2022-2023 Illinois Deer Hunting Forecast
During the 2021-2022 Illinois deer hunting seasons, hunters harvested a total of 146,438 deer, down from 162,752 in 2020-2021. Harvest and permit sales were down for most seasons suggesting the higher-than-average total harvest and record archery harvest in 2020-2021 was at least partially due to changes in hunter behavior due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2022-2023 Illinois deer season is shaping up to be another strong year with 107 total days of deer hunting opportunity. Weather conditions are looking good with an average to moderate winter. Southern Illinois and parts of central Illinois are currently experiencing abnormally dry conditions (United States Drought Monitor) which may influence deer behavior and body condition. Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) has been detected throughout the state this year with dry areas being hit harder. Hunters are encouraged to report any sick or dead deer to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). Most crops are on schedule to be harvested by the rut, which peaks around November 14, and first firearm season (November 18-20). Archery season runs from October 1, 2022 to January 15, 2023, except for the first and second (December 1-4) firearm seasons. Other season dates of note are Youth (October 8-10), Muzzleloader (December 9-11), and Late-Winter Antlerless-Only and CWD seasons (December 29-January 1 and January 13-15). Two new counties, Randolph and Hancock were added to the Late-Winter season this year.
Illinois deer hunters should keep a few things in mind before they take to the field this fall:
- For hunters who did not receive a deer permit through the lottery this year, remaining firearm and muzzleloader permits went on sale over-the-counter (OTC) in mid-October. Archery and youth deer permits are also available OTC.
- Beginning in 2020, youth permits are no longer county-specific; youth permits will authorize the holder to hunt in any of the open counties of the state, on property where permission to hunt has been obtained from the property owner (see the Youth Deer Hunting Information Sheet).
- Archery hunters in east-central Illinois should be aware that the 5-County Restricted Archery Zone remains in place in Champaign, Douglas, Macon, Moultrie and Piatt counties. To reduce doe harvest and help grow deer populations to their county goals, archery hunters in these five counties are permitted to harvest only antlered deer during the first 15 days of the season (October 1-15).
- Late-Winter Antlerless-Only hunters can use any valid, unused permits from the previous firearm, muzzleloader or youth seasons or purchase Late-Winter specific permits OTC.
- Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) remains the greatest management challenge for the Illinois deer herd. Successful hunters in CWD counties are required to physically check their deer at designated check stations. Other hunters, even in non-CWD areas, are encouraged to have their deer tested to help IDNR monitor CWD state-wide. Hunters can either have their deer sampled at a participating vendor or leave the head at a CWD drop off station.
Peter Schlichting is the Deer Project Manager with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife Resources.