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October 24, 2007

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100 Best Public-Land Hunts: Illinois

Ray Norbut State Fish and Wildlife Area
Location: 1,290 acres
Size: west Illinois
ZIP: 62363

Pike County is red-hot whitetail country, and it's the rare spot where quantity hasn't lowered quality: Thanks to plentiful ag crops and fertile floodplain soil, sky-high deer numbers have produced more big bucks, not less. Much private land is wrapped up in high-dollar leases, and some public lands limit nonresident hunters. Ray Norbut is a notable exception. "All you have to do at Norbut is sign in and hunt," says Pike County wildlife biologist Tim Krumwiede, of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Situated in the high bluffs along the Illinois River, with oak-hickory forests broken up by 100 acres of croplands, Norbut gave up 40 deer during the 2006 archery season and 16 during the gun hunt. "It gets a fair amount of pressure, but 56 deer on a two-square-mile area is average for our public sites," Krumwiede says, "and it's certainly not overkill because we have a tremendous population." Krumwiede was with a friend last year when he killed an 8-pointer 200 yards from Norbut that scored around 170. "There are big deer on the site because there are mature deer all over the county."

Mississippi River Pool 24
Location: 10,211 acres
Size: west Illinois
ZIP: 62366

"About the closest we come to underused public land in Pike County is on the Mississippi River islands," says Krumwiede. You'll need a boat-preferably at least a 16-footer with a 40 horsepower motor-to access this federally owned land, which helps explain the reduced hunting pressure. Pool 24 extends from Lock 22 at Hannibal, Mo., to Lock 24 at Clarksville, Mo., and there are half a dozen named islands on the Illinois side of the state line worth checking out. Denmark (the largest, at 30 acres), Cottonwood, Willow, Gosline, Crider and Cash lie in Pike County, while Middleton Island is in Calhoun County. Cottonwoods, willows and thick brush can make it hard to see far, but some mature hardwood stands thin out the cover and offer more visibility. Pool 21 (with 8,536 acres in Adams County) and Pool 22 (with 6,861 acres in Adams and Pike counties) offer similar opportunities upriver.

Weinberg-King State Fish and Wildlife Area
Location: west Illinois
Size: 2,320 acres
ZIP: 62311

Pike County may get the headlines, but there's good hunting elsewhere in western Illinois, too. "Schuyler and Brown counties are real good sleeper counties, and they're just as good as Pike," says Deck Major, regional wildlife biologist with the DNR. Weinberg-King is actually four different units spread across the two counties; the most accessible is the 833-acre Spunky Bottoms Unit, which is open under statewide regulations to both residents and nonresidents during the firearms season and to residents only during the archery season. (Other Weinberg-King units may require special permits or be restricted to residents only.) Spunky Bottoms' 500 acres of cropland and open fields and 300 acres of timber on the Illinois River were bought by the state in 2002, but few people have taken advantage. "It's really underhunted," says Ed Hendricks, site technician with the DNR, "but those who do come generally see deer and some real good bucks have been taken off the area."

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Comments

adam

I bet Illinois is a whitetail big buck paradise!

travis hake

dont waste ur time.. too many people, too little land.

Dustin

Too little land? Too many people?? Most people forget all about Illinois south of springfield. I have access to thousands of acres of government pines and hardwoods right out of my back door....no really it joins my property on two sides. No one studies maps I guess. I can hunt an entire bow season without seeing a fellow hunter.

steve

say what you want about illinois ,but i love it and will make the trip from florida again this year for bowhunting.want a reason to complain try hunting here in 90 degree weather during archery season on over populated wildlife management areas went to illinois for the first time last year on public land and seen 6 shooters and 3 within 20 yrds.its possible to see deer on public land you just have to go where noone else will.

mrmoc

Deer Hunting is terrible here. Don't waste your time.




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100 Top Public Lands
Field & Stream reporter Steven Hill spent two months interviewing state game agency officials, deer biologists, and whitetail experts to identify the absolute best public whitetail hunting grounds in the nation.

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