December Firearm Whitetail Hunts in Illinois
Illinois offers a 4-day shotgun/muzzleloader whitetail season the first week of December. The gun hunt takes place over the weekend starting on Thursday and ending Sunday. Firearm tags are applied for online during the lottery period in the summer or purchased over-the-counter after October 15th (if there are any left). Gun tags are county and season specific in Illinois. Deer hunters will also have to purchase a hunting license and habitat stamp, both can be purchased online or over-the-counter. We recommend purchasing your hunting license and habitat stamp online at the Illinois DNR website before trying to purchase the actual tags at a DNR vendor. (Most sporting goods store/ some gas stations sell hunting tags and licensing)
Whitetail Hunting Strategy During December Firearm Season
During the Illinois December firearm season, hunters can still experience the tail-end of the rut. It’s not uncommon to see mature bucks still trailing does at this time or cruising on the down-wind side of known doe bedding area searching for the last remaining does in estrous. During this time, the temperatures can begin to drop and whitetails will begin to congregate over quality late-season food sources such as corn/soybeans, brassicas and grains such as oats and rye. During the morning hours, we focus our clients on hunting transition/ bedding areas in the hardwoods or in areas with a high stem count (woody browse thickets). If we have snow on the ground at this time, deer will seek out areas of dense cover in search of thermal cover and natural browse that is easily accessible over the snowpack. Southern facing slopes close to a preferred source is also a favorite stand location during this time as whitetails take advantage of the warm sun rays. Evening hunts will generally be over some type of destination food plot or food source. If we have cold weather and snow, hunters can expect see high deer numbers.
During the December firearm season, we hunt out of ladderstands, ground blinds, pop-up blinds, tower blinds or permanent deer blinds. Stand location during the gun season will depend on wind and weather conditions, scouting reports from the guide and whether or not the hunter plans to sit all day in the same stand (which we typically recommend, weather dependent). We can accommodate any type of stand preference you may have whether it be ground blinds only, short walking distance, etc.
Weather Conditions During December Firearm Season
Weather during the December firearm season can vary from frigid cold to mild temperatures. Average day time highs are usually in the 30-40’s and lows in the 20-30’s. We recommend bringing quality gear and several layers of warm clothes. It seems that the clients that are well-prepared for extreme cold hunting conditions are the ones that have the most enjoyable and successful firearm hunts.
Sighting in Your Shotgun/Muzzleloader
The afternoon before the firearm season, we have all the hunters shoot their guns just to double check that their scopes hadn’t been bumped during transportation to the lodge. On numerous occasions we’ve had to make small adjustments after arrival even though the hunters had their firearm sighted in when they left their home. We sight the guns in at 100 yards from a stationary shooting bench. It’s not a bad idea to purchase extra ammo just in case your scope gets bumped during travel.
Best Shotgun For Deer Hunting?
We get this question a lot from deer hunters looking to purchase a shotgun specifically for deer hunting in Illinois. We see an array of different brands that come through and several of them do the job just fine. However, the Savage model 220 bolt action slug gun seems to consistently shoot very accurate out to 150 yards with no issue. They are not that expensive and with a decent scope, you should be able to shoot tight groups “for a slug gun” out to a couple hundred yards.
Firearm Season Checklist
- Muzzleloader or Firearm
- IL Deer Tags, IL Hunting License, IL Habitat Stamp, Photo ID
- Extra Sabots & Gun Powder/ Shells
- Rain Gear
- Insulated Rubber Boots or Pack Boots
- Orange Hat (required) – has to be solid orange, no “camo orange”
- Orange Vest (required) – has to be solid orange, no “camo orange”
- Gun Case (required) -state law in Illinois when transporting to and from the field
- Rattling Antlers (optional)
- Grunt Tube (optional)
- Pull Up Rope – all of our stands should have these but it might not hurt to throw one in your pack
- Treestand Safety Harness & Strap that goes around the tree (required when hunting out of stands)
- Flashlight (required)
- Hand Warmers
- Slippers or Heavy Socks (shoes are removed in mud room)
- Range Finder (highly recommended)
Book Your December Firearm Hunt Now!
We offer 5 night, 4 day firearm hunt in legendary Pike and Calhoun County, Illinois. 5 star lodging, home-cooked gourmet meals and professional guides will make for a once in a lifetime whitetail hunting experience! We intensely manage 5,000 acres for bucks over 140 inches. For more information give us a call at 217-734-2526 or E-Mail to book a hunt! We typically sell out for this hunt every season, reserve your spots today!