Florida, the ‘Sunshine State’ of the United States, spreading over 6 million acres of public hunting land, offers unique sustainable opportunities to thousands of hunters every year.
It has one of the largest systems of public hunting inhabiting a diverse range of species from alligators, wild pigs, Burmese pythons, black bears to Osceola turkeys.
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1. What Species To Hunt
1.1 White-Tailed Deer
The White-tailed deer is the most commonly hunted species in Florida. With a massive population of nearly 750,000, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission sells around 110,000 deer licenses which are used to take down more than 1,00,000 of them annually per season.
Four variations of the white-tailed deer species can be found in Florida. The Florida coastal white-tailed deer (osceola) are likely to be found in the panhandle, the Florida white-tailed deer (seminolus) in peninsular Florida, the Virginia white-tailed deer (virginianus) in the extreme northeast and the endangered Florida Key deer (clavium) only in the Florida Keys.
Florida also arranges three different deer seasons providing hunters with a wonderful opportunity to gain new understanding of wildlife and polish their outdoor skills.
Known as the alligator hunting capital of the world, Florida receives more than 10,000 applications for about 5,000 permits every year, proving the popularity of alligator hunting among hunting enthusiasts.
During the fall, alligators can be hunted from August to November. As an additional benefit to the hunters, the state has relaxed the requirement of a hunting or fishing permit to participate in the state-wide alligator hunt. Though CITES permits and an alligator trapping license are required.
1.3 Wild Turkey
Florida has two subspecies of wild turkey -the eastern wild turkey and the Osceola or Florida wild turkey. Smaller and darker than its northern brethren, the Osceola, a rare and unique species only found in Florida, is thus a magnificent attraction for out-of-state hunters.
They are preferred to be seen in the south-eastern end of Everglades National Park, at the far western edge of Broward County, in the forest of north-western Palm Beach County and throughout the peninsula up to about Jacksonville.
Hunting an Osceola is the most challenging as they are excessively sensitive to unfamiliar movements and less vocal compared to other wild turkeys.
1.4 Wild Hogs
Wild hogs are an invasive exotic species which destroy native wildlife, damage natural resources and transmit diseases.
In order to control its increasing population which has reached about 3 million, hunters are allowed to trap, shoot or hunt them in all 67 counties of Florida with no licenses, permits being required.
1.5 Burmese Python
The Burmese python is a non-native, nonvenomous species, primarily found around the Everglades ecosystem in south Florida.
The most concerning impact of the increasing population of this invasive predator is that they attack native wildlife including mammals, birds and other reptiles.
As a result, populations of raccoons had declined 99.3 percent, opossums 98.9 percent and bobcats 87.5 percent since 1997 according to a 2012 study.
Hunters are thus encouraged to hunt pythons without any permit on both public and private lands with landowner’s permission anytime throughout the year.
1.6 Black Bear
The black bear population has grown exponentially over the ages in Florida. When the state organized its first bear hunt in 2015, it had to be shut quickly after a week as 304 bears were killed by hunters.
There had been discussions over holding bear hunting seasons since then, but it has not been implemented yet.
Unlike many top waterfowl states in the United States, Florida opens its 140,000-acre refuge land for excellent duck hunting experience. Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, T.M. Goodwin WMA, the Kissimmee region are among the best places for public waterfowl shooting.
1.8 Small Game Species
Grey squirrels and rabbits are the best small game species for youth as well as seasoned adults to enjoy hunting. They can be found in most of the Wildlife Management areas of Florida.
Bobcat, raccoon, opossum, coyote, beaver, skunk, nutria, minks, weasels and round-tailed muskrats are allowed to be hunted and trapped in accordance with the state’s mentioned regulations for each animal.
2. Seasons And Bag Limits
Hunting season refers to that time of the year when killing, seeking or pursuing a certain species of wildlife for sport or food is legal without any restriction.
In the United States, each state ascertains its own specific dates to hunt a certain sport animal considering the complete understanding of its breeding and incubation period, ideal distribution of age and gender and also the economic concerns of the state.
In Florida, hunters can hunt throughout the year knowing which species to hunt at what time. The dates of each season and bag limits differ in state and zones.
- The Antlered Deer season (at least with one antler 5 inches or more in length) runs from August to January. Hunters are allowed to hunt 5 deer of which only 2 can be antlerless annually and 4 deer can be possessed. Youths of 15 or younger can also harvest one deer (except spotted fawn) under the supervision of an adult, aged 18 or older.
- There are two seasons for turkey hunting in Florida- fall seasons and spring seasons. Fall seasons start from August to January and spring seasons lasts from March to April. Bag limits differ in every zone. Hunters can use shotguns, rifles, pistols, pre-charged pneumatic air guns, muzzleloaders, crossbows and bows to hunt.
- Gray squirrel season starts from October to March with a daily bag limit of 12 and possession limit of 24.
- Quails can be hunted from November to March with a daily bag limit of 12 and possession limit of 24.
- Bobcat and Otter season lasts from December to March without any restriction on bag limits.
- Rabbits, wild hogs, raccoons, opossums, skunks, nutria, beaver and coyotes can be hunted any time of the year by rifle, shotgun, pistol, muzzleloader, air gun crossbow or bow.
3.Where To Hunt
3.1 Wildlife Management Areas
Florida provides hunters, wildlife viewers with more than 160 wildlife management areas to explore its natural resources.
In order to hunt there, hunters must possess a wildlife management area permit and a hunting license.
Robert’s Ranch in Palatka and Apalachicola National Forest are one of the most popular places for a good hunt.
3.2 Military Bases
There are three military bases in Florida which are open to public hunting.
3.3 Florida’s National Wildlife Refuges
Hunters require permits to hunt in some of the eight National Wildlife Refuges in Florida. These refuges are handled with the cooperation of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
4. Hunting Methods
4.1 Bow Hunting
Bow hunting is exciting as well as interesting for the challenges it offers to hunters. In Florida, hunters have an additional advantage of bow hunting is that they are often longer or take place earlier than rifle seasons in many regions.
Hunters can use traditional longbows, recurve bows, modern compound bows to kill big and small game species.
4.2 Rifle Hunting
Hogs, Osceola Turkey, alligators, white-tailed deer are available to be hunted with rifles. Hunters use different kinds of rifles for big-game species and multiple purposes such as double rifles for dangerous animals.
4.3 Hunting From A Blind
Blinds whether temporary or permanent, are used by hunter to stay away from the senses of game animals. Temporary blinds are structures made out of branches, rocks, grass etc. whereas portable ones are usually brought by hunters.
Ducks, hogs, white-tailed deer, turkeys are usually offered for these kinds of hunts in Florida.
4.4 Game Calls
This method of hunting requires an extensive knowledge of animal behavior. Some hunters can make vocal signs by themselves whereas some require the help of special devices.
In Florida, one can also take the help of a calling expert to hunt ducks and turkeys.
4.5 Driven Hunt
Driven hunt is a traditional way of hunting practiced almost all over the European countries and also in Florida. It provides ample opportunities to hunters to participate on a limited area at the same time.
4.6 High Seat /Tree-stand
This way of hunting is used for those animals who rely heavily on their sense smell to avoid hunters and predators. This structure mostly made out of logs and sticks, thus, gives the hunter an upper hand over the targeted animal to catch it without any fail.
Apart from all the mentioned hunting methods, meat hunt, shotgun hunting, stalking is widely used by hunters for all kinds of species in Florida.
5. License Requirements
5.1 Florida Resident
All residents of Florida aged from 16 to 64 must acquire a resident hunting license in order to hunt. Identify proof of the applicant such as driving license or ID card must be produced to avail the license.
To hunt other game species, additional permits may be required. All kinds of licenses are valid for 12 months from the date of purchasing except the lifetime hunting license.
All non-residents of age of 16 or older are required to get a non-resident hunting license.
5.3 Youth Hunting License
Youth of 15, whether natives or visitors to Florida are exempted from having a hunting license.
5.4 Senior Hunting License
Senior citizens of Florida, aged 65 or above are not required to get a hunting license.
5.5 Military And Veteran License
Active-duty military members stationed at Florida and outside the state along with those military personnel who are on leave but permanent residents of Florida are eligible for the reduced-fat Military Gold Sportsman’s License.
In addition, Florida residents can also apply to purchase a lifetime hunting license. All Florida hunting licenses are available through the Florida Wildlife Commission and online.
6. Hunter Education
Hunters born on or after June 1, 1975 and of 16 years or older must complete a hunter safety course to purchase a hunting license. The Florida Wildlife Commission offers four types of hunter safety courses to young hunters and one needs to fulfil a few requirements before applying.
- The minimum age of the student must be 12 years.
- A parental release form signed the child’s parent or guardian must be produced before the concerned authority, if the child is below 18.
- During the commencement of the classes, parents or legal guardians of the child (aged below 16) must a company the student.
6.1 Traditional Course
This course is designed to give a live experience to the students with hands-on demonstration of various skills by the instructor in order to become a safe hunter.
6.2. Online Course
This online course can be availed through a simple registration of the applicant. It aims to educate the students with engaging videos, photographs and graphics to give them a comprehensive understanding of the required skills and techniques. After successfully completing the online course, one can easily avail a Florida hunter safety card.
Florida residents who are adults can apply for the Online Firearms Safety Certification Course to get skilled at using firearms for hunting purposes. There is also a course named the Florida Virtual School Outdoor Education for residents aged from 12 to 18 for both hunting and boating safety skills.
7. Rules And Regulations
Hunters must abide by all the mentioned rules and regulations for hunting in Florida.
- Antlerless Deer Permits and Tags can only be applied by those who own, lease or have written permission to hunt deer on properties of at least 640 contiguous acres or less than 150 contiguous acres.
- Wild hogs can be hunted without any requirement of license or permit or any restriction over bag or possession limit on private lands throughout the year. They can be trapped but not alive and a Feral Swine Dealer Permit is required for this from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
- The shooting hours for all animals except turkeys on spring seasons lasts from one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset. Exception to this law is only applicable on private lands and some WMAs.
- While hunting deer hunters and persons accompanying them must wear a 500 square inches orange garment. This clothing has to be worn above the waist line or on the head.
8. Prohibited Practices
- Hunters are not allowed to shoot from a moving vehicle, powerboats, sailboats, aircrafts or even drones.
- Any use or distribution of explosives, anesthetic, tranquilizers, chemicals or similar drugs which can potentially harm animals are prohibited both on public and private lands.
- Hunters are not allowed to use centerfire semi-automatic rifles having magazine capacity of more than 5 rounds, fully automatic firearms to take down any animal.
- Dogs are not allowed on private lands without permission.
- Hunters cannot use hunt turkeys using dogs or while they are roosting.
- Spotted Fawn Deer or Swimming Deer are not allowed to be hunted.
- Deer cannot be hunted using firearms of rimfire cartridges.
Blessed with magnificent wildlife resources, Florida is the first choice of thousands of hunters from all over the world. One must review the laws and regulations of the state before planning for the various hunt trips.
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Hi, I’m Vineet. Creator of DivinioWorld. I am an outdoor enthusiast and absolutely love researching, learning, and applying skills and knowledge in the real world. I started DivinioWorld to share everything I know so that even a beginner can follow the ropes and master the subtle art of outdoors adventure and survival.