When Illinois comes to mind for the general public, their minds might first drift to the nation’s Second (and Windy) City, Chicago. As for those who enjoy spending time in the great outdoors hunting big game, the Land of Lincoln could very well bring to mind deer hunts.
The truth is that there are some great opportunities for deer hunting in Illinois if you play your cards right.
What To Know About Deer Hunting in Illinois
What’s it like to go deer hunting in Illinois? It’s time to take a look.
Be Prepared for Pricey Hunting Licenses and Permits by Lottery!
If you’re going deer hunting in Illinois, be prepared for some major sticker shock — and more than a few complications; yes, there will be some hoops to jump through!
Get Your Wallet Ready for a Non-Resident Hunting License
First, you need to get an Illinois hunting license. Resident hunting licenses cost $12.50, while Non-resident hunting licenses in Illinois costs $57.75. However, that’s not all you need for deer hunting in Illinois: You also need a deer hunting permit, but even these run in two main varieties: Archery and Firearms deer hunting permits…and these don’t come cheap for non-residents.
For example, an Illinois resident can expect to pay $29 for a firearm deer hunting permit or $17 for an archery deer hunting permit. Non-residents, though, must pay $304 for a firearm deer hunting permit and $410 for an archery permit; non-resident muzzle-loading permits can be $329.
Will You Win the (Deer Hunting Permit) Lottery?
Another snag your plans for deer hunting in Illinois could face is that deer hunting permits there — both for archery and firearms hunting — are awarded in a lottery system. There’s no guarantee that you’ll be awarded a permit, either. Whether you’re planning on using archery gear or guns to hunt for deer in Illinois, be sure to apply for the lottery when applications open for non-residents (usually in late spring).
Don't Forget About the Habitat Stamps!
Oh, and in addition to getting yourself an Illinois hunting license and deer hunting permit? You must also purchase a Habitat Stamp, which is required for all hunters over the age of 18 (unless a disabled veteran or former POW).
Assuming you’ve purchased your Illinois hunting license and Habitat Stamp and also got picked for the Illinois deer hunting permit lottery, you’re then good to go!
When Is Deer Hunting Season in Illinois?
As with many other states, the start of deer hunting season in Illinois depends on what tools you’re using to hunt. Archery season lasts the longest, spanning from October 1st to January 15th, with a few closed days scattered about. Firearms deer hunting season is November 18th through November 20th, and then again there is late-season deer hunting in Illinois from December 1st through December 4th; there is also a youth firearm deer hunting season in Illinois in early October.
Doing it old school with muzzleloader weapons? Then the season for you is December 9th through December 11th.
Where To Go Deer Hunting in Illinois
The best deer hunting in Illinois for bucks is generally to be found in the northern reaches of the state. You may want to check out Adams, Brown, Clark, Calhoun, Fulton, Kane, La Salle, Macoupin, Marshall, Ogle, Lake, McDonough, McHenry, and Winnebago counties if bagging a big buck is your goal. The healthiest and largest herds of deer, however, are found in the less-populated southern 2/3 of Illinois.
Private Lands Dominate Illinois
More than 96% of the land in Illinois is privately-owned. Only 900,000 acres of public land are available for hunting in Illinois, with around 10,000 deer successfully taken down each season. Don’t count on public lands for the best deer hunting, but if you’re determined to go hunting on them, then Dixon Springs State Park and Sand Ridge State Forest could be your best options.
How To Go RV Camping for Deer Hunting in Illinois
Combining deer hunting with RV camping in Illinois offers exciting opportunities for a unique adventure. If you’re hunting at Illinois State Parks, you should be able to find open campsites (with hookups) so long as you reserve a space well before hunting season actually starts. If hunting on private land, you’ll have to get permission for RV camping or find a suitable RV campground nearby.
Opt for Boondocking
Better yet, since deer hunting in Illinois can be an expensive trip, you can try to save money by finding a spot for boondocking. It’ll be quite cold by the time hunting season starts, especially if you’re getting in some late-season deer hunting in Illinois, so bring along proper clothing and make sure your propane tank is full (maybe bring an extra one, too, if boondocking).
Go Deer Hunting in Illinois With Cruise America
Got your Illinois hunting license, deer hunting permit, and Habitat Stamp ready to go? Great! Now all you need is an RV, but don’t worry — it’s a lot easier to get an RV from Cruise America than it is to get deer hunting licenses and permits in Illinois!
Cruise America has a wide variety of RVs for rent and sale that would be perfect for a deer hunting adventure in Illinois.
Cruise wants you to have a great time hunting for deer in Illinois. Visit or call Cruise America today to find the RV rental that will help you make the most of the experience!