By Tony Young
Even though you can hardly tell, summer is almost over. Kids have returned to school, football is back on TV, and hunting season has already been going on for a month now in south Florida. Finally, the time of year we’ve been waiting for is here. And although some of us still have to wait just a bit longer for our season to come in, most of us have already finished our preseason scouting, and we’ve hung our tree stands along well-traveled deer trails, next to a mature oak that’ll soon begin dropping acorns. I don’t know about y’all, but I got a bad case a BUCK FEVER!
Hunting season always comes in first in Zone A in south Florida. Archery and crossbow seasons there started Aug. 2. But the boundary line between zones A and C has changed this year.
The new line now begins at the Gulf of Mexico and runs northeast through Charlotte Harbor and up the Peace River until it intersects with State Road 70. The line then follows S.R. 70, running east until it meets U.S. 441 north of Lake Okeechobee. It then follows U.S. 441 south, where it proceeds around the eastern shore of Lake Okeechobee. The line then turns off U.S. 441 and onto S.R. 80 and runs just a few miles before turning east and following County Road 880, running just a few miles before joining back up with U.S. 98/441/S.R. 80/Southern Boulevard until it reaches the Atlantic Ocean.
Zone B, which makes up part of the Green Swamp Basin, lies south of S.R. 50, west of U.S. 441 and the Kissimmee Waterway, north of S.R. 60 and east of the Gulf of Mexico. This year, archery and crossbow seasons there start Oct. 18.
The line that divides zones C and D begins at U.S. 27 at the Florida-Georgia state line (in Gadsden County) and runs south on U.S. 27 until it meets S.R. 61 in Tallahassee. From there, it follows S.R. 61, running south until it hits U.S. 319. There, the line follows U.S. 319, continuing south to U.S. 98. It then runs east along U.S. 98 until it gets to the Wakulla River, where the river becomes the line, heading south until it meets the St. Marks River and continues going downriver until it meets the Gulf.
If you hunt west of that line, you’re in Zone D, where archery and crossbow seasons begin on Oct. 25 this year. In Zone C (east of that line), archery and crossbow seasons open Sept. 13.
To hunt during archery season, you’ll need a Florida hunting license and an archery permit. During crossbow season, you’ll need a hunting license and crossbow permit. If you’re a Florida resident, an annual hunting license will cost $17. Nonresidents have the choice of paying $46.50 for a 10-day license or $151.50 for 12 months. Archery and crossbow permits cost just $5 each, and all deer hunters must have the $5 deer permit. Anyone planning on hunting one of Florida’s many WMAs must purchase a management area permit for $26.50.
And don’t forget to pick up the WMA brochure for the area you wish to hunt, because hunting season dates on many of the areas often differ from zonal dates. You can pick up a copy of WMA brochures at your local tax collector’s office or read them at MyFWC.com/Hunting.
During archery season and that part of crossbow season that runs concurrent with archery, you can take both legal bucks and antlerless deer (except for spotted fawns). But after archery ends, during the remaining portion of the crossbow season, only legal bucks may be taken. The daily bag limit on deer is two. Bag limits for deer on WMAs can differ, so check the specifics of the area before you hunt.
You can hunt wild hogs on private lands year-round with no bag or size limits. On most WMAs, there’s also no bag or size limits, and hogs are legal to take during most hunting seasons except spring turkey. On a few WMAs though, bag and size limits do apply, so be sure to check the brochure for the specific area to be certain.
It’s also legal to shoot gobblers and bearded turkeys during archery and crossbow seasons, assuming you have a turkey permit ($10 for residents, $125 for nonresidents). You can now take two turkeys in a single day on private lands, but the two-bird fall-season limit still applies, and the daily bag limit for turkeys is still one on WMAs. It’s against the law to hunt turkeys in Holmes County in the fall, and it’s illegal to shoot them while they’re on the roost, over bait, when you’re within 100 yards of a game-feeding station when bait is present or with the aid of recorded turkey calls.
The archery permit allows you to bow hunt during the archery season. On private property, a crossbow permit enables you to hunt during the crossbow season with either a crossbow or a bow. On WMAs, only hunters with a disabled crossbow permit are allowed to use crossbows during archery season. All bows must have a minimum draw weight of 35 pounds, and hand-held releases are permitted. For hunting deer, hogs and turkeys, broadheads must have at least two sharpened edges with a minimum width of 7/8 inch.
Tony Young is the media relations coordinator for the FWC’s Division of Hunting and Game Management. He can be reached with questions about hunting at Tony.Young@MyFWC.com.