Season Dates & Limits
Dates & Limits
|SPECIES||ZONE||DATES (inclusive)||HOURS||DAILY LIMIT||POSSESSION LIMIT||ADDITIONAL REGULATIONS|
(mourning and white-winged)
|Statewide||1 Sep–14 Nov and 26 Dec 2023–9 Jan 2024||Sunrise to Sunset||15||45||No limits on Eurasian-collared doves and ringed turtle doves, but they may be harvested only during the established season dates and hours and using only legal methods for mourning/white-winged doves. Hunters may not remain in the field for taking Eurasian-collared doves or ringed turtle doves after they reach their daily limit for mourning/white-winged doves. Federal migratory bird regulations apply|
|North (see map)||4 Nov 2023–8 Jan 2024||Sunrise to Sunset||2||6||Hen pheasants are illegal to harvest or possess, except where allowed at sites offering controlled pheasant hunting of pen-raised birds. On the 2nd day of the hunting season, you may possess no more than twice the daily pheasant limit|
|South (see map)||4 Nov 2023 - 15 Jan 2024|
|North (see map)||4 Nov 2023–8 Jan 2024||Sunrise to Sunset||8||20||On the 2nd day of the hunting season, you may possess no more than twice the daily quail limit|
|South (see map)||4 Nov 2022 - 15 Jan 2024|
|Hungarian Partridge||North (see map)||4 Nov 2023–8 Jan 2024||Sunrise to Sunset||2||6||On the 2nd day of the hunting season, you may possess no more than twice the daily partridge limit|
|South (see map)||4 Nov 2023 - 15 Jan 2024|
|Woodcock||Statewide||21 Oct - 4 Dec 2023||Sunrise to Sunset||3||9|
|Crow||Statewide||28 Oct 2023 - 28 Feb 2024||1/2 hour before sunrise to sunset||No limit||No limit|
Map only applies to hunting dates for pheasant, quail and Hungarian partridge
Licenses & Permits
Licenses & Stamps
- Residents and non-residents will need the following to hunt upland birds:
Permits & Lotteries
- Use the License Finder to determine what permits you qualify for
- Use the Directory or Hunt Planner to determine what type of permit you need for a given hunting site
- More details on permits can be found in the Statewide Hunting Regulations
- Most IDNR sites do not require a site-specific permit
Upland Game Permit (Free)
- Upland Game Permit (Free): Some IDNR sites require a lottery-based permit to hunt managed fields during the first few days of the season
- Application dates: 1-31 August annually
- Available to: residents only
- Free Upland Game Hunting Permit Instructions
- Free Upland Game Permit Application – August 1 – 31
- Free Upland Game Permit Inquiry System
- Correct, replace or reprint permits online
Dove Permit (Free)
- Some IDNR sites require a lottery-based permit to hunt on managed fields during the first few days of the season
- Open Ages Site-Specific Dove Permits:
- For more information about applying for a dove permit see the instructions here
- Don’t forget to report your federal dove band online if you harvest a banded bird. Your cooperation on reporting band numbers gives biologists a wealth of information useful in managing the resources to provide hunters with maximum recreational opportunities while protecting dove populations.
Controlled Pheasant Hunt (Fee Charged)
Upland Bird Specific Regulations
- Be sure to check regulations for the IDNR site(s) you intend to hunt, as some sites have more restrictive regulations on equipment, harvest reporting, etc. You can find site-specific regulations using the Directory or Hunt Planner
- See the Statewide Hunting Regulations for full details of upland bird hunting requirements
- Pheasant (roosters only, unless hunting IDNR Controlled Pheasant areas)
- Bobwhite quail
- Doves (Mourning and White-winged)
- Eurasian-collared doves and Ringed turtle doves can be harvested and do not count toward the dove harvest limit
- Hungarian Partridge
- IDNR sites
- Must use shotgun of gauge 10 or larger (e.g., 12 or 20 gauge)
- Barrel length shall not be less than 18 inches, and the overall length shall not be less than 26 inches
- Must not be capable of holding more than 3 shells in the magazine and chamber combined. Any shotgun having 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: some IDNR sites require non-toxic shot, such as steel
- Private land
- Can use any shotgun, rimfire rifle, muzzleloading rifle, handgun, air rifle, archery or falconry methods allowable under statewide regulations
- Statewide regulations on guns, archery and falconry can be found above and the digest of Statewide Hunting Regulations
- IDNR sites
- When hunting upland birds (except doves and crows), a solid blaze orange or blaze pink cap/hat and an upper outer garment displaying at least 400 square inches of blaze orange or blaze pink material must be worn. Camo patterned blaze clothing is not allowed
- Private land
- When hunting upland birds (except doves and crows), only a blaze orange or blaze pink cap/hat must be worn. Camo patterned blaze clothing is not allowed
- No clothing requirements for hunting doves and crows on IDNR sites or private land unless simultaneously hunting other species that require blaze clothing
- Dogs are legal to use for the entire upland bird hunting season statewide
- Spinning-wing decoys are allowed for dove hunting
- Electronic calls/recordings can only be used for crows
- Must maintain the head and/or one fully-feathered wing on each dove or woodcock being transported from the field to final destination
- Use a Gift Tag if transferring harvested a bird(s) to another person
- Trapping upland birds is illegal
Management & Ecology
History of Management
Ring-necked pheasant hunting in Illinois was very popular in the 1960’s and 70’s. Several times during this period 250,000 hunters harvested over 1,000,000 birds per year. The Illinois pheasant population began a dramatic decline in the mid 1970’s. By 2000, pheasant hunters had declined to 59,000 and harvested only 158,000 birds.
Northern bobwhite quail hunting in Illinois was very popular for most of the early and mid-1900’s with well over 150,000 hunters. Harvest was estimated at over 2 million quail per year from the 1950’s through the early 1970’s. Quail began a dramatic decline in the mid 1970’s. Estimates of harvest and the number of quail hunters put this decline in perspective; by 1990, there were 84,000 hunters and they harvested 937,000 birds. Ten years later, there were 40,500 quail hunters and harvest was 271,500 birds.
The decline of pheasant and quail are due primarily to changes in land use and farming practices. The small, diverse farms of the 1950’s had abundant small grains (wheat, oats, etc.), livestock, and hay fields with lots of fencerows and hedgerows separating small fields that provided great cover for upland birds. Today, two crops (corn and soybeans) have replaced most of the small grains, pastures, and hayfields that were once so common.
The hedgerows and fencerows separating small fields that once provided cover for game have been removed or ‘cleaned up’ with herbicide, leaving very little habitat and eliminating travel corridors for quail between the remaining blocks of habitat. Remaining pastures and waterways are often planted to cool-season grasses (brome and fescue). These grass stands lack diversity and become too thick to provide quality habitat for pheasants or quail.
Field size and the size of equipment have also increased dramatically in the last 50 years. Larger and more efficient equipment decrease the amount of time it takes to plant and harvest crops. Most fields are disced soon after harvest, covering most crop stubble early in the fall. There is very little cover left for wildlife over the winter and crops get planted quickly in the spring. During the summer, ‘recreational’ or aesthetic mowing of roadsides and non-crop areas often occurs during prime nesting season (April–August) for the ring-necked pheasant and other grassland birds.
The changes to the landscape and the loss of habitat have occurred slowly, over several decades, but the additive effects on pheasant and quail populations are dramatic.
Pheasant Habitat Management Tips
• An important management tip to benefit pheasant (as well as many other grassland birds) is to break up mowing times to leave some quality habitat throughout the year. Do not mow more than 1/3 or 1/4 of any field, waterway or fallow area at any one time. This strategy is also important to provide nectar sources for pollinators like monarch butterflies, as well as habitat for grassland birds and other wildlife from early spring to late fall.
• Avoid mowing during peak nesting season, from April 15–August 1. Mowing during the nesting season can destroy nests and often kills the hen as well.
• It is important to ensure there will always be quality nesting, brood-rearing and escape cover in your grassland. Only manage a portion (1/3 or 1/4) of your habitat at one time, and plan ahead to manage for specific cover types on each part of your grassland.
• Fall mowing or burning in September or early October can clear away thatch but stimulate vigorous regrowth of cool-season grasses such as tall fescue, brome, bluegrass, or reed-canary grass, that invade stands of native grasses, reducing habitat quality. Regrowth of cool season grasses should be treated with a foliar herbicide such as glyphosate when the grass reaches 6-12 inches tall. This will set back these undesirable species to allow desirable species to thrive. A second herbicide application may be needed the following spring/summer before native grasses begin growing.
• Early fall is also a good time to spray and/or disc small blocks in existing grasslands that have become too thick. These blocks should provide good brood habitat the following summer.
Quail Habitat Management Tips
- ‘Stone’s Throw’ escape cover: A good rule of thumb for evaluating the amount of escape cover in your quail management area is to think about how far you can throw a rock. You should be able to stand anywhere on the property and throw a rock into escape cover (blackberry brambles, shrub thickets, giant ragweed patches, etc.). If you can—well done! If not, then it’s probably not as good of quail habitat as it could be.
- Good quail habitat looks messy and ‘weedy’. Fields that look ‘clean’ with tall grasses dominating are probably not good quail habitat.
- Break up mowing times to ensure some suitable escape cover for quail throughout the year. Try not mow more than 1/3 or 1/4 of any field, waterways, or fallow areas at a time. Avoid mowing during peak nesting season, from May 1–August 1. This strategy is also important to other grassland birds and wildlife, including monarch butterflies and other pollinators.
- A general guideline for quail habitat is to provide 40% brood cover (flowering forbs and scattered grasses with open, bare dirt underneath), 30% nesting cover (unburned grasses with scattered forbs), 20% escape (thickets in and along the edges of grasslands that provide heavy cover (i.e., blackberry, dogwood, giant ragweed, sumac, loose brush piles, etc.)), 5% roosting cover (bare ground with sturdy, overhead cover) and 5% food plots (if there are no adjacent ag fields). These components must be provided in every 40–80 acre block of suitable habitat, since quail do not typically move very far from escape cover.
- October is a good time to spray and/or disc blocks (4–8 acres/year for every 40) in existing grasslands that have become too thick.
- Fall mowing or burning in September or early October can clear away thatch but stimulate vigorous regrowth of cool-season grasses such as tall fescue, brome, bluegrass, or reed-canary grass, that invade stands of native grasses, reducing habitat quality. Regrowth of cool season grasses should be treated with a foliar herbicide such as glyphosate when the grass reaches 6-12 inches tall. This will set back these undesirable species to allow desirable species to thrive. A second herbicide application may be needed the following spring/summer before native grasses begin growing.
Pheasant Status Report
Quail Status Report
Each year IDNR biologists band doves throughout Illinois as part of a long-term USFWS project to monitor the mourning dove population. Each dove is given a light weight metal band with a number specific to that bird and released. If you harvest a dove with a band please report it online. You will be emailed a Certificate of Appreciation with information about when and where the dove was banded.