When folks talk about rural Illinois, two things are often at the center of the conversation: incredibly fertile crop ground and big, big whitetails.
Breathtaking hardwood ridges funnel down to sprawling crop fields, accented by flowing, rocky riverbeds. These traits help define some of the best wildlife habitat on earth. Lush, abundant foliage and working farmland is a proven recipe for growing some of the nation’s biggest bucks. And these mature herds attract hunters from across the country.
More than 20 native, oak-tree species, like the swamp white oak, are prominent throughout the state's forestland. Sugar maples, cottonwoods and other varieties are also synonymous with Illinois and Midwest timber. Strategically placed treestands and hunting blinds set the stage for hunters to experience memorable whitetail encounters. The moments when a hunter's heart beats fast, the adrenaline is pumping, and careful aim is taken are plentiful in this great state.
With iconic row-crop and livestock industries, the Illinois landscape overflows with soybeans and corn. The state ranks first nationally in the production of soybeans, and second nationally in feed corn and popcorn production. These crops represent incredible investment opportunities.
The "Land of Lincoln" is also a state brimming with names many will recognize. John Deere was born here, and you can be sure these tractors are still tilling up the same soils they have been for hundreds of years. And remarkably, Illinois pumpkin patches have enough fruit on their vines to earn the state its recognition as the canned pumpkin capital of the world.
Northern Illinois is located on the shores of Lake Michigan. A bustling metropolis and port, the state's harvests are distributed nationally and exported globally, making Chicago a key component of the state’s success. While Chicago and its outskirts make this an urban area, you don't have to travel far from the big city to experience the north's small rolling hills and ample waterways. While Lake Michigan offers trout and salmon, places like Shabbona Lake State Park and 4,000 other lakes support bass and panfish which, in turn, attracts fishermen looking for that Friday night fish fry.
Southern Illinois, while still mostly flatland, starts to merge with the Ozark Plateau. It's here that the Shawnee National Forest features diverse habitats and various small and big game species to hunt. There's everything from turkeys roosting in the tree canopies, waterfowl in swampy lowlands, and small game and dove in the uplands — not to mention an incredible whitetail population.
To catch a birds-eye view of the Shawnee, head to Garden of the Gods Recreation Area and Rim Rock Recreational Trail for camping, hiking and horseback riding over the forest’s system of 403 miles of trails, and thousands of acres of cliffy outcroppings that display Illinois’ wild side.