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All IL hunters must buy Illinois hunting licenses prior to going out on any hunting trips to remove wildlife from state-sanctioned lands. Hunting without a proper hunting permit is against the law in Illinois and may result in serious fines and penalties. Licenses to hunt are regulated by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which issues permits to both residents and non residents. Hunting licenses are categorized based on numerous factors, such as the applicant’s age, residency status, the length of the hunting license’s validity and the type of animal(s) the applicant would like to hunt. Prior to completing the hunting license application process, applicants should first learn which license they need. In addition, before buying hunting licenses, hunters in Illinois must first complete the hunter education requirements set by the Department of Natural Resources. Hunter education courses are taught by wildlife experts and cover topics such as hunting ethics, wildlife conservation and the safest ways to handle firearms. Once the hunter education course is completed, hunters can complete the hunting license application process and buy hunting permits and tags from the Department of Natural Resources. Hunters can buy hunting licenses from the wildlife department in one of the following ways: online, in person or over the phone. Depending on the type of license, the available methods of application may vary. For more information on how to get hunting licenses in Illinois, read the sections outlined below.

  • Types of hunting licenses in Illinois
  • How to buy hunting licenses in Illinois
  • Renewing Illinois hunting licenses
  • Replacing Illinois hunting licenses
  • Hunter education in Illinois

What are the hunting licenses available in Illinois?

Hunting licenses in Illinois are issued to residents and nonresidents alike. All licenses can be divided into two main categories: residential hunting licenses and non resident hunting licenses. Aside from the standard residential hunting license, the wildlife department also offers residential senior licenses, lifetime hunting licenses, veteran licenses and combination fishing and hunting licenses (annual, lifetime, veteran and senior options available).

Non resident hunting license options include apprentice licenses (for individuals who have not passed a hunter education course, and must be accompanied by a licensed adult 21 years of age or older on all hunting trips), annual licenses, five-day hunting licenses and hunting preserve licenses.

Depending on the animal or bird species being hunted in Illinois, various animal-specific hunting permits are available. Specific hunting permits include privileges for hunting game bird, deer, small game, turkey, dove, migratory waterfowl and upland game bird. Residents 16 years of age or younger can also obtain various youth permits, including youth waterfowl hunting permits and turkey youth shotgun or archery permits.

How can I buy an Illinois hunting license?

Illinois hunters can buy hunting licenses from the Department of Natural Resources online, in person or over the phone. To buy hunting licenses online, visit the wildlife department’s online licensing system, also known as Department of Natural Resources Direct. On the system, applicants must choose which hunting license they would like to purchase, then complete the online hunting license application. Hunters must provide certain personal information on the form including their customer number, Social Security Number, driver’s license number (or ID card number) and date of birth. To pay the hunting license fees, applicants must also have a valid credit card available. Once the purchase is complete, applicants must print the hunting license from a personal printer and keep it in an accessible area during all hunting trips.

Hunters who would rather purchase an IL hunting license in person can find plenty of authorized license dealers and retailers throughout Illinois. Hunters can also complete hunting license applications by visiting a local Department of Natural Resources office.

Furthermore, hunters can get hunting licenses by completing a hunting license application over the phone. Phone hunting license orders will arrive by mail within a few business days.

How can I renew an Illinois hunting license?

Illinois hunting licenses expire on March 31 of every year. Hunters in Illinois with expired hunting licenses can purchase a new license in January of the year after their license expires. Hunters should make sure to renew their IL license to hunt on time in order to avoid fines and penalties. Timely hunting license renewals also ensure that hunters can start the new hunting season with a valid permit.

How can I replace an Illinois hunting license?

Many hunting licenses get lost, stolen or damaged. As hunting without a valid hunting license is illegal in the state, hunters must immediately take responsibility and obtain a replacement once they notice the original is missing. Duplicate licenses can be purchased from authorized license retailers or at the Chicago and Springfield Department of Natural Resources offices. Damaged hunting licenses that have not expired can be reprinted free of charge via the online licensing system.

How can I get hunter’s education in Illinois?

To get a hunting license, individuals born on or after January 1, 1980 are required to pass a hunter safety education program. All hunting license applicants must present a valid Hunter Education Certificate of Competency issued by the Safety Education Division or the IL Department of Natural Resources. This rule applies to both residents and nonresidents. The hunter education program classes cover a variety of topics including state hunting rules and regulations, firearms and ammunition, wildlife identification and conservation, hunter ethics and responsibility, field and treestand safety, muzzleloading, bowhunting and first aid tactics.

To get a certificate, every hunter must complete at least 10 hours of instructional classes. Hunters must also pass the final exam to receive their certificate. Courses can be taken online or in a classroom. Hunter education is free of charge for all students.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes. All throughout the United States, hunters safety classes must be completed in order for applicants to obtain their desired hunting permits and stamps. Failure to take this specific course will result in the rejection of your hunting license request, thus requiring you to start over.
Depending on your state of residence, you may be able to buy hunting licenses in a variety of ways, including online (through your state department’s portal), by mail, by phone or in person. Choose the option that is most convenient for you. Make sure to also have any type of official documentation and payment for fees on hand.
No. Different states have different limits and regulations on hunting licensure. Certain animals may be considered “prohibited species,” whereas other animals may be legal to hunt, so long as you have the necessary hunting permit/stamp. Keep in mind that if you do hunt for any type of prohibited species, you will be subject to serious consequences.
Yes. States typically offer various short-term hunters license options, such as one-day and one-week passes, to those who do not meet residency requirements. In order to receive issuance of a short-term hunting license, make sure to get in touch with your state/hunting wildlife department to find out the available methods you have to apply.
In the event your hunting credentials are lost, stolen, damaged or destroyed, contact your state hunting/wildlife department to order a hunting license replacement. You may have to make an in-person visit to a local office to complete the process. At the time of your replacement request, you may be asked to present your state driving license or another type of identification.
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