100 Best Public-Land Hunts: Illinois

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."