November 1, 2023

5 FAQs About Single-Shot, Centerfire Rifles for Deer Hunting

Photos courtesy of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Effective January 1, 2023, the Illinois General Assembly passed a law allowing hunters to utilize certain single-shot, centerfire rifles during firearm deer seasons, adhering to legal regulations on the size and caliber of ammunition and capabilities of the rifle in use.

OutdoorIllinois Journal covered the newly adopted regulation in a February 2023 story, but many readers and hunters still have questions regarding legal calibers for ammunition and logistics for where and when rifles are permitted for hunting. This quick list should help clear up any residual questions surrounding the adoption of single-shot rifle laws and better direct readers to resources documenting regulations.

Where can I hunt deer with a single-shot rifle in Illinois?

Per the adopted administrative rule, a single-shot rifle is legal to hunt deer during a firearm season within any county currently allowing firearm hunting. Still, be sure to check the site regulations of Public Hunting Areas (PHAs) on Hunt Illinois to be sure what restrictions apply to equipment for hunting deer on Illinois Department of Natural Resource-owned or -managed properties.

An adult male white-tailed deer with antlers stands on the edge of a grassy field. In the foreground are tree trunks.

When can I hunt for deer with a single-shot rifle in Illinois?

A single-shot rifle is legal to hunt deer with during any firearm season—youth firearm, first and second firearm season, late winter antlerless only season, or special CWD season.

Which specific rifles are legal to use for hunting?

A single shot centerfire rifle. “Single shot” means a gun that is either manufactured or modified to only be capable of holding a total of one round in the magazine and chamber combined. “Single shot” does not include: (a) a rifle in the possession of a person who is also in possession of or in close proximity to a magazine that would allow the rifle to be capable of holding more than one round or (b) a revolver. A gun shall be considered single shot if there is no magazine in the possession of or in close proximity to a hunter in the field.

Can a lever-action, bolt-action, pump-action or semi-automatic rifle for hunting deer?

Yes, any rifle chambered in a legal caliber and either manufactured or modified to be a single shot (capable or holding only one round in the magazine and chamber combined) may be used to hunt deer. Modification of a rifle originally manufactured as a repeater (a lever action/bolt action/pump action/semi-automatic, etc.) to a single shot can take many forms, including but not limited to: not having the detachable magazine in possession or close proximity; removing internal magazine springs and followers; using a plug to block the magazine tube; purchasing “0 round” magazines; modifying the receiver or internal magazine of the rifle. Hunters may not be in possession of or in close proximity to a magazine that is capable of making a rifle not a single-shot firearm.

What calibers are legal for hunting rifles in Illinois?

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ website has a list of qualifying, legal cartridges.

The only legal ammunition for a centerfire handgun or rifle is a bottleneck centerfire cartridge of .30 caliber or larger with a case length not exceeding one and two-fifths inches, or a straight-walled centerfire cartridge of .30 caliber or larger, both of which must be available as a factory load with the published ballistic tables of the manufacturer showing a capability of at least 500-foot pounds of energy at the muzzle. Full metal jacket bullets may not be used to harvest deer.

For additional information on the use of single-shot rifles for deer hunting in Illinois, visit this site. Also review the Administrative Rules pertaining to deer hunting with single shot rifles.

An adult male white-tailed deer with antlers is silhouetted with a thin outline of warm evening light. The deer is standing in a grassy field.

Kaleigh Gabriel is a Wildlife Outreach Specialist with Lewis and Clark Community College, working out of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources building to assist the Division of Wildlife Resources. Growing up just between Sangamon and Christian counties, she spent a lot of her time hunting and fishing in Illinois. She received her bachelor’s degree in writing/journalism from Manchester University, Indiana.

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Question: So, does the single shot rifle have to be a straight wall caliber, or can it be any caliber .30 or above?

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