Handgun Deer Hunting Regulations Announced

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Natural Resources Director Joel Brunsvold today announced regulations governing sportsmen using handguns during this year’s firearm deer season.

"Many hunters have asked for this additional deer hunting opportunity and we’re pleased to be able to provide it this fall," Brunsvold said. "This is one of a number of increased opportunities we are bringing to sportsmen."

Handguns are being allowed during the regular firearm deer season for the first time this year. Illinois’ firearm deer hunting season is Nov. 21-23 and Dec. 4-7. A change in state law adds handguns to the already authorized use of shotguns and muzzleloading rifles as allowable firearms for hunters to use during the state’s firearm hunting season.

The regulations will allow any hunter with a permit for the firearm deer season to use centerfire revolvers or centerfire single-shot handguns of .30 caliber or larger with a minimum barrel length of four inches. Hunters can take a shotgun, muzzleloading rifle and/or a handgun with them during this season.

The legal ammunition for handgun hunting will be a straight-walled centerfire cartridge of .30 caliber or larger that is available as a factory load with the published ballistic tables of the manufacturer showing a capability of at least 500 foot pounds of energy at the muzzle. Non-expanding, military-style full metal jacket bullets cannot be used to harvest deer. Only soft point or expanding bullets, including copper or copper alloy rounds designed for hunting, are legal ammunition.

These regulations differ somewhat from past regulations for Illinois special handgun season held each January. The new regulations allow the use of a wider variety of centerfire handgun calibers. IDNR will continue its handgun-only season Jan. 16-18, 2004, in select counties to remove surplus deer.

While individuals with muzzleloader-only permits can hunt during the second half of the firearm deer season, individuals with those permits can use only muzzleloading rifles.

Hunters are reminded that all firearms, including handguns, should remain unloaded and in a case while being transported in any type of vehicle.

Deer hunters have a wealth of hunting opportunities in Illinois. In addition to the firearm and handgun-only seasons, Illinois has muzzleloader-only and archery deer seasons. The muzzleloader-only season is Dec. 12-14 and thousands of additional permits have just been made available for this year. The archery deer season opens Oct. 1 and runs through Jan. 15. The archery season is closed during firearm season, except in Cook, DuPage, Kane and Lake counties where firearm deer hunting is not permitted.