Prairie State bowhunting

Good day and welcome to my first outdoor article in Illinois Country Living magazine. My name is Mike Roux and I am an outdoor writer/editor from Chatham. I have been on the professional end of the outdoor industry for over 40 years and an outdoor communicator for about 30 of those years. I am proud to bring this first of what we hope will be many outdoor related articles in the months to come.

With archery deer season well underway, I thought it appropriate to assist those bowhunters that might not have private land on which to hunt. Let’s look at some spots throughout the Prairie State where we can all have a chance at a trophy Illinois buck.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources makes some public ground available for bow-hunters. Keep in mind that tree-stands can be used on state property, but they must not mark the tree nor break the bark. You cannot use screw-in steps or screw-in stand stabilizers and your stand must be removed each evening.

The largest public area for Prairie State bowhunters to consider is the Sanganois State Fish and Wildlife Area. Located in Cass and Mason Counties, this area is one of the state’s hottest waterfowl hunting areas. However, over 10,300 acres are available for deer archery hunts during the Illinois statewide season.

This spot is a bowhunter’s dream come true. It is the most picture-perfect setting one could imagine. The bottomland complex includes timbered ponds, maple and willow swamps as well as cottonwood sloughs. Many bowhunters, who are after true trophy bucks, wear hip-boots to their stand locations. This allows them access to even the most remote spots in the area.

The next largest spot to check is in LaSalle County. Matthiessen State Park has 2,883 acres of prime Illinois bowhunting. The woodland acreage is rugged here, which is good news for a bowhunter. Those willing to take a little hike in rough country will find outstanding spots in this park. There are several areas that are designated as “walk-in only” regions and these are also very good spots for the bowhunter to scout.

Along with the over 2,800 acres of timber, Matthiessen State Park has 671 acres of agricultural ground that supports rotating row-crops annually. Late in the season, stand locations around these food sources usually produce better-than-average results.

In Adams County, Siloam Springs State Park is a bowhunting hotspot. The 2,220 acres of excellent whitetailed deer habitat has a special restriction to promote trophy bucks. Small bucks are protected here and must have at least four-points on one side to be harvested. Does also can and should be taken on all state property to improve herd dynamics.

Siloam Springs consists of brushy hollows within a mature oak/hickory forest. This state park is only a 20-minute drive from Quincy, which offers bowhunters many choices for both lodging and meals. Adams County is always in the top two or three deer-producing counties in the state.

That brings us to some public ground in the #1 deer-producing county in Illinois. Pike County Illinois is known worldwide as a deer hunting mecca. Ray Norbut Fish & Wildlife Area is 1,225 acres in the very heart of the county. Offering both timber region and edge opportunities around food plots, the Norbut area produces trophy bucks each season.

I hope you found this information useful. If you would like to see outdoor articles in this publication on a regular basis, let the folks at Illinois Country Living know. Email Brandy Riley at and her let know you like this idea.

Mike Roux is a former Illinois Outdoor Writer of the Year and is the Midwest Regional Director of Outdoor Ministry for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Check out his web site at