Joshua Cordray

Illinois Deer Hunting Season

What do you need to know in order to bag your trophy buck during the next Illinois Deer Hunting Season? Maybe you need the right dates. Maybe you need to know the best gear. Maybe you've got to brush up on the latest rules and regulations. Whatever you need, we've got you covered. Here's where we're going in this article:
  • Key Dates and Regulations: Stay informed of the 2024 season’s schedules and legal requirements.
  • Where to Hunt: Discover the best public and leased lands for hunting.
  • Safety and Ethics: Learn crucial safety tips and ethical practices to enhance your hunting experience.
Ready to step into the wild? Dive deeper into the world of Illinois deer hunting with us!

The big thing to remember about hunting in Illinois is that the Illinois Department of Natural Resources governs the game. They set the dates, bag limits, locations, regulations, and more. We’re going to sumamrize the best info for you in this article. You can always check their website for the exact information  for each season and location.

2024 Season Dates for Illinois Deer Hunting

whitetail deer in field

Deer Archery Hunting Season

The 2024 Illinois Archery Deer Hunting Season kicks off on October 1st and extends through January 15th, allowing hunters to utilize the autumn and early winter months, which cover the rutting period when deer are most active. This season applies statewide, with specific considerations for counties with firearm seasons and urban areas where only archery deer hunts are permitted. 

Firearm Season

The Firearm Deer Hunting Season in Illinois is split into two distinct segments to manage hunter distribution and deer population effectively.

  • The first segment begins on November 22nd and ends on November 24th.
  • The second segment provides a longer window from December 5th to the 8th.

These dates are designed to get hunters out into the woods when the trophy whitetail deer are going to be most active. Here’s four ways this helps hunters:

  1. Early October: While the weather can still be warm, hunters can have success by hunting in the mornings and evenings when deer movement is highest. Using techniques like aggressive blind grunting and using fresh buck and doe tarsals can help draw bucks in.
  2. First 3-day firearm season (usually the weekend before Thanksgiving): This is traditionally the most productive time for firearm hunters, with around 80% of the total deer harvest during the 7-day firearm season occurring during this first 3-day period. Hunters should focus on travel corridors and escape routes.
  3. After the first firearm season: While the second firearm season can still produce some big bucks, many deer have been harvested or spooked by this point. Deer may start to “yard up” for winter and hunters should focus on areas where deer naturally congregate.
  4. Muzzleloader season (second weekend in December): At this time, deer have usually calmed down from the firearm season pressure and are focused on feeding and bedding near winter food sources.

In summary, the peak rut activity in Illinois tends to occur in the first 3-day firearm season around Thanksgiving, with good opportunities also in early October and the muzzleloader season in December.

Illinois allows the use of shotguns, centerfire rifles, muzzleloaders, and handguns during these periods, giving hunters a variety of methods to participate in the season.

Muzzleloader-Only Season

Following the firearm seasons, a Muzzleloader-Only Deer Season is scheduled from December 13th to December 15th. This season is designed for hunting enthusiasts who prefer the traditional method of using a muzzleloading rifle. The muzzleloader season often sees fewer hunters, providing a quieter hunting experience and potentially less skittish deer. Hunters participating in this season must have a specific muzzleloader permit and are subject to the same bag limits as the firearm season.

Illinois deer hunting season dates

Season TypeDates
First Firearm Deer SeasonNovember 22, 23, 24, 2024
Second Firearm Deer SeasonDecember 5, 6, 7, 8, 2024
Muzzleloader-Only Deer SeasonDecember 13, 14, 15, 2024

Permits and Applications

Illinois operates a lottery system to issue permits for deer hunting. There are three lotteries and any remaining permits are sold over the counter at license vendors starting October 15th. 

Here’s a summary of the lottery rules and dates for the 2024 Deer Firearm and Muzzleloader Hunting Seasons from the provided web page content:

Lottery Application Dates and Rules:

Lottery 1:

  • Dates: March 5, 2024, to April 30, 2024
  • Eligibility: Illinois Residents Only
  • Limit: One application per person (either online or paper application) for a Firearm permit and one application for a Muzzleloader permit.
  • Group Hunt: Applications are accepted.

Lottery 2:

  • Dates: May 13, 2024, to June 30, 2024
  • Eligibility: Illinois residents who didn’t apply or weren’t successful in Lottery 1 and Nonresidents.
  • Limit: One application per person (either online or paper application) for a Firearm permit and one application for a Muzzleloader permit.
  • Group Hunt: Applications are accepted.

Lottery 3:

  • Dates: July 11, 2024, to August 16, 2024
  • Eligibility: Illinois residents and nonresidents.
  • Limit: No application limit for Firearm or Muzzleloader permits.
  • Group Hunt: Applications are NOT accepted.

Additional Rules:

Landowner permits: Those who have received or have pending applications for Landowner Deer Firearm permits cannot apply for permits in the First or Second Lottery Firearm Deer Drawing; however, they may apply in the Third Lottery Drawing. They are eligible to apply for additional permits in the First or Second Lottery Muzzleloader Deer Drawing.

Over-the-Counter Permit Sales:

Remaining Firearm and Muzzleloader permits after Lottery 3 will be sold over the counter at License Vendors from October 15, 2024, on a first-come, first-served basis, until quotas are exhausted or until the close of the deer season.

Special Hunt Area (SHA) permits are only available via the lottery and not sold over the counter.

This summary encapsulates the key dates, eligibility requirements, limitations, and additional rules for applying to the deer hunting lotteries and permit sales.

Illinois Deer Hunting Bag Limits

When I read the regulations from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, I had to re-read them a few times. They are a bit wordy. So, here’s a quick sumamry for you:

  • Hunters can have a maximum of 2 antlered deer per year, across all hunting seasons (youth, archery, muzzleloader, firearm).
  • Hunters with an “either-sex” permit can take a deer with or without antlers.
  • Hunters with an “antlered-only” permit can only take a deer with at least one antler 3 inches or longer.
  • Hunters with an “antlerless-only” permit can only take a deer without antlers or with antlers less than 3 inches long.
  • After taking 2 antlered deer in a year, hunters can only use an “either-sex” permit to take an antlerless deer.

The key is that there is a two antlered deer limit per hunter per year, regardless of the type of permits they hold. The different permit types just determine what specific deer the hunter can take.

Illinois Hunting Licenses

illinois deer hunting

Illinois offers several different hunting licenses and permits for deer hunters, which can be purchased through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) website or authorized vendors. The key licenses and permits for deer hunting in Illinois include:

  • Resident Hunting License: Required for Illinois residents to hunt deer and other game. Costs $12.50 for an annual license.
  • Non-Resident Hunting License: Required for out-of-state hunters, with options for an annual license ($57.75) or a 5-day license ($35.75).
  • Deer Archery Permit: Allows hunting of deer during the archery season, with either-sex and antlerless-only options available.
  • Deer Firearm Permit: Provides the ability to hunt deer during the firearm seasons, also with either-sex and antlerless-only options.
  • Habitat Stamp: An additional $5 stamp required for all hunters in Illinois, regardless of residency.

Hunters can buy a hunting license through the IDNR website, by phone, or at authorized vendors across the state. Proper licensing is essential for legal deer hunting in Illinois.

Deer Hunting on Leased and Public Lands in Illinois

illinois whitetail deer

When you go out on your hunt, you’ve got two big options: hunt on the crowded public lands or pay a little extra to hunt on private lands. Whether you are going for a private lease or hitting the public spots when the season opener comes, we’ve got the right information to help you.

Overview of Public Hunting Lands

Illinois offers a variety of public lands where deer hunting is permitted, providing ample opportunities for hunters without access to private land. Here are five things you may not know about public hunting lands in Illinois:

  1. Illinois has 247 public hunting sites available for residents and non-residents to hunt deer and other species.
  2. When hunting on public lands, it’s important for hunters to be aware of the specific rules and regulations that vary between different public hunting sites in Illinois.
  3. Some of the best public land deer hunting opportunities in Illinois can be found on sites like the Shawnee National Forest, Sangchris Lake State Park, and the Kaskaskia River Fish and Wildlife Area.
  4. Hunters should be aware of the presence of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in certain counties in northern Illinois, and are required to have deer checked during firearm seasons in those areas.
  5. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) manages deer populations on public lands through regulated hunting seasons and harvest quotas, balancing ecological principles with human interests.

Changes to harvest quotas, regulations, and permits don’t generally happen in the middle of a season. Instead, during the offseason, the IDNR meets and publishes specific guidelines for the upcoming year. This means you are unlikely to get caught out or suprised if you do your research in the spring and summer.

Key public lands in Illinois where deer hunting is permitted include:

Shawnee National Forest

  • The Shawnee National Forest covers over 280,000 acres in southern Illinois and offers extensive opportunities for deer hunting.
  • Deer hunting is allowed during both firearm and archery seasons on designated areas within the national forest.
  • Hunters must obtain the proper permits and follow all regulations set by the U.S. Forest Service for hunting in the Shawnee National Forest.

Siloam Springs State Park

  • Siloam Springs State Park is known for having a robust deer population and provides designated hunting areas for both firearm and archery deer seasons.
  • Hunters must obtain the required Illinois deer hunting permits and follow all state regulations when hunting in the park.
  • The park may also have additional site-specific rules and requirements that hunters need to be aware of before hunting there.

Jim Edgar Pankie Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area

  • This 16,000-acre area features a mix of prairie and woodland habitats that are ideal for deer hunting.
  • The IDNR manages the deer population in this area through special managed hunts to help control the deer numbers.
  • Hunters need to obtain the proper permits and follow the specific regulations for this site, which may differ from statewide deer hunting rules.

Hunters are required to follow specific regulations regarding season dates, permitted weapons, and bag limits when hunting on public lands. Additionally, some areas may require special permits obtained through lotteries or drawings, aimed at managing hunter numbers and ensuring a quality hunting experience.

Here are two resources to help you get started with hunting on public land:

Leased Land Hunting Opportunities

Tired of crowded public lands, unpredictable hunting pressure, and elusive game? The dream of a successful hunt can feel out of reach when you’re battling with other hunters on public land. Wouldn’t it be amazing to have your own private slice of hunting paradise where you call the shots? That’s where a hunting lease comes in.

Finding the perfect hunting lease in Illinois can be a breeze with Hunting Locator on your side. We have extensive listings that cater to all your needs, from location and size to the type of game you’re hoping to hunt. Stop wasting time scouring countless websites – let us simplify your search and help you find your dream hunting ground.

Browse through our extensive listings of hunting leases in Illinois: Hunting Leases in Illinois

Not sure where to start with a lease agreement? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Check out our guide to hunting lease agreements to ensure you have everything you need to secure your dream lease. 

Safety, Ethics, and Legal Compliance in Illinois Deer Hunting

We are not “safety Sally” or slaves to rules. But we also don’t like the idea of taking a stray round from someone who thinks we look like a great trophy. Safety and ethics are a strong part of hunting responsibly and coming home with a trophy buck. Here are some of our best Illinois hunting safety tips

Hunting Safety Tips

Safety is paramount in any hunting scenario, particularly during the busy deer seasons in Illinois. Hunters should adhere to several important safety guidelines to ensure not only their safety but also that of others in the area:

  • Wear Blaze Orange: During firearm seasons, Illinois law requires hunters to wear blaze orange clothing that covers their upper body and head. This makes hunters more visible to others, significantly reducing the risk of accidents.
  • Check Firearm and Equipment: Before heading out, ensure all equipment, especially firearms, is in good working order. This includes checking for clean barrels free of obstructions and verifying that all safety mechanisms are functional.
  • Communicate Your Plans: Always let someone know where you will be hunting and when you expect to return. This is crucial in case of emergencies or unexpected situations.
  • Be Aware of Surroundings: Always be aware of your target and what is beyond it. Never shoot unless you are absolutely sure of your target and its backdrop.

Ethical Hunting Practices

Ethical hunting practices are essential to maintain the sport’s integrity and ensure sustainable wildlife populations. Illinois hunters are encouraged to follow these ethical guidelines:

  • Fair Chase: Hunters should engage in fair chase practices, which means pursuing deer in a manner that does not give the hunter an unfair advantage. This includes avoiding practices such as baiting or using artificial lights.
  • Respect for Wildlife: Hunters should always show respect for wildlife. This includes making every effort to achieve a quick and humane kill and to avoid wounding animals.
  • Use of Harvested Deer: Ethical hunters utilize as much of their harvested deer as possible, including meat, hide, and antlers, reflecting respect for the animal and the resources it provides.

Adhering to these safety guidelines, legal mandates, and ethical practices will ensure that deer hunting in Illinois is safe, legal, and respectful to wildlife and fellow hunters. This not only enhances the personal hunting experience but also helps preserve the tradition of deer hunting for future generations.


When does the deer hunting season start in Illinois for 2024?

The archery deer hunting season begins on October 1, 2024, and runs through January 15, 2025. The first firearm season is from November 17 to November 19, 2024, followed by the second firearm season from November 30 to December 3, 2024.

What are the legal requirements for deer hunting in Illinois?

Hunters must possess a valid Illinois Hunting License and the appropriate deer permits for the season they wish to participate in. Additionally, during firearm seasons, hunters are required to wear blaze orange for visibility.

Can non-residents hunt deer in Illinois?

Yes, non-residents can hunt deer in Illinois but they need to apply for non-resident hunting licenses and permits. They are subject to specific quotas and may participate in the non-resident lottery for permits.

Where can I find information on deer hunting regulations in Illinois?

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) website provides comprehensive details on hunting regulations, permits, and safety guidelines. It is the primary resource for all hunting regulation information.

How can I improve my chances of a successful deer hunt in Illinois?

Successful deer hunting involves proper scouting, understanding deer behavior, and selecting the right equipment. Additionally, hunters should practice ethical hunting practices and ensure they are shooting accurately to ensure humane kills.

Joshua Cordray
I'm Josh. I love getting outdoors, hiking, camping, and enjoying the beauty of this beautiful earth. I'm also passionate about writing, and love creating stories, guides, and helpful articles about everything to do with being an outdoorsman.

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