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Waterfowl Hunting

The Basics

The Illinois Recreational Access Program (IRAP) leases waterfowl hunting property from private landowners throughout Illinois and makes them available for controlled, public access. Waterfowl hunters must fill out an online application, and then IRAP serves as the "middle-person" in order to connect hunters to places to hunt while keeping the identity of the hunter and landowner seperate. Thus, hunters are not to contact the landowner, and landowners are not to contact the hunter. 

IRAP's 2024 applications for November and December Waterfowl hunting will be available August 2. 

Who: Any legally licensed hunter (Illinois resident or non-resident) who has completed their hunter safety course (if born in 1980 or after) and who complies with all Illinois hunting laws may apply, including:

  • Youth (under the age of 18): All Youth hunters must have a non-hunting, validly licensed supervising adult of at least 21 years of age accompany them. 
  • 1st-Time Adult: (someone who has not hunted waterfowl in the past five years)
  • Adult: (any legally licensed hunter over the age of 18)

Preference may be given to youth and first-time hunters, and those who currently serve or have served in the US military.

When: IRAP offers waterfowl hunting in all 4 zones from November 1 through December 31. Waterfowl hunting dates consist of 4-5 day periods of hunting access on leased private property.  Please see IRAP's statewide waterfowl hunting map below for site availability by county. 

Where: IRAP leases land from private landowners in exchange for specific, controlled access. Landowners also receive assistance with improving their property through beneficial habitat projects. Currently, there are over 20 waterfowl hunting sites in 7 counties throughout Illinois that are available for hunter access.

What: IRAP's Waterfowl hunting application is available August 4. The deadline for applications for November hunting periods is September 11. The deadline for applications for December hunting periods is October 10.

How It Works

Hunters applying for an IRAP waterfowl site must complete an online application along with the accompanying liability waiver and non-hunting supervisor, mentor and or observer (if applicable) forms. 

If applying as a group, a "group organizer" must be selected. Each group member must then fill out an individual application and list their group organizer. Each group member MUST name the same group organizer, as that name is used to match all members to their group. If a member of a group does not provide the correct name of the group organizer, that person will not receive a permit to hunt with their group. Once permits have been issued and mailed, additional members cannot be added to the group.

Each waterfowl hunting site can accommodate a group of up to four people. Please note that if you decide to take an additional non-hunting supervisor, mentor or observer, then that person must make up one of the four within your group. 

Additional Information:

You may only apply for and hunt up to 4 periods/sites per year (2 each for November and December) on IRAP property.

If you wish to take a non-hunting adult mentor or observer with you during your hunt, you will need to:

  • Include them in your IRAP application under the "Non-Hunting Mentor" or "Non-Hunting Observer" section
  • Have them sign the liability waiver
  • Make sure they do NOT hunt, carry a firearm, or bow

All youth hunters must have a non-hunting, validly licensed supervising adult of at least 21 years of age accompany them. The supervising adult must make up one of the four in a group.

Successful applicants will receive a packet of information, including an IRAP parking and site permit, a map, and directions to the site, approximately 3 weeks before the start of the season applied for. Please note that no changes can be made to submitted applications once application deadlines have passed. No changes or additions can be made to permits once they have been issued. 

IRAP's wetland/shallow water sites could potentially be dry during the assigned hunting period. Please pay attention to the weather in the weeks prior to to your assigned hunting period. IRAP staff are not responsible for monitoring and notifying participants of dry site conditions. 

Sites are to be accessed by foot traffic only. Most sites do not allow boats.

Dogs are allowed and must be kept in close range of the hunter.

Decoys can be left during your entire assigned hunting period of 4-5 days.

The hunter's and the landowner's identity are kept private from one another. We ask that the hunter not come in contact with the landowner, unless necessary.

For more information about waterfowl hunting in Illinois, please visit IDNR's Waterfowl Hunting site.

For a list of Participant Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about IRAP's Waterfowl Hunting, please click on the button below:

IRAP Waterfowl Survey: Hunters MUST fill out an online survey within 5 days after each hunt. Future hunting privileges are dependent on the return of your survey.

IRAP access is provided through cooperation of private landowners and the IL Dept. of Natural Resources. It is funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture's NRCS Voluntary Public Access-Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP).

Participating is this program is a special privilege.

Please be respectful, ethical and safe.

Leave the site as you found it. Take ALL garbage with you.

Park your vehicle in designated parking area.