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Illinois Waterfowl Hunting Season Laws and Regulations

Hunted Waterfowl Species in Illinois

  • Ducks (Dabblers and Divers)
  • Sora & Virginia Rails
  • Wilson’s Snipe
  • Mergansers
  • Coots
  • Canada Geese
  • Light Geese (Snow, Blue, Ross’)
  • White-fronted Geese (aka, Specklebellies)
  • Brant

Firearm Regulations for Waterfowl Hunting

Shotguns

  • Shotgun Gauge Restrictions: Hunters cannot use any shotgun larger than 10 gauge while taking or attempting to harvest waterfowl.

  • Barrel Length Requirements: The barrel length shall not be less than 18 inches, and the overall length shall not be less than 26 inches.

  • Shell Capacity: Hunters cannot use a shotgun capable of holding more than 3 shells in the magazine and chamber combined. Any shotgun with a capacity of more than 3 shells must be fitted with a one-piece plug that is irremovable without dismantling the shotgun or otherwise altered to render it incapable of holding more than 3 shells in the magazine and chamber combined. Note: Shell limit does not apply during the Conservation Order light goose season that occurs during late-winter and spring.

Muzzleloading Rifle

  • A muzzleloading rifle with non-toxic shot types described directly below can be used for all legal waterfowl, except teal.

Archery

  • Same specifications as found in the deer and turkey sections on this website.

Ammo

  • Non-toxic Shot Requirement: Hunters must use federally approved non-toxic shot for ducks, geese, mergansers, and coots.

  • Steel Shot Size: Steel shot must be size T or smaller.

  • Other Non-toxic Shot Types: Other non-toxic shot types must be number BBB or smaller.

These regulations ensure responsible and ethical waterfowl hunting practices. Always refer to the official guidelines for the most accurate and up-to-date information.

Tom Roster’s Non-toxic shot lethality table

Illinois Waterfowl Hunting Season Laws and Regulations

 Clothing Requirements

There are no clothing requirements for Waterfowl Hunting.

Miscellaneous Waterfowl Hunting Regulations

Transporting Harvested Birds

  • Bird Integrity: Hunters must maintain the head and/or one fully-feathered wing on each bird while being transported from the field to the final destination.

Decoys

  • Spinning-Wing Decoys: Spinning-wing decoys are allowed for waterfowl hunting, enhancing the hunting experience.

Transferring Harvested Birds

  • Waterfowl Gift Tag: When transferring harvested birds to another person, hunters must use a Waterfowl Gift Tag to ensure proper documentation and adherence to regulations.

These miscellaneous regulations contribute to ethical and sustainable waterfowl hunting practices. Hunters should always stay informed about the latest guidelines for a safe and legal hunting experience.

Blind Drawings & Construction Guidelines

Blind Drawings

During the summer, the IDNR conducts in-person drawings at several sites for blinds allocated for 1-3 years. Hunters must be present at the drawing, equipped with the following at registration:

  1. Current or preceding year regular resident or non-resident Illinois hunting license (no youth, apprentice, or 5-day licenses accepted).
  2. Current or preceding year Illinois Migratory Waterfowl Stamp.
  3. Photo ID.

Applicants must be at least 16 years old by the drawing date. Drawings usually occur in four periods each year, and specific dates and times are publicized on the IDNR website.

Blind Construction Rules

Below are general blind construction rules for IDNR sites requiring hunting from constructed blinds. Note that deadlines, removal, and allowed materials may vary by site and region.

  1. Blind Dimensions:

    • Minimum: 4 feet x 8 feet.
    • Maximum Height: 14 feet from the water surface at normal pool level to the top of the shooting box.
    • Sturdy construction to withstand daily usage.
  2. Maintenance:

    • Blinds must be maintained in good condition throughout the duck season.
    • Must be numbered and the number visible from the outside.
    • Boat hides required, with minimum dimensions of 18′ x 7.5′, sturdy enough for daily use.
  3. Completion and Inspection:

    • Depending on the site, blinds must be completed, including final brushing, 3 or 4 weeks in advance of the regular duck season opening.
    • Department inspection and issuance of Blind Registration Cards follow.
  4. Reassignments:

    • Unbuilt or unsatisfactory blinds are reassigned to alternates through drawings or first come-first served allocation.
  5. Dog Hides:

    • Blinds must include a dog hide on the same level as the blind.
    • The dog hide can be incorporated into the blind or provided as a separate compartment attached to the blind.
  6. Materials Restrictions:

    • At some sites, the use of certain materials, such as metal (except for fasteners less than 12 inches), carpet, and specific plastics, is prohibited.

Ensure compliance with site-specific regulations, and refer to the Directory or Hunt Planner for additional details. Stay informed for a safe and enjoyable hunting experience.

Pertinent Administrative Rules: 510, 590, 685, 740

Illinois Waterfowl Hunting Season Laws and Regulations
Illinois Waterfowl Hunting Season Laws and Regulations

Duck Zones in Illinois

North Duck Zone

The North Duck Zone encompasses the region north of a line extending west from the Indiana border along Peotone-Beecher Road to Illinois Route 50. From there, it extends south along Illinois Route 50 to Wilmington-Peotone Road, then west along Wilmington-Peotone Road to Illinois Route 53. The boundary proceeds north along Illinois Route 53 to New River Road, northwest along New River Road to Interstate Highway 55, and further south along I-55 to Pine Bluff-Lorenzo Road. It then extends west along Pine Bluff-Lorenzo Road to Illinois Route 47, north along Illinois Route 47 to I-80, west along I-80 to I-39, south along I-39 to Illinois Route 18, west along Illinois Route 18 to Illinois Route 29, south along Illinois Route 29 to Illinois Route 17, and finally west along Illinois Route 17 to the Mississippi River. The zone extends due south across the Mississippi River to the Iowa border.

Central Duck Zone

Situated south of the North Duck Zone, the Central Duck Zone extends to a line west from the Indiana border along I-70 to Illinois Route 4. From there, it proceeds south along Illinois Route 4 to Illinois Route 161, west along Illinois Route 161 to Illinois Route 158, and continues south and west along Illinois Route 158 to Illinois Route 159. The boundary extends south along Illinois Route 159 to Illinois Route 3, continuing further south along Illinois Route 3 to St. Leo’s Road. It then follows south along St. Leo’s road to Modoc Road, west along Modoc Road to Modoc Ferry Road, southwest along Modoc Ferry Road to Levee Road, southeast along Levee Road to County Route 12 (Modoc Ferry entrance Road). The zone then moves south along County Route 12 to the Modoc Ferry route and southwest on the Modoc Ferry route across the Mississippi River to the Missouri border.

South Duck Zone

The South Duck Zone covers the region south and east of a line extending west from the Indiana border along Interstate 70. It moves south along U.S. Highway 45 to Illinois Route 13, west along Illinois Route 13 to Greenbriar Road, north on Greenbriar Road to Sycamore Road, west on Sycamore Road to N. Reed Station Road, south on N. Reed Station Road to Illinois Route 13. The boundary then moves west along Illinois Route 13 to Illinois Route 127, continuing south along Illinois Route 127 to State Forest Road (1025 N). It follows west along State Forest Road to Illinois Route 3, north along Illinois Route 3 to the south bank of the Big Muddy River. From there, it moves west along the south bank of the Big Muddy River to the Mississippi River and extends west across the Mississippi River to the Missouri border.

South Central Duck Zone

The South Central Duck Zone encompasses the remainder of the state between the south border of the Central Zone and the north border of the South Zone.

Goose Hunting Zones in Illinois

North Goose Zone

Geographic Limits: The North Goose Zone encompasses the northern part of Illinois. It is delineated by a line extending west from the Indiana border along Interstate 80 to I-39, then south along I-39 to Illinois Route 18. The boundary extends west along Illinois Route 18 to Illinois Route 29, then south along Illinois Route 29 to Illinois Route 17. Finally, it proceeds west along Illinois Route 17 to the Mississippi River, crossing south to the Iowa border.

Central Goose Zone

Geographic Limits: Situated south of the North Goose Zone, the Central Goose Zone extends from the southern boundary of the North Goose Zone to a line extending west from the Indiana border along I-70. It follows Illinois Route 4 southward, then proceeds along Illinois Route 161 to Illinois Route 158. The boundary continues south and west along Illinois Route 158 to Illinois Route 159, then south along Illinois Route 159 to Illinois Route 3. The line follows Illinois Route 3 south to St. Leo’s Road, eventually leading to Modoc Ferry Road, and finally southwest along Modoc Ferry Road to the Missouri border.

South Goose Zone

Geographic Limits: The South Goose Zone mirrors the zones established for ducks in the same region.

South Central Goose Zone

Geographic Limits: Similarly, the South Central Goose Zone aligns with the zones designated for ducks in the corresponding region.

Hunting Opportunities and Regulations

Hunters in each goose zone should be aware of specific regulations, including season dates, bag limits, and equipment restrictions. These guidelines, set forth by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, aim to ensure sustainable and responsible hunting practices. Goose enthusiasts are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the rules governing their respective zones for a successful and lawful hunting experience.

Administrative Rules

The administration of goose hunting in these zones adheres to relevant administrative rules, including those related to equipment, blinds, and reporting. Hunters should refer to the specific regulations outlined by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for comprehensive information and compliance.

Waterfowl Hunting Credentials in Illinois

Hunting License

How to Apply: X (Online, Vendors)

A hunting license is a prerequisite for engaging in waterfowl hunting. Residents and non-residents can obtain it through online platforms or authorized vendors. Refer to the Statewide Regulations section for license types.

State Migratory Waterfowl Stamp

Resident: $15.00
Non-Resident: $15.00
How to Purchase: X (Online, Vendors)

This stamp is mandatory for individuals aged 18 and above, including lifetime license holders, to hunt migratory waterfowl, excluding toe-clipped, hand-reared mallards on licensed Game Breeding and Hunting Preserve Areas. Certain exemptions may apply for disabled individuals, servicemen, and landowners.

Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp

Resident: $25.00
Non-Resident: $25.00
How to Purchase: X (Online, Vendors)

Individuals aged 16 and above, including lifetime license holders, must possess this federal stamp to hunt migratory waterfowl, except for toe-clipped, hand-reared mallards on licensed Game Breeding and Hunting Preserve Areas. The stamp must be signed across the face, and E-stamps are now available and legally valid nationwide.

Purchase the E-stamp at www.fws.gov/service/buy-duck-stamp-or-e-stamp. Temporary validity is granted upon purchase, with a physical copy mailed to the purchaser.

HIP Certification

Resident: Free
Non-Resident: Free
How to Register: X (Online, Vendors)

All licensed hunters, including lifetime license holders, must register with the Harvest Information Program (HIP) to hunt migratory birds. It's essential to carry proof of registration while engaging in migratory bird hunting. Exemption is granted for crow hunting in Illinois.

Site-Specific Duck and Goose Hunting Permits

Resident: Variable
Non-Resident: Variable
How to Obtain: X (Online, Vendors)

Specific permits for duck and goose hunting vary in cost and may require in-person drawings. Refer to Permit Applications for detailed information. Some permits may have associated fees at sites.

Federal Migratory Bird Hunting & Conservation Stamp

Each year, waterfowl hunters are required to purchase Migratory Waterfowl Stamps, commonly known as "duck stamps." The establishment of the federal duck stamp dates back to 1934 with the passage of the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act. This legislation was primarily driven by the concerns of waterfowl hunters regarding habitat loss and the decline in waterfowl populations.

The funds generated from the sale of these stamps play a crucial role in supporting the National Wildlife Refuge System. These funds are dedicated to acquiring or leasing lands, creating a network that offers vital breeding, migration, and wintering habitats for waterfowl and various other species. Additionally, these areas provide recreational opportunities for enthusiasts in many regions.

Initially priced at $1, the current cost of the Federal Duck Stamp is $25. Over the years, the funds generated by Federal Duck Stamp sales have surpassed $1.1 billion. This substantial contribution has been instrumental in safeguarding and preserving over 6 million acres of wildlife habitat across the United States.

State Migratory Waterfowl Stamp

In 1975, Illinois hunters took the initiative to establish the Illinois Migratory Waterfowl Stamp Fund, mirroring the concept of the federal duck stamp. Originally priced at $5, the cost increased to $15 in 2011. Throughout the life of the fund, stamp purchases have contributed over $29 million, with an average annual sale of approximately 60,000 stamps, generating nearly $1 million in annual revenue.

As of 2011, physical paper Illinois stamps affixed to hunters' licenses were discontinued, and they now appear solely as a line item on printed licenses. Fifty percent of the funds generated annually are allocated within Illinois to manage, maintain, and acquire waterfowl and wetland habitats, as well as hunting areas. The remaining funds play a crucial role in conserving essential grassland and wetland habitats on the Canadian breeding grounds. These breeding grounds are the origin of many ducks that migrate to Illinois and the broader Mississippi Flyway.

HIP Registration

Free registration with the HIP (National Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program) is a legal requirement for hunters targeting migratory game birds annually. Any licensed hunter intending to hunt migratory game birds, including waterfowl, coots, doves, rails, snipe, woodcock, and others (excluding American crow), must register with HIP before commencing their hunting activities.

You can obtain your HIP certification simultaneously when purchasing your hunting or sportsman license. Alternatively, you can register for HIP by calling 1-866-716-6550 (make sure to record the transaction number on your license). Even lifetime license holders are obligated to register with HIP on an annual basis.

It is crucial to note that HIP is a nationwide program, and hunters must register separately in every state where they intend to hunt migratory game birds. This program contributes significantly to sound resource management, and the cooperation and support of hunters are essential in making it effective. More information can be found at www.fws.gov/program/migratory-bird-harvest-surveys.

Reporting Waterfowl Bands

Hunters, your contribution to waterfowl management is crucial when you encounter banded birds. The U.S. Geological Survey's Bird Banding Laboratory has streamlined the reporting process through their website, www.reportband.gov. Unfortunately, the 1-800 call-in option is no longer available.

Reporting Guidelines:

  • Visit www.reportband.gov if you harvest a banded bird.
  • All federal bird bands, even those without a web address, can be reported online.
  • For old bands with worn-off numbers, email bandreports@usgs.gov for instructions. The band may need to be sent in, but it won't be destroyed, and it will be returned to you.

Certificate of Appreciation:

  • Band reporters will receive a Certificate of Appreciation containing information about when and where the bird was banded.

Your cooperation in reporting band numbers provides waterfowl biologists with valuable data, aiding in resource management. This ensures maximum recreational opportunities for hunters while safeguarding waterfowl populations. Thank you for your active participation!

Public Duck and Goose Hunting Area Permit Applications

Regular Season:

  • First (residents only): August 16 - August 31
  • Second: September 1 - September 15
  • Third: September 16 - September 28
  • First-come-first-served: Opens October 1 (Details available on the website)

Youth (Ages 10-17):

  • Paper Application: August 31 - October 1

Site-Specific Waterfowl Hunting Permits

Lottery System Details

Hunters, secure your exclusive waterfowl hunting experience with our lottery system for specific dates on various IDNR sites. Here's a breakdown of the process:

Lottery Quotas:

  • Five permits available for ducks.
  • Five permits available for geese.

Lottery Rounds:

  1. First Lottery (Residents Only):

    • Open to Illinois residents.
    • Successful applicants secure their permits.
  2. Second Lottery:

    • Open to unsuccessful resident applicants, non-residents, or those who missed the first lottery.
    • Additional permits allocated.
  3. Third Lottery:

    • Open to applicants seeking a first and/or second permit.
    • Additional permits distributed.

Additional Permits:

  • After lotteries, unfilled quotas offer additional permits.
  • First-come, first-served basis.
  • Obtain these permits up to 72 hours before the hunt date.

Application Process:

  • Apply online at www.illinois.gov/dnr/hunting/Pages/WaterfowlHunting.
  • Application opens on October 1.

Secure your spot for an unparalleled waterfowl hunting experience. Don't miss your chance in the lotteries or take advantage of additional permits from unfilled quotas. Act promptly and enjoy a memorable hunting adventure!

Waterfowl Hunting Outlook

Explore abundant waterfowl hunting opportunities in Illinois with insights from the IDNR Waterfowl Hunting website. Stay informed about regulations, updates, and the latest hunting prospects.

Waterfowl and Wetland Management

Delve into the intricate world of waterfowl and wetland management at the IDNR Wetland Wildlife website. Discover how dedicated efforts contribute to sustaining wetland ecosystems and enhancing waterfowl habitats.

Additional Hunting Opportunities

Embark on diverse hunting adventures at over 100 sites across Illinois. Explore the regional site maps provided in this digest, detailing waterfowl hunting opportunities. For comprehensive information on specific sites, refer to Hunter Fact Sheets or contact the sites directly. Uncover a spectrum of hunting options and regulations to tailor your outdoor experience.

Prepare for a rewarding waterfowl hunting season by staying connected with valuable resources and regional insights. Maximize your hunting experiences with the diverse opportunities Illinois has to offer.

Wild Advisor Pro

Disclaimer:

The legal advice provided on Wild Advisor Pro is intended as a summary of the hunting, camping, hiking, and fishing laws and regulations and does not constitute legal language or professional advice. We make every effort to ensure the information is accurate and up to date, but it should not be relied upon as legal authority. For the most current and comprehensive explanation of the laws and regulations, please consult the official government websites or a qualified legal professional. Wild Advisor Pro is not responsible for any misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the information presented and shall not be held liable for any losses, damages, or legal disputes arising from the use of this summary information. Always check with the appropriate governmental authorities for the latest information regarding outdoor regulations and compliance.