If it is, you will be able to hunt deer in the state. If not, you may have to wait another year – but Illinois has plenty of other hunting options available if you aren’t chosen in the lottery. Just talking to one of the best hunting outfitters in Illinois can help you find a hunt worth your time.