Crossbow Hunting Regulations in Illinois

Below you will find a quick summary of the current crossbow hunting regulations in the state of Illinois. This data was collected on July 31, 2013, and at the time we believe it to be fully accurate based on the research we did on the subject. We cannot guarantee, however, that the references below are void of any factual or legal errors. We did our best to ensure that everything was up to date, and we even contacted the authorities when something was not clear to us, just to confirm the current legal situation in Illinois. However please remember that these regulations do change from time to time, and that is possible we might have misinterpreted something. Which is why we ask that you treat the information you read here as a reference only, and not as legal advice.

Make sure to checkout our list of top 5 recommended crossbows for hunting in the USA if you’re looking to get started.

Crossbow Hunting Regulations in Illinois

Update: Details can be found herein 2017, governor Pat Quinn signed legislation making it legal for everyone, not only the disabled, to hunt with a crossbow during both archery deer season as well as fall archery wild turkey season. .

The regulations and laws in Illinois are a little confusing, so let us try to break it down for you:

  • For the temporarily disabled and permanently disabled: hunting with a crossbow is legal during the entire archery season. Certification from a licensed physician is required, and you will need to apply for an exemption by contacting the DNR Office of Law Enforcement at 217-782-6431.
  • For those age 62 and older: hunting with a crossbow during archery season is legal in Illinois, and no special permits are required. You do, however, need to carry a valid ID with a current picture and date of birth at all times while hunting; not having the ID with you will result in a fine, even if you really are 62 or older.
  • For everyone else: as long as you own a crossbow and a valid archery hunting license, you can legally hunt deer in Illinois beginning the first Monday coming right after the second deer firearm season in the state.

The following is also worth noting:

  • Each hunter is allowed to harvest a maximum of 2 deer per year, regardless of the number of permits and licenses you hold.
  • The minimum crossbow draw weight is 125 lbs, while the maximum allowed is 200 lbs.
  • While hunting with your crossbow, it’s illegal to carry with you any firearms, even if you do not intend to use it.
  • Taking migratory game birds with a crossbow is prohibited.
  • The minimum length of your crossbow from the stock butt and to the back of one of the limbs (stirrup not included) must be 24″
  • The length of the arrow shaft plus nock must be a minimum of 14″. (Length of the head is not included.)
  • Using expandable broadheads is legal.
  • Any broadheads used must have a cutting diameter of 7/8″ or more.
  • The use of any electronic tracking devices or calling systems is strictly prohibited.

We will update the above once we are aware of any important changes.

Help Us Improve

As mentioned earlier, we strive to keep the information presented in this guide to crossbow hunting regulations in Illinois as current as humanly possible. There might have been a recent change, however, which we completely missed for some reason, and hence we provide no guarantee as to the accuracy of the above. If you believe that any of the references above should be changed, updated or simply deleted, drop us an e-mail and we’ll investigate and make the required changes where applicable. Thank you.


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  1. The limit in illinois is two ANTLERED deer per year, regardless of quantity or type of permits. No limit on does if you have a valid permit for the season.

    1. Thanks for the info Ted. Would it be possible for you to provide a reference for this information? I’d really like to take a look so that I can update the article accordingly. Thanks!

  2. Are there any groups or organizations working with illinois government / IDNR to include crossbow use during the entire archery season?

    1. No, and last I heard from a conservation officer, DNR would prefer that they were not allowed for anyone not disabled. In their words, crossbows are the ideal weapon for poachers.

  3. So I guess I fall under the ( everyone else ) category I am 61 so do I or not have to be 62 to hunt with my crossbow if I have a archery permit ? Some say no some say they would hunt I just want to know I can’t afford a big fine cause of the ( everyone else section said ) with a archery permit is saying I can the way I understand it !

  4. I recently saw from the NRA-IL that new legislation was introduced to allow for the use of cross bows for all individuals during archery season. The bill had the support necessary to pass the house and Rauner will supposedly sign it into law. Still awaiting the results. Anxiously waiting!!

  5. The use of electronic deer calls have been legal in Illinois for years. Did they change this with the use of a crossbow ?

  6. If a person who has had 2_heart attacks n arthritis in my upper back and deration. I can not pull back a compound bow. I also have my Indiana crossbow license already. Please send me a reply or an application for my license.
    Sincerely, Donna Poland

      1. Go to the IL DNR website and they have several different handicap permits as well as the crossbow permit. You can print them right off, take them to your doctor and then mail them in. The permits MUST be filled out by a MD only and the state will check

  7. it’s best to direct your questions with the DNR if you don’t find the answer to your questions on the ILDNR website. Don’t assume anything without confirmation. I was ready to purchase an Excaliber Matrix 355 (355 draw weight) then learned it is illegal to use due to the 200lb draw restriction.

    1. Just for clarity: The Matrix 355 has a 355 advertised FPS; the actual draw weight is 240. However, that is indeed still too much for legal hunting in Illinois.

  8. is the use of a crossbow strickly permitted for hunting deer and turkey in illinois or can u hunt upland Furbearers in that time, the second monday after thanksgiving, Also? i.e. rabbit and squirrel?

  9. I’m having difficulty finding an MD willing to fill out the permit form for me to obtain the needed license. Any suggestions for Whiteside county?

    1. was this question ever answered? i havent been able to find anyone that can show me where it addresses the legality or illegality of a laser sight or tactical light. it really doesnt dicuss scopes or red dot or reflex sights. everyone just says of course its illegal, but then can never show where they came up with such a conclusion. this thread is clearly older, but i just wanted to see if i woulkd get an answer.

    1. I read that it passed the house but haven’t seen where the governor has signed it yet. DNR website doesn’t say anything about it yet either. Going to try and call the DNR office today to see if they have any info. Will post back if I hear anything.

  10. Reference the comment on your website ( Crossbow Hunting Regulations in Illinois Update: Details can be found herein 2017, governor Pat Quinn signed legislation making it legal for everyone, not only the disabled, to hunt with a crossbow during both archery deer season as well as fall archery wild turkey season.

    The link is to a 2012 IDNR News release that states “A legally permitted archery hunter may use a crossbow from the second Monday following Thanksgiving through the end of the archery hunting seasons.”

    On 7/24/2017 the Illinois House passed Senate Bill 1467 and sent it to the desk of Governor Bruce Rauner for his signature. SB 1467 would allow hunters to use a crossbow during Illinois’ official bowhunting season. Previously, individuals were only able to use a crossbow for the taking of game if they had a physical disability that prevented them from being able to draw a traditional bow. This legislation seeks to improve hunter retention in the Land of Lincoln as well as allow for a wider range of hunters to go afield during archery season and enjoy Illinois’ rich hunting tradition.

    Please contact Governor Rauner at (217) 782-0244 and politely urge him to sign Senate Bill 1467 into law.

  11. I think the maximum weight was removed in 2016. It’s not in the handbook any more and the crossbow rules with a 2017 rule change for handicapped shows the crossbow requirements as not having it, amended in 2016.

  12. Is it legal in Illinois to carry and use pocket sized de-cocking bolts? I know you are not allow to carry bolts with field tips and broad heads at the same time.

  13. I was told you could use crossbow all year long is this true also can you use crossbow during gun season and if you can do you need a special permit for that

  14. Is it true that anyone can use a crossbow in Illinois.and that some areas can be used during gun season. Were would I find out what county or area its legal. Or how to get permit.

  15. Isaac , I have recently moved to Il. I am disabled and I am only 54 years of age. Don’t want no ones pity , but as the old saying goes , walk a mile in my shoes! Anyone that would deprive a handicap person from enjoying nature and hunting is not worthy of being in charge and in that position of authority , if they feel that way! Thats how I feel!
    Being handicapped was not our decision!! Help, dont hinder.

  16. I understand the hunting laws but are there restrictions on ownership? Do I need a license for target shooting?

  17. I just purchased the new Ten Point (Havoc) crossbow. The scope has a range finder (Garmin) built into the scope/ crossbow. Is this new technology legal in Illinois? Thank you –

  18. I want to travel to a developing country with a bow and arrows, something that does not require much muscle power. My motive is that I live in an insecure area. When a group of thieves are intent on breaking in, I’d like to whiz an arrow over their heads or into one of their arms to motivate them to leave. Obviously I need to check the legalities at my home in this country, but I’d like to know if I’ll be given grief at O’Hare Field when I present my archery equipment in my checked luggage.

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