Illinois Deer Population:   About 640,000 deer in 2021, down from about 690,000 in 2020.  A nearly stable population from 2013 to 2021 of around 640,000 to 690,000 deer following a large decline after an EHD outbreak in 2012 when the population was estimated at 700,000 to 750,000.   A recent peak population around 2008 when the herd was estimated a 800,000 to 1,000,000.  Herd analysis at right. 

Illinois Deer News

IDNR announces detection of chronic wasting disease in Ford County May 1, 2024 Illinois,

... Chronic wasting disease has been detected in Ford County, expanding the geographic presence of the infection in free-ranging deer populations in northern Illinois ... a suspect-deer exhibiting symptoms consistent with CWD infection. Other recent cases of CWD were documented previously in Bureau and Lee counties during 2023 and 2022, respectively..,

Deer hunters may see a change on the packaged meat if a bill is passed April 15, 2024 Illinois, Cities 92.9

... House Bill 2601 ... existing meat processing plants have to put labels on processed meat that says “not for sale” and “not inspected.” ... this bill cleans this up a bit and removes the [required label] ‘not inspected’ ...

INHS survey studies Illinois hunters' beliefs about controlling disease in deer populations April 3, 2024 University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

... The occurrence of CWD cases in deer is expanding, as the disease was found in 10 Illinois counties in 2012 and 19 counties in 2022... hunters’ perceptions of risk of CWD to both deer and humans have dropped slightly over the years.  “The disease is no longer news, and people just don’t see the risk anymore,” ...

Elk coming and going makes history in Illinois November 15, 2023 Illinois, Chicago Sun-Times

... Wild elk graced the Chicago area until about 190 years ago. At least one was back... a wild elk was hit and killed on the southbound side of Interstate 55 near the intersection with I-80 in Joliet ..,

Illinois hunters harvested 76232 deer during firearm season, down from 2022 December 11, 2023 Chicago Sun-Times

... For the first modern season where certain rifles were allowed during Illinois’ firearm deer season, the impact appears negligible or minor on harvest totals. Illinois hunters harvested 76,232 deer (preliminary numbers) during the two parts of firearm season, down slightly from 76,854 deer in the 2022 firearm season...

County-by-county deer harvest stats released for 1st weekend of Illinois firearm season November 28, 2023 Illinois, YAHOO!News

... Hunters in Illinois killed about 1,000 more deer during the first weekend of the 2023 firearm season compared to last year, according to preliminary figures from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources...

Illinois hunters encouraged to have deer tested for Chronic Wasting Disease October 25, 2023, WHBF Davenport

...Chronic wasting disease ... first detected in a suspected adult female deer from northwest Boone County in 2002. Since then, 162,099 wild deer have been sampled statewide and 1,752 individual deer tested positive for CWD ..,

This year's deer season marks the first where Illinois hunters can use rifles  WRSP October 11, 2023 Illinois, Fox Illinois

... As of January 2023, Illinois hunters are now permitted to hunt deer using rifles ... any rifles used must be converted to a single-shot rifle...

IDNR reminds hunters that drone use for hunting is prohibited September 27, 2023 Illinois, KFVS12

...  for any aspect of hunting or recovery of wildlife is unlawful. Jed Whitchurch, the director of the IDNR Office of Law Enforcement, also says it is unfair...

More than 1600 hunting violations in Illinois in 2022 March 8, 2032 Illinois, Advantage News

... The most common hunting violation in Illinois is killing whitetail deer without the valid permits or out of season... The second most cited hunting violation in Illinois is using bait, like corn and salt licks, to attract deer...

More than 1600 hunting violations in Illinois in 2022 March 8, 2032 Illinois, Advantage News

... The most common hunting violation in Illinois is killing whitetail deer without the valid permits or out of season... The second most cited hunting violation in Illinois is using bait, like corn and salt licks, to attract deer...

Special chronic wasting disease deer season contributes to state's increased harvest March 6, 2023 Illinois, Shaw Local

... Sixteen northern Illinois counties – including Lee, Ogle and Carroll – were open to the special chronic wasting disease season. There also was a seven-day late winter season in 24 mostly central and western counties..,

EHD, Deer protected from deadly disease by newly discovered genetic differences Febraury 23, 2023 Illinois,

... University of Illinois scientists have found gene variants in deer associated with the animals' susceptibility to EHD [Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease] ... "This is the first time this gene has been sequenced completely in white-tailed deer...

Overall deer harvest by Illinois hunters jumps nearly 8 percent February 22, 2023 Illinois, Chicago Sun-Times

... Illinois hunters harvested 158,010 deer during all 2022-23 firearm and archery seasons, up from 146,438 in ‘21-22... Sixteen northern Illinois counties were open to the special CWD season, which is used to assist in slowing the spread of chronic wasting disease in the Illinois deer herd... [details]

Deer impaled on Alton fence February 8, 2023 Illinois, Alton Telegraph

... A large white tailed doe was fatally injured Wednesday morning when it was impaled on a cast iron fence ... The deer's injuries were beyond lifesaving measures ...

Richmond residents don’t know what to do about roaming exotic deer February 6, 2023 Illinois, ShawLocal

...   Delilah the fallow deer has been wandering around Richmond  ... Getting Delilah out of the wild may come down to personal responsibility of the original owner ...

Police had been investigating Cox family of hunters in Freeburg for more than a month January 9, 2023 Illinois, BND

... officers allegedly observed trail cameras on nine baited deer stands or blinds with corn, molasses and mineral salt. Danny Cox, 63, told them on Nov. 18 that he’s a “conservationist” who feeds deer year-round to make sure they have enough to eat, the report stated. Deer baiting is illegal in Illinois due to ethical or “fair-chase” standards and the risk of disease spread with congregated feeding ...

Famous reindeer Rudolph has Illinois roots December 17, 2022 Jacksonville Journal-Courier

... Robert May, an Illinois copywriter whose creativity brought Rudolph to life in a 1939 storybook for Chicago-based department store giant Montgomery Ward...

Deer herd finds urban refuge at Rosehill Cemetery November 21, 2022 Illinois, Chicago Sun-Times

... The cemetery staff members say there may be as many as 16 deer roaming the 335 acres of Rosehill, the city’s largest cemetery ... “I’m out of apples — they really like apples,” said Brian Keleher, 72, who regularly visits Rosehill Cemetery to see the wildlife...

Hunters get set for firearm deer season in Southern Illinois November 11, 2022 The Southern Illinoisan

... Since 2012, deer hunters in Illinois have harvested between 145,000-162,000 deer each year... “We’re definitely below our all-time high (201,209 in 2005), but if you look at the last decade or so, we haven’t seen any major swings up or down from about 2012.” ..,

IDNR announces 2022 chronic wasting disease sampling locations for deer hunters October 27, 2022 Illinois, EIN News

... Since 2002 when the first deer was diagnosed with CWD in Illinois, 150,970 wild deer have been sampled statewide, and 1,383 individual deer have been found to be infected with CWD... Locations also can be found on the Hunt Illinois app at or through an interactive map at

IDOT reminding drivers to watch out for deer October 19, 2022 Illinois, WRSP - Fox Illinois

... Fall is mating season for deer and that means deer become more active, mainly at dawn and dusk from October through December... Officials say in 2021, 14,522 motor vehicle crashes involved deer in Illinois...

Mountain lion killed on I-88 in Kane County October 17, 2022 Illinois, Daily Herald

... Mountain lions were eliminated from Illinois before the 1870s due to habitat loss and overharvesting. Confirmed sightings in Illinois during the past few decades consist of younger animals, typically originating from a population in the Black Hills of South Dakota..,

CWD, Genetic diversity could help endangered deer avoid threat of deadly disease October 11, 2022 Illinois,

...In a 2021 study, University of Illinois scientists provided a glimmer of hope for the endangered Père David's deer, showing those in U.S. zoos may have some degree of genetic resistance to the disease...   ... There may be little opportunity for wild cervids to infect captive deer directly, but infectious prion proteins can be transferred into pens via bedding or feed. And once prions get in, they're very hard to eliminate...

CWD in wild Illinois deer hits high mark October 4, 2022 Illinois, Outdoor News

... An all-time high 218 CWD cases were confirmed in Illinois during Fiscal Year 2022 and the disease prevalence rate for deer taken by hunters was 4.5% ...  brings the total to 1,383 positive CWD cases since DNR’s surveillance program began in late 2003..,

Figuring bowhunting for deer in Illinois as the season opener comes Oct. 1 September 23, 2022 Illinois, Chicago Sun-Times

... “The majority of counties in Illinois are near their population goals or managed below goal to mitigate the spread of [CWD],” emailed Dan Skinner, forest wildlife program manager. “At this time, the Forest Wildlife Program is considering opening twenty-three counties to the Late Winter Antlerless Only season in an attempt to reduce population size through hunter harvest ...

Here are the signs of chronic wasting disease in deer September 12, 2022 Illinois, WQAD Davenport/Moline 

... From 2002 to 2021, IDNR reported 141,074 deer were tested for CWD and 1,165 tested positive. Wildlife Disease and Invasive Species Program Manager Chris Jacques with IDNR said those numbers have increased to over 150,000 for testing and 1,380 for positives..,

'Chronic Wasting Disease' in Deer Subject of IDNR Meetings in Northern Illinois September 7, 2022 Kane County Connects

...  First documented in Illinois in 2002 near Roscoe, CWD has been detected in 19 counties across the northern edge and northeastern portions of Illinois, as far south as Kankakee and Livingston counties ..,

Dogs are sniffing out disease in animals vital to traditions of the Blackfeet tribe June 29, 2022 NPR Illinois

... the dogs trained by the nonprofit organization Working Dogs for Conservation will detect chronic wasting disease in deer and elk scat at such sites that serve as watering holes for herds. The idea is to help alert wildlife managers of the disease's presence as early as possible...

Spatial epidemiology of hemorrhagic disease in Illinois wild white-tailed deer.  2022, Scientific Reports

... hemorrhagic disease (HD) ... We evaluated the occurrence of HD in wild Illinois white-tailed deer from 1982 to 2019. Our retrospective space–time analysis identified high-rate clusters of HD cases from 2006 to 2019. The pattern of northward expansion indicates changes in virus-host-vector interactions...

2 Illinois eagles died from lead poisoning this month, and toxic hunting ammunition is likely the culprit March 22, 2022 Chicago Tribune

...  studies showing a strong link between widespread lead poisoning in eagles and the use of lead ammunition by deer hunters. The ammunition fragments and disperses in a deer’s body, and eagles ingest it when they feast on “gut piles,” ...

New legislation aims to reduce paperwork for out of state hunting land owners February 28, 2022 Illinois, WSIU Radio

... In Illinois if land owners allow hunting on their property, they must provide IDNR with documentation proving they own the land and the property taxes are paid... House Bill 5042 in January to will change the requirement to every five years ...

State releases number of deer hunted in past season February 25, 2022 Illinois, WREX

... The state reports a preliminary total of 147,004 deer were harvested, a number that compares to the total from the 2020-2021 season at 162,752...

City of Galena conducts annual deer count  February 2, 2022 Illinois, Telegraph Herald

... 140 deer were counted ... 2018 count found 136 ... In 2019, 211  .. and in 2020 ... 200...

2019-2020 Illinois Deer Hunter Report 2022 Illinois Department of Natural Resources

... Eighteen percent of hunters (n = 230)

reported knowing someone that shot but did not retrieve a deer during the 2019-20 season with a 

total of 61 deer not retrieved... Respondents reported that the most essential items for deer hunting (aside from license, permit, bow or firearm/ammunition) were: (1) tree stands (71%), (2) binoculars (39%), (3) cover scent (39%), and (4) range finders (39%) ..,

Reindeer Once Roamed Illinois December 24, 2021  WTTW News

... a 17,000-year-old reindeer jaw old from Kendall County, IL ... You wanna leave a treat for Santa’s team? Set out some moss....

Hunting guide says 2021 deer season produced average totals December 20, 2021 Illinois,

... The 2021 preliminary harvest for the 7-day 2021 Illinois Firearm Deer Season wound up with 71,675 deer reported, compared to 77,160 deer harvested in 2020...

For bow hunters, 2021 deer harvest numbers down December 19, 2021 Illinois,

... “My experience tells me that it looks like the deer population is down a little this year,” ... Mayo is in the sport as much for the quest as for the harvest...

Numbers tell major tale for deer hunters  December 18, 2021 Illinois,

... figures show a decline of approximately eight percent decline over last season an approximately 5-6 percent decline over 2019... these figures tell a tale of a declining deer population within the state!..

UI researchers express concern about COVID-19 spread in deer populations December 16, 2021 Illinois, The Daily Illini

... For Schauber, the primary concern is how humans transmitted the virus to deer in the first place... it’s another reminder that human health isn’t isolated from animal health...

Endangered deer's prion gene could protect it from chronic wasting disease November 24, 2021 Illinois, EurekAlert!

... According to a University of Illinois-led study, Père David’s deer has gene variants that may naturally protect the animals from the ravages of CWD... China’s Père David’s deer was nearly gone in the late 1800s. Just 18 deer ...

Illinois DNR To Test Up To 1,000 Deer For Coronavirus This Winter November 8, 2021 Patch

... Similar tests from last year in Iowa showed the virus spreading rapidly in local deer populations... Eric Schauber, a biologist at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, told WCIS in August that 7 percent of deer tested in Illinois had antibodies for the virus...

Deer-harvest totals drop significantly during early archery season October 28, 2021 Illinois, The News-Gazette

... Illinois has seen the number of killed drop in the last decade and a half — from 200,000 in 2005 to 120,000 in 2019. Correspondingly, the number of deer-vehicle wrecks has dropped from 174.5 to 150.7 per billion miles traveled during the same period.  “In the mid-2000s, we were at a peak of deer population and deer accidents,” ..,

IDNR offers free deer meat testing for chronic wasting disease  October 15, 2021 Illinois, The Center Square

...  a deer can carry the CWD infection for several years without showing any outward signs of the disease...

Bowhunting deer in Illinois: As season opened, a COVID-19 question, usual updates and a historical note October 8, 2021 Illinoia, Chicago Sun-Times

...   “Generally speaking, populations will be similar to those we observed going into the last hunting season. The Department will likely be adding two counties to the late-winter antlerless-only hunt in an effort to decrease populations that have continued to grow despite increases in permit quotas.... Dan Skinner, forest wildlife program manager  ..,

Deer mating season begins; IDOT warns motorist to be vigilant October 4, 2021 Illinois, WAND

... Autumn marks the start of deer mating season ...  more than 43% of crashes involving deer in Illinois occurred in October, November and December, with November being the highest-risk month...

Illinois hunters can expect plenty of Whitetail deer to harvest this fall October 1, 2021 The Southern.

.. “Weather conditions are looking good with an average to moderate winter and ample rainfall this spring and summer for the majority of the state.  Northeastern Illinois and parts of Southern Illinois have experienced near-drought or drought ... As has been the case for the past decade or so, the Illinois deer population has remained stable.., 

A deer is finally freed, with some sedation, from a rope swing in Barrington September 1, 2021 Illinois,

... the deer was frantic and running in a circle, at times leaving its feet and swinging by its antler ... "His adrenaline was so pumped that it took us three rounds of anesthetic to get him groggy," Keller posted on Facebook....

DNR: 4 Illinois juveniles ran over deer, committed 119 wildlife violations July 16, 2021 WISHTV8

... accused of killing the deer by shooting them from trucks, using a spotlight at night to shoot them, and intentionally running them over with their vehicles and stabbing and kicking them to death....

Multiple people charged in deer poaching scandal, allegedly shot and ran over 20 deer in Illinois and Indiana June 22, 2021,

... everything from felony resource theft, unlawful taking of whitetail deer, unlawful use of tag of another person, and unlawful use of a spotlight to felony animal torture, reckless driving, criminal trespass to real property, and unlawful discharge of a firearm from a public right of way,” ...

SIU forestry student tracks mule deer routes to protect habitats April 13, 2021 Illinois, SIU News

... Mule deer populations have been declining across the western United States for decades, with the decline being even more pronounced on the Navajo Nation, Manninen said. Scientists lay the blame on several factors, including habitat loss, overgrazing by livestock, disease and predation...

River Forest, Deer committee narrowly votes to recommend culling February 10, 2021 Illinois, Wednesday Journal

... survey included responses from 1,514 River Forest residents... in response to whether the respondent had experienced any “deer issues,” with 49 percent reporting none and 51 percent reporting yes... Prefer lethal (killing of deer via professional sharpshooting): 22 percent ... Prefer non-lethal (no killing deer) options (i.e. more traffic signs, education): 27.8 ...

Deer Hunting Seasons Conclude with Hunters in Illinois Taking Preliminary Total of 162,575 Deer February 1, 2021 Illinois DNR

...  Hunters in Illinois harvested a preliminary total of 162,575 deer during all 2020-21 archery and firearm seasons, which concluded Jan. 17, 2021. The total preliminary deer harvest for all seasons compares with a total harvest for all seasons of 153,174 deer in 2019-20..,

Despite rise in deer incidents, Galena officials tout hunting program's success January 27, 2021 Illinois,

... City leaders started the deer hunting program in 2018 after discovering that the local deer population was 136 ... Despite these efforts, the city’s deer population has risen. The most recent deer count in January 2020 put the local population at 200 ...

Hunter cited $10k, charged over illegally harvested 12-point buck in Illinois January 21, 2021 Illinois, KWQC

...  illegally harvested a 12-point buck whitetail deer 42 minutes after legal shooting time ... issued a $10,000 civil penalty per statue for the assessed value ...

Illinois data:  Based on hunting data and comments from the state some estimates reported in the press, the deer population has been approximately stable from 2013 to 2021 in the 640,000 to 690,000 range.  In 2022 the state reported that a majority of counties are near or below their deer population goals.  The deer kill in the 2022-23 season increased in part because 16 northern Illinois counties were open to a special chronic wasting disease season and there was a late winter season in 24 mostly central and western counties.

The chart below estimating the deer population relies on hunting data (adjusted for number of hunters) and population estimates reported in the press for 2004, 2008, 2009, 2012, and 2017.  The data.

About 640,000 deer in 2021, down from about 690,000 in 2020.  Some of the increase in the deer harvest in 2020 was attributed to increased hunting during the pandemic.

Deer populations in 2021 were thought to be stable to slightly increasing in a few regions, but hunting data indicates an overall decline from 2020.  In a 2021 survey most hunters reported seeing fewer deer over the past five years.  Good weather in 2020 supported populations.  In 2020 the state changed hunting regulations to increase the deer population in three counties and reduce the population in 20 counties.  An estimated 660,000 deer in 2019, and 652,000 for 2018 based on hunting data.   In 2018 antlerless restrictions for east-central counties were implemented to grow the herd.   By 2018, some regions the herd had rebounded from the state's worst outbreak of EHD in 2012.

The 2017 deer population was well below the state's carrying capacity, but populations were being managed with regard to social issues such as crop damage and deer-vehicle collisions.  The 2017 harvest data and reported estimate indicate a stable to slightly increasing population of about 660,000 deer, an increase in west-central counties. .About 677,000 deer in 2015, 645,000 in 2014, and 660,000 in 2013 estimated using harvest data. 

Deer herds were reported to be on the decline in 2015 largely as a result of high hunting pressure.  

After a 25 percent drop in the 2013 harvest, the number of deer licenses for 2014 were reduced by 4.1 percent to 592,457 and the state changed its objective to increasing deer populations.  Reduced again in 2015 to 577,244.  Reasons for the decline include adverse weather conditions, herd reduction efforts and deer mortality due to outbreaks of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD). Deer management goals were generally maintaining to increasing the herd.   The 2014 harvest was 47 percent does, 49 percent in 2013.   A population estimate of 700,000 deer in 2013, down from an estimate in 2012 of 700,000 to 750,000 deer.  In 2011 the Northwest Herald reported on the "the widely-held opinion that there has been a drastic reduction in the population of whitetail deer in Illinois."

An estimate of 800,000 deer in 2009 Dramatic harvest declines became a major issue. In 2008 the population was estimated at 800,000 to 1 million, the peak population was at around this time.   An estimate of nearly 800,000 deer in 2004.  The herd was under a managed decline from 2005.

About 750,000 deer in 1995, the peak during the 1990s. The Illinois General Assembly decided deer management should be linked to the number of auto-deer accidents. In 2008 the Task Force on Deer Population control recommended a 14 percent reduction in the rate of deer vehicle collisions from peak levels, the IDNR began increasing the harvest to achieve that goal in 2009. 

The 2017 deer population was well below the state's carrying capacity, but populations are being managed with regard to social issues such as crop damage and deer-vehicle collisions.  97 percent of the state's hunting property is privately owned with just 836,000 acres of public land.

Peak of the rut is November 8 - 11.

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) was first discovered in the deer herd in 2002 near Roscoe.  CWD was found in 19 northern counties by 2022 with over 150,000 deer tested. There were 1,383 for positives since testing began and 218 positives during Fiscal Year 2022A special CWD hunt was held in the 2022-23 season to reduced deer in infected areas to slow the spread.  Since 2002, 150,970 wild deer had been tested with 1,383 positive cases as of October, 2023.  

Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD)  Some EHD mortality occurs every year, but is worst in drought conditions when deer congregate around muddy areas where the midges that spread the disease are found.  The worst recent outbreak was in 2012 when 2,043 dead deer reported to IDNR from 76 counties.  EHD nearly absent in 2014 and at low levels in 2015, 2016, and 2017.  Over 400 died in 2018.  A 2022 study documents the norhward expansion of the disease.  By October, 2023, 162,099 wild deer had been sampled statewide and 1,752 individual deer tested positive.

History:  Illinois forests were filled with deer as settlement began.  Over hunting during early settlement led to the virtual extinction of deer in Illinois by the late 1800's.  Deer hunting was limited in about half the state by 1873 with the last open season in 1900.  "  The last deer in Northern Illinois was reported in 1874, although there were still deer kept in pens across the state.  In 1901, Illinois imposed what was supposed to be a five-year moratorium on deer hunting. "As it turned out, whitetail deer basically had disappeared from the state, so that “temporary” closure lasted 56 years."  In the 1930s  By the 1930s, "the United States Forest Service and the Illinois Department of Conservation were releasing deer into the wilds of southern Illinois from game farms."  By 1940 the deer population was about 500.

Prior to the 1950s, occasional escapes and releases of deer from privately-owned preserves, translocations conducted by the Illinois Department of Conservation (currently IDNR) and the United States Forest Service, and possibly immigration of deer from adjacent states led to the reintroduction of white-tailed deer in Illinois." History  More History

"By 1950, white-tailed deer were known to inhabit 68 Illinois counties, and 33 counties were opened for deer hunting in 1957."  An estimate of 2,550 in 1949-1950 and more than 3,075 in 1950-1951 (p. 12). A census in 1957 showed about 15,000 deer concentrated in the far northwest of the state with some in the southern forests and the first modern firearm season opened.  

Even by the 1970's, it was rare to see a deer.  History   "... during the 1980s while (firearm) hunter success appeared to stabilize at 45-47 percent. During the 1980 firearm deer season, 20,700 deer were harvested by 75,800 permittees statewide compared to a peak harvest of 123,792 deer with 329,940 permits in 2005. Projections based upon population trend data indicate a stable to slightly declining statewide population from 2004 through 2008."   More history.

Deer Population Estimates:  1940:   500.    1950:  3,100.    1960:  19,195.    1968: 25,000.

Elk  Eliminated from Illinois by around 1830, at least one came back in 2023, killed by a car in Joliet.

Mountain Lions  Eliminated from Illinois before the 1870s with occasional recent sightings typically of young lions from South Dakota.

Bobcat, once nearly extinct, the population grew to around 5,000 by 2014.

Coyotes, a 2019 study in the Chicago region fund coyotes accounted for 77.8& or mortality for deer fawns.

Report Poaching and Baiting:  1-877-2-DNR-LAW

Other useful links:

- Living with White-tailed Deer in Illinois, University of Illinois Extension   - Chronic Wasting Disease Statistics   - Deer Vehicle Accident Goals, used to set population targets.   - Fox Valley Wildlife Center  - Illinois Deer Hunting Information  

Below a graph of the Indiana Deer Hunt Results from 2011 to 2020 from IDNR