Even though you can hardly tell, summer is almost over. Kids have returned to school, football is back on TV, and hunting season has been going on for a month now in south Florida. 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 tree that’ll soon begin dropping acorns, if we’re lucky. Finally, the time of year we’ve been waiting for is here!
Hunting season still comes in first in Zone A, which is that part of the state south of State Road 70. Archery and crossbow seasons there started Aug. 3 on private lands.
Hunting Zone B is made up in part by the Green Swamp Basin and 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. Archery and crossbow seasons on private property in Zone B start this year Oct. 19.
The line that divides zones C and D has been modified slightly this year, so please make sure you know which zone you’re hunting in. The line still begins at U.S. 27 at the (Gadsden County) Florida-Georgia state line 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. And here is the part that changed. The line used to turn south on Spring Creek Highway, but now it continues 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 downriver until it meets the Gulf.
If you hunt west of that line, you’re in Zone D, where archery and crossbow seasons begin Oct. 26 on private lands. In Zone C, archery and crossbow seasons open on Sept. 14.
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 are often different from what the zonal dates are. You can pick up a copy of these 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 is concurrent with archery, you can take deer of either sex, regardless of antler size (except for spotted fawns). After archery ends, during the remaining portion of the crossbow season, only legal bucks (having at least one antler that is at least 5 inches long) 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, 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, given you have a turkey permit ($10 for residents, $125 for nonresidents). You can take only one turkey per day, and there’s a two-bird fall-season limit. 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.
On private property, if you’re hunting during the archery season, you may hunt only with a bow, and you must have the $5 archery permit. During crossbow season, you may use either a crossbow or bow, but you must have the $5 crossbow permit. 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.