Public Land Hunting In Illinois

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources manages public land hunting in Illinois. They have a list of all the managed areas, and you can find that by visiting their website. The list is alphabetized and you can use your browser’s “find” function to search for what area you are interested in or scroll through the entire list.

Best Public Land Hunting in Illinois

A hot topic in the Prairie State is deer hunting on public land. When deer hunters get together, it can be a divisive topic. Hunting on public land may seem pointless to some. But every year, Illinois public land areas harvest high-quality deer.

There are a number of things hunters need to keep in mind when looking for public land to hunt. Another is historical data on harvest rates. If you want to know how many deer you’ve killed over the past five or six years, you can look up harvest reports from Illinois’ Department of Natural Resources.

Despite the fact that most of the state’s land is privately owned, the IDNR manages or owns over 200 hunting areas for the general public. Most of them are designed to gather data for scientific purposes.

The rules that apply to each piece of public land that can be hunted vary from place to place. Special permission is required for some of them. Others require a department-issued vehicle permit, which can be obtained online. A hunter should review the rules posted at the hunting location itself and on the department’s website.

When paired with visits to the property and the surrounding land, statistics can serve as a starting point. The adjacent land depicts the shelter and food that may attract deer to the public land holdings. It’s a good illustration.

public land hunting in illinois


McHenry County is located north of the state line with Wisconsin. It’s likely that most of the land in the Chicago metropolitan is privately owned, which means that hunting is not permitted.

Conservation activities such as deer hunting are supervised by the McHenry County Conservation District. It allows archery deer hunting on some of the sites either all year round or on specific weekends. Prospective hunters must demonstrate their proficiency with a bow and arrow in order to be considered for a hunting permit.

An approved hunter safety education course must be completed by every hunter, including those who use archery and those who use guns. Interested hunters can begin the application process for county-regulated hunting areas online. To avoid missing any submission deadlines, double-check your calendars.


Clinton Lake

Located to the east of Clinton, Illinois, is a state recreation area called Clinton Lake. Hunting is permitted on 3,693 of the property’s total 9,300 acres. Oak and hickory woodlands coexist with shrubland and open grassland in this region. There is a large herd of deer living in this area.

All public hunting areas in Illinois can be found on their website.

It’s mandatory to have a windshield card at this location. You can find it on the internet. Hunters who have registered for the area must report their success or failure by the middle of February or they will lose their privilege to hunt there the following year. Hunting deer requires a specialized permit issued only at specific locations. Both archery and muzzleloader hunters are included here.

Jim Edgar Panther Creek SFWA

The Jim Edgar Panther Creek SFWA in Cass County is one of the largest public land units in central Nebraska. It’s about an hour’s drive from Springfield, Missouri. Hunting is permitted on 16,400 of its acres.

Rolling upland and cropland are interspersed with native grasses and food plots, as well as areas of idled farmland.

Only a few areas of the state are open to hunting with guns, muzzleloaders, and bows during the designated hunting seasons. The permit lottery system is used to issue permits for firearm deer hunting.

Permission forms for youth hunters can be obtained from the Chandlerville, Illinois, site office. By the end of August, they must turn in their information, including name, address, and date of birth, to the office on site. If you earn a permit to hunt deer, you must obtain a permit from the county in which you live. Licensed vendors sell permits for a small fee.

Lake Shelbyville

Lake Shelbyville is located in Shelby and Moultrie Counties in southern Illinois. The Lake Shelbyville hunting lands are jointly managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Indiana Division of Natural Resources. Hunters need to know which agency owns the land they intend to hunt on before they set out on a trip. The rules and regulations that apply to a particular unit may differ from those that apply to another location.

Generally speaking, there are about 6,200 acres of huntable land in the area. Along with the Eagle Creek and Wolf Creek State Park hunting areas, the Kaskaskia and West Okaw Rivers serve as additional units of the overall system. Hunting permits can be purchased online at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.


Rend Lake SFWA

Near Mt. Vernon, Illinois, Rend Lake SFWA and the surrounding land are located along Interstate 57. 7,690 of the 12,690 total acres in the state property are designated for hunting.

Keep in mind that in order to take an antlered deer from the refuge, archery deer hunters must first harvest an antlerless deer. During the Archery Hunt in October, the deer are often forced to leave the refuge and move onto nearby agricultural land because of the hunting pressure. However, savvy hunters often set up camp on the outskirts of the refuge in the hope of catching deer returning to the public land sanctuary.

Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge (NWR)

The Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is one of the federally owned lands in Illinois that are open to public hunting. As opposed to the other examples, this one is owned by the US Forest Service. Still, all deer hunters must abide by all state regulations regarding the harvesting of deer.

Marion is home to the refuge’s visitor center and administrative offices.

At the visitor center, a daily or weekly fee is required for all guests. A fee collection box is available outside the center’s entrance during non-business hours.

Shawnee National Forest

Shawnee National Forest spans 10 southern Illinois counties, from the Ohio River to the Mississippi River.

About 280,000 acres of forest make up the entire reserve. In addition to a few nearby State public hunting areas, there are more than 500,000 acres of huntable land in the region.

Many of the forest’s acres are privately owned, some of which allow hunting. A lot of cornfields and oak trees are in this area. During the winter months, deer are drawn to both.

Pyramid State Park

Pyramid State Park, Illinois’ largest state park, also offers a substantial amount of public hunting land. Pyramid, a former strip-mine area that has been reclaimed, is home to lakes, old field cropland, and timber.

It is located in Perry County, just south of Pinckneyville. Hunting deer in this area is subject to a slew of regulations that are site-specific. In the park office, they can be purchased.


No matter where you hunt this year, you’ll have plenty of chances to bag that target you’ve been eyeing. When the weather permits, you can head to one of the locations listed above or another area that is abundant for hunting.