Wildlife Illinois

Hunt Planner

Announcements

IDNR ANNOUNCES CLOSURE OF 2020 CWD CHECK STATIONS

Waterfowl

Season Dates & Limits

Zones Map

North Zone

SPECIES DATES HOURS DAILY LIMIT POSSESSION LIMIT ADDITIONAL REGULATIONS
Teal
(early season)
5–20 Sep 2020 Sunrise to Sunset 6 18 Blue-winged teal, green-winged teal and cinnamon teal are the only legal duck species during this season. Daily and possession limits are for all teal species combined (in the aggregate)
Rails
(Sora & Virginia)
5 Sep–13 Nov 2020 25 75 Daily and possession limits are for both rail species combined (in the aggregate)
Snipe
(Wilson's)
5 Sep–20 Dec 2020 8 24
Ducks
(but see Scaup below)
17 Oct–15 Dec 2020 1/2 hour before sunrise to sunset 6 18 Basic daily limit is 6 ducks of any species. However, daily limit can consist of no more than the following: 4 mallards (of which no more than 2 can be hen mallards), 3 wood ducks, 2 Scaup for the first 45 days in each zone, 1 Scaup for the last 15 days in each zone, 2 redheads, 2 canvasback, 2 black ducks, 1 pintail and 1 mottled duck. Possession limit for ducks is three times the daily limit by species and sex
Mergansers 17 Oct–15 Dec 2020 5 15 Mergansers do not count toward your daily limit of ducks, but only 2 can be hooded mergansers. Merganser possession limit is no more than three times their daily limit, including max of 6 hooded mergansers
Coots 17 Oct–15 Dec 2020 15 45
Scaup
(aka, Bluebills)
17 Oct–30 Nov 2020 2/day 6 FWS regulations require 45 days with 2/day bag limit, 15 days with 1/day bag limit. Will be different in each zone
1–15 Dec 2020 1/day 3
Canada geese
(early season)
1–15 Sep 2020 5 15
Canada geese
(regular season)
17 Oct 2020–14 Jan 2021 3 9
Light Geese (Snow/Blue/Ross' Geese) 17 Oct 2020–14 Jan 2021 20 Unlimited
Brant 17 Oct 2020–14 Jan 2021 1 3
White-fronted Geese
(aka, Specklebellies)
19 Oct 2020–14 Jan 2021 2 6
Conservation Order Light Geese (Snow/Blue/Ross' Geese) 15 Jan–30 Apr 2021 1/2 hour before sunrise to 1/2 hour after sunset Unlimited Unlimited The following apply to the Conservation Order only: 1) unplugged shotguns may be used and there is no limit to the number of shells that may be placed in a shotgun, 2) electronic calling devices may be used, 3) federal duck stamp not required, 4) Illinois duck stamp and hunting license is required
Youth waterfowl 10–11 Oct 2020 1/2 hour before sunrise to sunset Same as during regular duck, goose, and coot seasons Same as during regular duck, goose, and coot seasons The following apply to the Youth season only: 1) youth hunters must be 17 years of age or younger and must have a hunting license and HIP registration/ certification unless hunting on property where they reside; 2) no stamps are required for youths under age 16; 3) federal waterfowl stamps are required for all hunters age 16 and older; 4) hunters aged 18 years and older may not hunt waterfowl and coots during the Youth Waterfowl Hunting Days, even if hunting with a Youth License

Central Zone

SPECIES DATES HOURS DAILY LIMIT POSSESSION LIMIT ADDITIONAL REGULATIONS
Teal
(early season)
5–20 Sep 2020 Sunrise to Sunset 6 18 Blue-winged teal, green-winged teal and cinnamon teal are the only legal duck species during this season. Daily and possession limits are for all teal species combined (in the aggregate)
Rails
(Sora & Virginia)
5 Sep–13 Nov 2020 25 75 Daily and possession limits are for both rail species combined (in the aggregate)
Snipe
(Wilson's)
5 Sep–20 Dec 2020 8 24
Ducks
(but see Scaup below)
24 Oct–22 Dec 2020 1/2 hour before sunrise to sunset 6 18 Basic daily limit is 6 ducks of any species. However, daily limit can consist of no more than the following: 4 mallards (of which no more than 2 can be hen mallards), 3 wood ducks, 2 Scaup for the first 45 days in each zone, 1 Scaup for the last 15 days in each zone, 2 redheads, 2 canvasback, 2 black ducks, 1 pintail and 1 mottled duck. Possession limit for ducks is three times the daily limit by species and sex
Mergansers 24 Oct–22 Dec 2020 5 15 Mergansers do not count toward your daily limit of ducks, but only 2 can be hooded mergansers. Merganser possession limit is no more than three times their daily limit, including max of 6 hooded mergansers
Coots 24 Oct–22 Dec 2020 15 45
Scaup
(aka, Bluebills)
24 Oct–7 Dec 2020 2/day 6 FWS regulations require 45 days with 2/day bag limit, 15 days with 1/day bag limit. Will be different in each zone
8–22 Dec 2020 1/day 3
Canada geese
(early season)
1–15 Sep 2020 5 15
Canada geese
(regular season)
24 Oct–1 Nov 2020 and
12 Nov 2020–31 Jan 2021
3 9
Light Geese (Snow/Blue/Ross' Geese) 24 Oct 2020–31 Jan 2021 20 Unlimited
Brant 24 Oct 2020–31 Jan 2021 1 3
White-fronted Geese
(aka, Specklebellies)
5 Nov 2020–31 Jan 2021 2 6
Conservation Order Light Geese (Snow/Blue/Ross' Geese) 1 Feb–30 Apr 2021 1/2 hour before sunrise to 1/2 hour after sunset Unlimited Unlimited The following apply to the Conservation Order only: 1) unplugged shotguns may be used and there is no limit to the number of shells that may be placed in a shotgun, 2) electronic calling devices may be used, 3) federal duck stamp not required, 4) Illinois duck stamp and hunting license is required
Youth waterfowl 17–18 Oct 2020 1/2 hour before sunrise to sunset Same as during regular duck, goose, and coot seasons Same as during regular duck, goose, and coot seasons The following apply to the Youth season only: 1) youth hunters must be 17 years of age or younger and must have a hunting license and HIP registration/ certification unless hunting on property where they reside; 2) no stamps are required for youths under age 16; 3) federal waterfowl stamps are required for all hunters age 16 and older; 4) hunters aged 18 years and older may not hunt waterfowl and coots during the Youth Waterfowl Hunting Days, even if hunting with a Youth License

South Central Zone

SPECIES DATES HOURS DAILY LIMIT POSSESSION LIMIT ADDITIONAL REGULATIONS
Teal
(early season)
5–20 Sep 2020 Sunrise to Sunset 6 18 Blue-winged teal, green-winged teal and cinnamon teal are the only legal duck species during this season. Daily and possession limits are for all teal species combined (in the aggregate)
Rails
(Sora & Virginia)
5 Sep–13 Nov 2020 25 75 Daily and possession limits are for both rail species combined (in the aggregate)
Snipe
(Wilson's)
5 Sep–20 Dec 2020 8 24
Ducks
(but see Scaup below)
14 Nov 2020–12 Jan 2021 1/2 hour before sunrise to sunset 6 18 Basic daily limit is 6 ducks of any species. However, daily limit can consist of no more than the following: 4 mallards (of which no more than 2 can be hen mallards), 3 wood ducks, 2 Scaup for the first 45 days in each zone, 1 Scaup for the last 15 days in each zone, 2 redheads, 2 canvasback, 2 black ducks, 1 pintail and 1 mottled duck. Possession limit for ducks is three times the daily limit by species and sex
Mergansers 14 Nov 2020–12 Jan 2021 5 15 Mergansers do not count toward your daily limit of ducks, but only 2 can be hooded mergansers. Merganser possession limit is no more than three times their daily limit, including max of 6 hooded mergansers
Coots 14 Nov 2020–12 Jan 2021 15 45
Scaup
(aka, Bluebills)
14 Nov–28 Dec 2020 2/day 6 FWS regulations require 45 days with 2/day bag limit, 15 days with 1/day bag limit. Will be different in each zone
19 Dec 2020–12 Jan 2021 1/day 3
Canada geese
(early season)
1–15 Sep 2020 5 15
Canada geese
(regular season)
14 Nov 2020–31 Jan 2021 3 9
Light Geese (Snow/Blue/Ross' Geese) 14 Nov 2020–31 Jan 2021 20 Unlimited
Brant 14 Nov 2020–31 Jan 2021 1 3
White-fronted Geese
(aka, Specklebellies)
14 Nov 2020–31 Jan 2021 2 6
Conservation Order Light Geese (Snow/Blue/Ross' Geese) 1 Feb–30 Apr 2021 1/2 hour before sunrise to 1/2 hour after sunset Unlimited Unlimited The following apply to the Conservation Order only: 1) unplugged shotguns may be used and there is no limit to the number of shells that may be placed in a shotgun, 2) electronic calling devices may be used, 3) federal duck stamp not required, 4) Illinois duck stamp and hunting license is required
Youth waterfowl 7–8 Nov 2020 1/2 hour before sunrise to sunset Same as during regular duck, goose, and coot seasons Same as during regular duck, goose, and coot seasons The following apply to the Youth season only: 1) youth hunters must be 17 years of age or younger and must have a hunting license and HIP registration/ certification unless hunting on property where they reside; 2) no stamps are required for youths under age 16; 3) federal waterfowl stamps are required for all hunters age 16 and older; 4) hunters aged 18 years and older may not hunt waterfowl and coots during the Youth Waterfowl Hunting Days, even if hunting with a Youth License

South Zone

SPECIES DATES HOURS DAILY LIMIT POSSESSION LIMIT ADDITIONAL REGULATIONS
Teal
(early season)
5–20 Sep 2020 Sunrise to Sunset 6 18 Blue-winged teal, green-winged teal and cinnamon teal are the only legal duck species during this season. Daily and possession limits are for all teal species combined (in the aggregate)
Rails
(Sora & Virginia)
5 Sep–13 Nov 2020 25 75 Daily and possession limits are for both rail species combined (in the aggregate)
Snipe
(Wilson's)
5 Sep–20 Dec 2020 8 24
Ducks
(but see Scaup below)
26 Nov 2020–24 Jan 2021 1/2 hour before sunrise to sunset 6 18 Basic daily limit is 6 ducks of any species. However, daily limit can consist of no more than the following: 4 mallards (of which no more than 2 can be hen mallards), 3 wood ducks, 2 Scaup for the first 45 days in each zone, 1 Scaup for the last 15 days in each zone, 2 redheads, 2 canvasback, 2 black ducks, 1 pintail and 1 mottled duck. Possession limit for ducks is three times the daily limit by species and sex
Mergansers 26 Nov 2020–24 Jan 2021 5 15 Mergansers do not count toward your daily limit of ducks, but only 2 can be hooded mergansers. Merganser possession limit is no more than three times their daily limit, including max of 6 hooded mergansers
Coots 26 Nov 2020–24 Jan 2021 15 45
Scaup
(aka, Bluebills)
26 Nov 2020–9 Jan 2021 2/day 6 FWS regulations require 45 days with 2/day bag limit, 15 days with 1/day bag limit. Will be different in each zone
10 Jan–24 Jan 2021 1/day 3
Canada geese
(early season)
1–15 Sep 2020 5 15
Canada geese
(regular season)
26 Nov 2020–31 Jan 2021 3 9
Light Geese (Snow/Blue/Ross' Geese) 26 Nov 2020–31 Jan 2021 20 Unlimited
Brant 26 Nov 2020–31 Jan 2021 1 3
White-fronted Geese
(aka, Specklebellies)
26 Nov 2020–31 Jan 2021 2 6
Conservation Order Light Geese (Snow/Blue/Ross' Geese) 1 Feb–30 Apr 2021 1/2 hour before sunrise to 1/2 hour after sunset Unlimited Unlimited The following apply to the Conservation Order only: 1) unplugged shotguns may be used and there is no limit to the number of shells that may be placed in a shotgun, 2) electronic calling devices may be used, 3) federal duck stamp not required, 4) Illinois duck stamp and hunting license is required
Youth waterfowl 14–15 Nov 2020 1/2 hour before sunrise to sunset Same as during regular duck, goose, and coot seasons Same as during regular duck, goose, and coot seasons The following apply to the Youth season only: 1) youth hunters must be 17 years of age or younger and must have a hunting license and HIP registration/ certification unless hunting on property where they reside; 2) no stamps are required for youths under age 16; 3) federal waterfowl stamps are required for all hunters age 16 and older; 4) hunters aged 18 years and older may not hunt waterfowl and coots during the Youth Waterfowl Hunting Days, even if hunting with a Youth License

Licenses & Permits

Licenses & Stamps

  • See Licenses/Stamps to find what licenses and stamps you qualify for
  • Find your permits/licenses here
  • Correct, replace or reprint permits/licenses here

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 public hunting site
  • More details on permits can be found in the Statewide Hunting Regulations.
  • Check the status of your permit application
  • Lottery duck/goose permits for IDNR sites:
    • First Lottery
      • Application dates: 16-31 August 2019
      • Available to: residents only
      • Apply online
    • Second Lottery
      • Applicable dates: 1-14 September 2019
      • Available to: unsuccessful residents from the first lottery, residents that did not apply in the first lottery, non-resident applicants
      • Apply online
    • Third Lottery
      • Application dates: 15-28 September 2019
      • Available to: anyone who can apply for first or second lottery
      • Apply online
    • First-come, first-served permits: Duck and Goose: Acquire additional permits on a first-come first-served basis beginning at 8 am on 1 Oct. Permits will remain available until reserved permit quotas are depleted or until 72 hours prior to the hunt date. Limits: Total limit of 5 permits (e.g., 3 more permits for those who have already received 2 permits, etc.)
  • Youth Waterfowl Hunts: Paper Application (print/mail): Aug 31-Oct 1 2020

Waterfowl Specific Regulations

2020 Waterfowl Hunting Procedures: Click here to view the updated health and safety protocols and procedures that have been developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic for implementation during the 2020-21 waterfowl hunting seasons at IDNR sites.

Species

  • 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

Can use

  • Shotguns
    • Cannot use any shotgun larger than 10 gauge while taking or attempting to harvest waterfowl
    • Barrel length shall not be less than 18 inches, and the overall length shall not be less than 26 inches
    • Cannot use a shotgun 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: shell limit does not apply during the Conservation Order light goose season that occurs during late-winter and spring
    • Muzzleloading rifle with non-toxic shot types described directly below can be used for all legal waterfowl, except teal
  • Ammo
    • Must use federally approved non-toxic shot for ducks, geese, mergansers and coots. Steel shot must be size T or smaller and other non-toxic shot types must be number BBB or smaller

Tom Roster’s Non-toxic shot lethality table

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

Clothing requirements

  • None

Miscellaneous

  • Must maintain the head and/or one fully-feathered wing on each bird while being transported from the field to final destination
  • Spinning-wing decoys are allowed for waterfowl hunting
  • Use a Waterfowl Gift Tag if transferring harvested birds to another person

Blind Drawings & Construction

During the summer IDNR holds in-person drawings at several sites for blinds allocated from 1-3 years. Blinds are to be constructed as noted below. Hunters must be present at the drawing to claim a blind and have the following at time of drawing 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, and 3) photo ID. Applicants must be at least 16 years of age by the date of the drawing. Most blind drawings typically occur during the following four time periods each year: 1) second to last Sunday in July, 2) last Saturday in July, 3) last Sunday in July, or 4) first Saturday in August. Drawings for 3-year blinds for the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers confluence area (MRA SFWA and Horseshoe Lake State Park) occur the first Sunday in June. Specific dates and times for drawings for each site will be publicized by IDNR through public notice on the website. Sites can also be contacted for drawing information

Below are the general blind construction rules for IDNR sites that require hunting be done by constructed blind. Note that construction time deadlines, removal and allowed materials may vary by site and region. Refer to information provided to blind builders, site-specific info or download the Administrative Rule 590 for specifics. The information provided below is general and does not cover site specific differences. Contact the site which you are interested in hunting for more details

  • Blinds must be at least 4 feet x 8 feet, but no higher than 14 feet from the water surface at normal pool level, to the top of the shooting box, sturdy enough to withstand daily usage, and must be maintained in good condition by blind builders throughout the duck season. Blinds shall be numbered and the number shall be visible from the outside of the blinds. Blinds must be placed within 10 feet of assigned Department marked site. Boat hides are required and must have minimum dimensions of 18′ x 7.5′. Boat hides shall be sturdy enough to withstand daily use considering the conditions of the site, and must be maintained in good condition throughout the season.
  • Blinds built over water must be of platform construction with the platform constructed above normal water conditions or they may be floating blinds. At some locations, river blinds may also be pull-in boat hide blinds, where hunters remain in the boat to hunt. Boat hide blinds must have a minimum size of 18′ x 7.5′, be sturdy enough to withstand daily use considering conditions of the site, and be maintained in good condition throughout the season.
  • Depending on the site, blinds must be completed, including final brushing, 3 or 4 weeks in advance of opening date of regular duck season after which time the Department shall inspect all blinds and blind sites and issue Blind Registration Cards to those which pass inspection. If adverse weather or water conditions make compliance with this rule difficult the site superintendent or the District Wildlife Manager may grant extensions.
  • Sites on which blinds have not been built, as well as sites on which blinds of an unsatisfactory quality have been built, shall be reassigned to alternates selected at a drawing or by a first come-first served allocation held on a day publicly announced by the Department. All reassigned blinds must be completed, including final brushing, 7 days prior to the opening date of the duck season on sites posted as being closed to trespassing 7 days prior to regular duck season. On all other sites reassigned blinds must be completed, including final brushing, by the day before the opening day of the regular duck season.
  • Blinds must include a dog hide that is on the same level as the blind. The dog hide can either be incorporated into the blind by providing a hole at floor level that measures at least 20 inches high by 20 inches wide or by providing a separate compartment that is attached to the blind. Hides attached to the blind should have a minimum floor space that measures 2 feet by 2 feet and should be at least 2.5 feet high with 2 openings. One opening should be between the blind and the dog hide, should measure at least 20 inches by 20 inches, and should be constructed at the same level as the blind floor. The water access opening should be at least 20 inches wide and 20 inches high. Hides either within the blind or attached should have an enforced ramp to water level that is at least 15 inches wide with cleats every 12 inches. Openings in the blind must be capable of being closed when not in use.
  • At some sites, the use of any metal, with the exception of fasteners less than 12 inches in length, carpet, and plastic snow fence or mesh will be prohibited in the construction of waterfowl blinds

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

Management & Ecology

Waterfowl Surveys

Illinois Waterfowl Aerial Surveys : weekly and biweekly regional surveys and past surveys

Harvest Reports

Wetland Management

IDNR Wetland Wildlife Management works to protect waterfowl habitat and improve public migratory waterfowl areas within the state. These efforts include land acquisition and habitat development projects, such as the development of waterfowl propagation areas. IDNR biologists and land managers provide hunting for waterfowl at dozens of public hunting areas throughout Illinois. For more information download:

Duck Stamps

Each year waterfowl hunters purchase Migratory Waterfowl Stamps, or “duck stamps” as a requirement to hunt migratory waterfowl. Authorization for a federal duck stamp came in 1934 from passage of the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act, which was largely driven by waterfowl hunters’ concern over habitat loss and declining waterfowl populations. Funds from the purchase of these stamps are directed towards the purchase or lease of lands for inclusion in the National Wildlife Refuge System, providing critical breeding, migration and wintering habitat for waterfowl and a variety of other species, and recreation opportunity in many areas. With an initial cost of $1 and current cost of $25, Federal Duck Stamp funds to date have totaled over $800 million to protect more than 5.7 million acres of wildlife habitat nationwide.

Similar to the federal duck stamp, Illinois hunters initiated the Illinois Migratory Waterfowl Stamp Fund, which was established in 1975. The stamps originally cost $5, increasing to $10 in 1991 and to $15.50 in 2011. Over the life of the fund, stamp purchases have led to over $24 million deposited in this fund, with current average sales of about 60,000 stamps annually, leading to nearly $1 million annual revenue. Physical paper Illinois stamps affixed to hunters’ licenses were discontinued in 2011 and now only appear as a line item on printed licenses.

Illinois Duck Stamp funds are divided four ways each year based on specifications in the law that established the fund (520 ILCS 5/1.29). A state Duck Stamp Committee, which meets at least twice annually, is made up of representatives from various branches within DNR and non-profit waterfowl organizations, helps guide how funds are used. One quarter of the funds are used for habitat projects within Illinois. Examples include water management infrastructure such as levees and water control structures, equipment to manage sites such as pumps or heavy equipment, and land acquisition to increase hunting opportunity or waterfowl habitat capacity. Another quarter of the annual funds is dedicated to maintenance of existing waterfowl habitat in Illinois, typically at IDNR owned or managed sites. These funds are used for repairs and replacement of infrastructure and equipment at waterfowl management sites. Floods, ice, and age all take their toll on levees, pumps, culverts, water control structures and nearly anything else used to manage for wetland habitat. Typical projects include repairs or replacement of existing infrastructure or equipment or protection of existing infrastructure used to manage waterfowl habitat and undesirable vegetation control.

The final two categories, equaling one half of annual Illinois Duck Stamp funds, are dedicated to waterfowl production on the breeding grounds. One category is dedicated toward meeting the goals of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, while the other specifies providing habitat for ducks that migrate to the Mississippi Flyway (i.e., an administrative region that closely conforms to the boundaries of 14 states and three Canadian provinces, approximately running from Minnesota and Michigan in the north to Louisiana and Alabama in the south). Many of the ducks that visit Illinois, or are harvested by Illinois hunters, come from the traditional Prairie Pothole Region breeding grounds in Saskatchewan and Manitoba Canada and the Dakotas with Minnesota and Wisconsin also providing some ducks to Illinois. Because of the way funds originating in the U.S. can be leveraged (matched) in Canada, Illinois gets the greatest value by sending funds to non-profit organizations doing habitat conservation work in Canada. Funds are used to permanently protect, restore or establish the important wetlands and grasslands that make up the “Duck Factory” that will provide migrating ducks to hunters in Illinois and beyond well into the future.

Managing Waterfowl Populations

Waterfowl and other migratory birds are managed cooperatively among states and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), unlike many other wildlife species which are managed exclusively by states. Regulation frameworks, or “bookends”, are established by USFWS and states must select their specific regulations from within those frameworks. These include things like season dates, daily bag and possession limits, the number of zones or split seasons used, and other species specific regulations or closures. States and USFWS work together through Flyway Councils (Mississippi Flyway Council for Illinois), where waterfowl and other migratory bird specialists discuss and make recommendations for regulations, monitoring and research. Approved recommendations are sent to the USFWS Service Regulations Committee for approval or rejection, and once approved and published in the Federal Register become part of the regulations states must abide by. Other factors that contribute to waterfowl regulations are breeding population surveys and population estimates, hunter harvest determined by HIP registration, parts collection surveys and band returns, and habitat conditions in primary breeding areas. Visit the USFWS Migratory Bird Data Center here for more information.

Hunter Survey

Illinois Waterfowl Hunter Survey: Annual survey of waterfowl hunters (duck, goose, and coot) conducted by the Illinois Natural History Survey to gauge hunter harvest, habitat, attitudes and opinions. Results are used to help guide regulation changes.

Additional Resources