Prairie Research Institute

Illinois Natural History Survey

Outdoor Recreation

INHS collects data and provides information and education to support hunters and anglers in exploring Illinois and its many biological resources.


The Illinois Learn to Hunt program is a collaborative effort between INHS and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources aimed at bolstering participation in hunting. This adult education program consists of field-based workshops, webinars, and other educational opportunities provided for new and existing hunters. Events are held statewide and are free and open to anyone 18 years of age or older. The program website also houses additional resources that hunters may find useful (e.g., strategy guides, tutorials, wild game recipes, equipment checklists) and a collection of e-learning modules aimed at providing fundamental information about hunting a specific species.

Scientists in the INHS Human Dimensions Research Program conduct surveys on the social psychological aspects of conservation issues to better understand the complex nature of decisions that affect resource management.

Annual surveys provide the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) with scientific data necessary for evidence-based wildlife management decision making, such as setting hunting regulations and managing wildlife. The reports compile the results of questionnaires to determine hunters’ and trappers’ activities in the field, attitudes toward management activities, support for proposed regulatory changes, and legislation and policy.

Research topics include hunters’ attitudes toward chronic wasting disease in deer, hunter recruitment and retention, and associations between socioeconomic status and hunting license sales in Illinois.

INHS scientists investigate the ecology of both game and non-game birds during spring and fall migrations, including habitat use, stopover duration, movement ecology, and survival.

This includes aerial inventories of Illinois’ waterfowl species along the Illinois and Mississippi rivers that have been conducted by staff at the Forbes Biological Station since 1948. These long-term data are used by state, federal, and private entities to direct waterfowl management, conservation planning, ecological research, and education. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources relies on these inventories to guide the establishment of hunting season dates, zones, and other regulations and to prioritize wetland habitat acquisitions.


Scientists at the Kaskaskia, Ridge Lake, and Sam Parr Biological Stations conduct research addressing questions about fish recruitment variability, reproductive success, and larval ecology. Focal taxa for these studies include centrarchids, such as largemouth bass, bluegill, and crappie species, and the clupeid gizzard shad.

In coordination with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, INHS staff manage the I Fish Illinois website, which offers all the information anglers need to prepare for and enjoy a successful fishing season in Illinois, including places to fish, fishing with the family, fishing programs, licensing regulations, fish stocking, and much more.

The Sport Fish Ecology Lab, led by Jeffrey A. Stein, estimates the relative abundance, distribution, size structure, and age structure of gars and Bowfin in major Illinois watersheds. Data from these studies will be one of the first to document baseline population parameters of these ancient species and can be used to compare population parameters across watersheds in the state. The Illinois River Biological Station and Great Rivers Field Station are among the partners on this work, which draws on data from the LTEF monitoring program.

Read more about fish & fisheries research at INHS.