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Public Land Pheasant Hunting In Illinois

Illinois Public Land Pheasant Hunting

pheasant hunter on prairieMost heavily populated states have hunting access issues and Illinois is no exception.  Pheasant hunting is tough enough on Illinois’ private land.  High corn prices and falling CRP funding has pheasant production spiraling downward.  The glory days of pheasant hunting in Illinois are long gone.  Harvest totals in the 1950s approached one million birds per year.  Compare that with recent seasons of around 60,000 pheasants.  
Things are even more difficult on public lands due to crowding.  If you’re serious about pheasant hunting, a game preserve or a trip to a surrounding state may be your best bet.  But if hunting public lands in-state is on your season’s to do list, there are some options.  Many of the best public hunting areas have released birds.  Hunting in these areas requires a special permit.  See the Illinois DNR website for details and special regulations for each property.
Green River State Wildlife Area
This 2,500 acre site is mostly flat with some rolling hills.  About a third of the property is swampy slough, making Green River a great late season hunt.  The remaining acreage is prairie, open fields, food plots, and timber.  A daily permit is required for pheasant hunting on the Green River State Wildlife Area.  But about half of the hunting dates are no-fee days.  Rabbits and quail are also common here.  Non-toxic shot is required.
Des Plaines State Wildlife Area
Des Plaines typically receives the largest share of the state’s released birds.  It’s Chicago metro location also makes it a popular choice among hunters.  Of the 5,400 total acres, there are 3,400 acres of upland cover including native prairie, grasslands, and agricultural fields.  As is the case in all of the state’s release areas, permits are required for most of the season.  Des Plaines State Wildlife Area does allow non-permit hunting late in the season.  Current regulations allow for lead shot but check regulations for the most up-to-date information.  
Eldon Hazlet State Park
The park is over 3,700 acres but much of it is off limits to hunters.  Stop in at the park office to get a map of the hunting areas.  The upland hunting area consists of crop fields, brushy areas, grasslands, and prairie.  There are also backwater wetlands.  Permits are required and only non-toxic shot is allowed. 
Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Wildlife Area
With over 16,000 huntable acres, there is plenty of room for pheasants to hide on this Springfield area property.  The terrain is made up of rolling hills with a good mix of crop land, native prairie, and timber.  About 10,000 acres are considered classic upland habitat.  This area offers both free and paid permit hunts available through a drawing.  
There are some hoops to jump through, but Illinois’ system isn’t bad considering the circumstances.  They are trying to provide a quality hunt with limited available resources.  Before throwing your hands in the air, consider this…  Illinois pheasant hunters average just over a bird a piece on controlled hunts.  There are plenty of states that wish hunters had that kind of success.

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