All the Things You’ll need to Know about Hunting Waterfowl in Illinois
Truly is a marvel of a state, and its beautiful scenery, with its rich flora and fauna has predictably attracted many hunters to the Land of Lincoln. Waterfowl hunting is as common as ever, and you’d think shooting duck or geese would be no problem—but you’d be wrong. Illinois has somewhat strict rules on this particular hunting practice, so you better make yourself acquainted with them before heading out. In addition, waterfowl of different kinds and species are widely spread all across the state, making it difficult to hunt them if you don’t know where to look. Thankfully, that’s what we’re here for.
Waterfowl are mainly comprised of ducks, swans and geese, all three of which are found in some form in Illinois and can be hunted. If the latter have piqued your interest, chances are you’ll need to move to the northwest of the State, west of the metropolis that is Chicago. Here, lots of geese can be found, especially Canada Geese, which famously migrate during winter. Contrary to what your intuition might tell you, large populations of these are often seen lingering near heavily developed and densely populated areas, as long as there’s a stable water source nearby. Unfortunately, shooting or otherwise hunting migratory birds of any kind in Illinois requires a permit from the Department of Natural Resources.
On the other hand, if geese don’t interest you, there is a whole host of duck species to hunt in Illinois.
Both two species of whistling duck and various perching ducks inhabit the State, along with the ubiquitous dabbling duck in its countless shapes and colors.
The former, the whistling duck, is the rarest by far and tough to hunt.
The best places to try would be the northeastern counties like Kane and Kendall County. These are relatively populated areas, but with enough vegetation and localized water sources like rivers and lakes to sustain a small group of ducks passing through on their way northbound. These groups also don’t tend to stay in one place for too long, which is why many hunters in this state see them as nearly unattainable game that only shows up by sheer luck. Joining a club of hunters on your mission, as recommended as it is in any situation, is almost a must here; otherwise, you’re not likely to come home with anything but a full magazine.
The more common perching and dabbling ducks are easier to find, though. More often than not, they look for food and places to rest in large groups, which makes them easy to spot. Their distribution is also much broader. Hunting for them in the north isn’t impossible, though a much better option would be to visit the famous Southern Illinois Wetlands on the other side of the Prairie State. Stretching from Alexander County all the way up to Madison County, the Wetlands are found both along the Mississippi River and beyond. They’re not just a marvel to look at, with their deep marshes, beautiful forests and wide, open lakes, but also harbor the state’s largest and densest populations of ducks and, occasionally, swans.
Be aware, though, that the State of Illinois imposes strict hunting seasons and zones for waterfowl.
The season is determined at the start of every year, but fortunately, hunting zones are more clearly defined. The South Zone encompasses everything south of and including partially Williamson and Jackson counties. The South Central Zone starts in the west of Randolph county, going all the way up to eastern Madison. The Central zone, meanwhile, includes the western Madison and Monroe county.
Finally, the North Zone borders start in the south of Kendall county, continuing to the far edges of the state itself. Depending on what zone you plan on hunting in, the hunting season, regulation on protected species and licensing requirements may differ, so inform yourself thoroughly at the IDNR beforehand.
That’s all for now! Good hunting!