The Column, No. 145:

Center Fire Deer Hunting in Illinois

By Randy Wakeman

Above: Brad Rouser, Henry Single Shot

It is the biggest news to affect whitetail hunting here in Illinois in my lifetime. Public Act 102-0932 is effective Jan. 1, 2023. Until then, rifles (except muzzleloading rifles) may not be used to hunt deer. Specific information on when rifles will be allowed during deer season will be established by administrative rule.

Illinois is allowing single-shot rifles only. Illinois has published a list of legal cartridges: IL Cartridges.

Effective Jan. 1, 2023, any rifle chambered in a legal caliber and either manufactured or modified to be a single shot (capable of holding only one round in the magazine and chamber combined) may be used to hunt deer.

Illinois says, “A gun shall be considered a single shot if there is no magazine in the possession of or in close proximity to a hunter in the field, and the gun can only hold a total of one round.

Modification of a rifle originally manufactured as a repeater (a lever action/bolt action/pump action/semi-automatic, etc.) to a single shot can take many forms, including but not limited to:

  • not having the detachable magazine in possession or close proximity,

  • removing internal magazine springs and followers,

  • using a plug to block the magazine tube,

  • purchasing “0 round” magazines,

  • or modifying the receiver or internal magazine of the rifle.

Hunters may not be in possession of or in close proximity to a magazine that is capable of making a rifle not a single-shot firearm.”

The "single shot" restriction makes no sense whatsoever. Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, etc. have no such restriction, as it is without any merit. See for example. Nor does Illinois have any current such senseless restriction when hunting deer with a 20 gauge or 12 gauge slug gun. The limitation of a single shot is not only irrational and burdensome, it encourages wounded and lost deer, in the event that a quick follow-up shot is needed. A standard 350 Legend bolt-action deer rifle, for example, has a 4 round magazine capacity. The 2022 Illinois regulations at state:

Deer Hunting

  • Legal Firearms

    • Shotguns, loaded with slugs only, of not larger than 10 gauge nor smaller than 20 gauge, not capable of firing more than 3 consecutive slugs; or

    • Single or double barreled muzzleloading rifles of at least .45 caliber shooting a single projectile through a barrel of at least sixteen inches in length; or

    • Centerfire revolvers or centerfire single-shot handguns of .30 caliber or larger with a minimum barrel length of 4 inches.

  • Legal Ammunition

    • For shotguns and muzzleloading firearms, the minimum size of the projectile shall be .44 caliber. A wad or sleeve is not considered a projectile or a part of the projectile.

    • For handguns, a bottleneck centerfire cartridge of .30 caliber or larger with a case length not exceeding 1.4 inches, or a straight-walled centerfire cartridge of .30 caliber or larger, both of which must be available as a factory load with the published ballistic tables of the manufacturer showing a capability of at least 500 foot pounds of energy at the muzzle. Note: There is no case length limit for straight-walled cartridges.

    • Non-expanding military style full metal jacket bullets cannot be used to harvest white-tailed deer; only soft point or expanding bullets (including copper / copper-alloy rounds designed for hunting) are legal ammunition.

The ghost of my great-grandfather, who I knew well, George Chamberlain Wakeman, will be smiling as his only rifle was a Marlin 38-55, the first rifle I ever carried in the woods, will be a legal hunting round. I would hope that many of the major manufacturers offer a blocked off dummy magazine (the 'zero round' magazine) for their bolt action rifles, if only to keep any debris from entering the bottom of the action. I've requested a few rifles to review in .350 Legend so far: a Mossberg Patriot, a Savage 110 Apex Storm XP, the Henry H015-350 single shot, and a Winchester XPR Hunter.

Most of the whitetail I've taken over the years have been by muzzleloader, with some 20 gauge slug gun use as well. My favorite hunting handgun is a .44 RemMag. In the approved cartridge list, there are many excellent choices: certainly the .44 RemMag within range, and for longer ranges the .444 Marlin strikes gold. The most popular recent cartridge is the Winchester 350 Legend that holds great appeal for its mild recoil more than pure downrange ballistic prowess. Chuck Hawks was less than rabidly enthused: .

Here are the basics of how other more powerful chamberings stack up.

.444 Marlin = 240 grain Rem. - MV 2350 fps, ME 2942 ft. lbs.*

.444 Marlin = 265 grain Hor. - MV 2335 fps, ME 3208 ft. lbs.

.444 Marlin = 280 grain C-B - MV 2200 fps, ME 3010 ft. lbs.

.444 Marlin = 305 grain C-B - MV 2100 fps, ME 2987 ft. lbs.

.45-70 Govt. = 300 grain Fed. - MV 1880 fps, ME 2355 ft. lbs.*

.45-70 Govt. = 350 grain C-B - MV 1800 fps, ME 2519 ft. lbs.

.45-70 +P = 350 grain PMC - MV 2025 fps, ME 3185 ft. lbs.

.45-70 Govt. = 405 grain Rem. - MV 1330 fps, ME 1590 ft. lbs.

.45-70 Govt. = 405 grain C-B - MV 1650 fps, ME 2450ft. lbs.

.450 Marlin = 350 grain Hor. - MV 2100 fps, ME 3427 ft. lbs.

Below is Maximum Bullet deviation plus or minus 3" from the line of sight, calculated for a line of sight 1.5" over the bore (as with a low mounted scope). This is "6 inch Kill Maximum Point Blank Range."

.444 Marlin (240 grain at 2350 fps) = 203 yards

.444 Marlin (265 grain at 2200 fps) = 197 yards

.444 Marlin (300 grain at 2200 fps) = 201 yards

.45-70 Govt. (300 grain at 1850 fps) = 170 yards

.45-70 Govt. (350 grain at 2100 fps) = 189 yards

.450 Marlin (350 grain at 2100 fps) = 189 yards

These are the basic ballistics from Hornady, for the Hornady 350 Legend 165 gr FTX® Custom with a 175 yard zero. 

Input Variables

Ballistic Coefficient: .250

Velocity (ft/s): 2200

Weight (GR): 165

Maximum Range (yds): 250

Interval (yds): 25

Drag Function (): G1

Sight Height (inches): 1.5

Shooting Angle (Deg.): 0

Zero Range (yds): 175

Wind Speed (mph): 10

Wind Angle (Deg.): 90

Altitude (ft): 500

Pressure (hg): 29.53

Temperature (F): 59

Humidity (%): 78

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Copyright 2022 by Randy Wakeman and/or All rights reserved.