FAQs: Single-shot rifles and deer hunting in Illinois

Effective January 1, 2023, a new Illinois law will allow hunters to use centerfire, single-shot rifles in certain calibers for deer hunting. Administrative rules are still being developed to accommodate the new law. For additional information, please review the following list of frequently asked questions and answers.

FAQ Index

Questions

When can I hunt deer with a single-shot rifle in Illinois?

Public Act 102-0932 is effective Jan. 1, 2023. Until then, rifles (except muzzleloading rifles) may not be used to hunt deer. Specific information on when rifles will be allowed during deer season will be established by administrative rule. Follow this link for proposed and adopted administrative rules.

What calibers are legal for rifles in Illinois?

Effective Jan. 1, 2023, the legal calibers for single-shot rifles are:

  • 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 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. 

These caliber specifications are the same that hunters may be familiar with for handgun deer hunting in previous years. The barrel of a handgun shall be at least 4 inches. 

 Legal Cartridges

This list may not be all-inclusive, and the data was taken from individual, third-party sources, not tested by IDNR. This list is not a recommendation of any specific caliber by the Department.

To ensure the caliber they choose will be legal in their rifle, hunters should pay special attention to the notes included in the list showing the limitations and test data used. Before using a rifle for hunting, deer hunters should ensure the caliber they have chosen meets the law's definition.

What rifles are legal to use in Illinois?

Effective Jan. 1, 2023, single-shot rifles may be used to hunt deer in a caliber meeting the law’s criteria.

"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 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 a revolver.

A rifle shall be considered a single shot if there is no magazine in possession of or in close proximity to a hunter in the field and the gun can only hold a total of one round.

Can I use a lever-action/bolt-action/pump-action/semi-automatic rifle for hunting deer in Illinois?

Effective Jan. 1, 2023, any rifle chambered in a legal caliber and either manufactured or modified to be a single shot (capable of holding only one round in the magazine and chamber combined) may be used to hunt deer.

A gun shall be considered a single shot if there is no magazine in the possession of or in close proximity to a hunter in the field, and the gun can only hold a total of one round.

Modification of a rifle originally manufactured as a repeater (a lever action/bolt action/pump action/semi-automatic, etc.) to a single shot can take many forms, including but not limited to:

  • not having the detachable magazine in possession or close proximity,
  • removing internal magazine springs and followers,
  • using a plug to block the magazine tube,
  • purchasing “0 round” magazines,
  • or modifying the receiver or internal magazine of the rifle.

Hunters may not be in possession of or in close proximity to a magazine that is capable of making a rifle not a single-shot firearm.