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McCombie Persists – WORLD OUTDOORS: Rifle hunting deer in Illinois starts in 2023

July 25, 2022

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has published the preliminary rules on centerfire rifle and handgun hunting, which was passed into law earlier this summer.

First, these rules do not go into effect until Jan. 1 so it is still illegal to use a rifle to hunt deer in Illinois this fall. Early next year the IL DNR expects to put out more information, but here is what has been shared in the hunting digest.

Like any new rule, paying close attention to the definitions is very important. First, “centerfire” means a gun that will only fire a round that contains the primer in the center of the cartridge and not in the rim of the cartridge. This eliminates .22 Long Rifle and several other commonly used calibers for small game hunting.

Next, “single shot” means a gun that is either manufactured or modified to only be capable of holding a total of ONE round in the magazine and chamber combined. Single shot does not include: (a) a rifle in the possession of a person who is also in possession of or in close proximity to a magazine that would allow the rifle to be capable of holding more than one round or (b) a revolver.

A gun shall be considered single shot if there is no magazine in the possession of, or in close proximity of a hunter in the field and the gun can only hold a total of one round. Therefore, the way this is written, an internal magazine commonly found in bolt action rifles would not be legal to use for deer hunting.

The only legal ammunition for a centerfire handgun or rifle is a bottleneck centerfire cartridge of .30 caliber or larger with a case length not exceeding one and two-fifths inches, or a straight-walled centerfire cartridge of .30 caliber or larger, both of which must be 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. Full metal jacket bullets may not be used to harvest deer.

Some of the popular calibers that would qualify include the .350 Legend, .45 Long Colt, .444 Marlin, .45-70 Government, .450 Bushmaster, and .50 Beowulf. Therefore, your trusty .30-06, .270, or 7mm Remington mag are not going to be legal to use.

In general, these new options are going to be more accurate than most slugs, and easier to use than a muzzleloader. We all know that guy who can shoot proficiently with slugs or a muzzleloader, however this is about making the general hunting public more effective in hunting and recovering their game. I know several cases in Iowa where the reduced recoil increased the efficiency of hunters — and reduced lost deer — when the law was changed there.

For those concerned about rifle hunting, the reason straight walled calibers are allowed is because their capabilities are more similar shotgun slugs than a “typical” rifle. The bullet velocities are significantly slower than most hi-powered rifles, therefore, the danger aspects of a stray bullet are similar to a shotgun slug.

If you are looking for a rifle for your child or anyone who despises recoil, consider the .350 Legend, as it recoils about 20% less than a .243, can be found in several youth models., and is super accurate.

Overall, I would like to thank Q-C area Representative McCombie and Senator Anderson for co-sponsoring the bill for the past several years. Thank you for your persistence.

A copy of our report filed with the State Board of Elections is (or will be) available on the Board’s official website ( or for purchase from the State Board of Elections, Springfield, Illinois.

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