With charter fishing slowing down in Destin, many are taking to the woods to do a little hunting.
Although many travel out of state to bag that buck, some stick around and try their luck in the woods of Florida.
Here are a few guidelines to follow as noted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
General gun season
The first phase of general gun season in Zone D, which is the Panhandle over to Leon County, always starts Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 28) and lasts four days (until Dec. 1) and then reopens Dec. 7 until Feb. 23.
During general gun season, legal-to-take antlered deer as they are defined in each deer management unit may be harvested. Antlerless deer may still only be harvested: 1) during seasons when they are legal to take, such as during archery season, 2) on antlerless deer days and 3) under permit i.e., antlerless deer permit issued on land in the wildlife management area system, Antlerless Deer Program permit or Private Lands Deer Management Program permit.
Don’t forget you need to purchase a $5 deer permit, and there’s the new statewide annual bag limit of five deer, of which two may be antlerless – and the new deer harvest reporting requirement. Learn more about these new rules at MyFWC.com/Deer.
On private land, the daily bag limit for deer is two. Bag limits and other regulations for deer on WMAs can differ, so before you hunt download the specific WMA brochure only available at MyFWC.com/WMAbrochures and through the Fish|Hunt FL app.
You may hunt wild hogs on private lands year-round with no bag or size limits. Similarly, on most areas that offer public hunting opportunities, there are no bag or size limits, and hogs are legal to take during most hunting seasons except spring turkey. On a few WMAs, specific bag and size limits do apply, so check the online WMA brochure to be certain.
Hunters are allowed to take deer and wild hogs over feeding stations on private land, but that’s not the case on WMAs, no matter the season or game species.
It’s illegal to take deer using rimfire cartridges or non-expanding, full-metal case ammunition.
Antlerless deer days
While most WMAs do not allow harvest of antlerless deer, antlerless deer days are available during the general gun season on lands outside the WMA system.
These dates differ for each of the state’s 12 DMUs. To learn when these antlerless deer opportunities occur in your DMU, refer to the "2019-2020 Florida Hunting Regulations" handbook, which you can pick up at your tax collector’s office, FWC regional office or by downloading it online at MyFWC.com/Hunting.
During these antlerless deer days, the daily bag limit is one legal antlered deer and one antlerless deer, or two legal antlered deer. Unlike archery season, you may not take two antlerless deer in one day, unless you have antlerless deer tags issued for the private land you hunt.
All free-running dogs used in pursuing or hunting deer must wear a collar or tag displaying the name and address of the dog’s owner. Hunters must contain their dogs to the tract of land they have permission to hunt.
There are several ways to accomplish that: Equip and monitor dogs with devices that allow remote tracking and behavior correction; only deer-dog hunt on large tracts of land; make sure there are adequate cut-off roads that will enable you to keep in front of the dogs; and don’t turn out more dogs than your hunting party can manage.
Hunters using dogs to take deer on private lands must register that property before doing so. No-cost, statewide deer-dog registration is required during all open deer-hunting and training seasons when taking or running deer with dogs is permitted. However, this registration doesn’t apply to hunters hunting or training with deer dogs on areas within the WMA system.
This mandatory registration may be issued to hunting clubs, landowners or anyone who has permission to hunt deer with dogs on a particular tract of land as long as the required application is completed and approved. Application forms are available at all regional Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) offices and online at MyFWC.com/Deer. Applications should include proof of landowner permission or a copy of the written hunting-lease agreement, and a general map of the property showing boundaries and a legal description.
Once you’ve registered with the FWC, you’ll be issued a unique registration number that must be attached to the collars of all dogs used to pursue deer on registered properties during any open deer-hunting or deer-dog training season when taking or running deer with dogs is permitted. Hunters must possess copies of their registration while they’re hunting or training with their dogs.