“A trophy deer can be killed in any county within the state,” says biologist John Kube. “Illinois is the home of the largest of the 30 subspecies of whitetails, and due to the rich agricultural ground, deer in Illinois probably live on the highest nutritional plane of any deer in North America. With our mild winters, deer also experience little nutritional stress, allowing for easier physiological maintenance.”

Many trophy hunters focus on west-central Illinois, where a strong tradition of passing up younger bucks has developed. Corn, wheat, and soybeans offer food; hardwood-lined streams feeding the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers provide ample cover. Top counties in this region include Pike, Adams, Brown, Hancock, Greene, Calhoun, Fulton, and Schuyler. A program called Access Illinois Outdoors connects hunters with landowners.

Countless record-book bucks have come from these counties. The most impressive is Jerry Bryant’s 2911/8 nontypical taken on November 15, 2001, in Fulton County with a crossbow.

Nonresident license: $280