Even though you can hardly tell, summer is almost over. Kids have returned to school, football is back on TV, and hunting season’s already 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, we hope.
Finally, the time of year we’ve been waiting for is here!
Just like last year on private lands, 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 July 28.
The fourth hunting zone, which was added two years ago and is made up in part by the Green Swamp Basin, is called Zone B 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 in Zone B start this year on Oct. 13.
The line that divides zones C and D 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 before turning south on Spring Creek Highway and continuing to the Gulf of Mexico.
If you hunt west of that line, you’re in Zone D, where archery and crossbow seasons begin on Oct. 20 this year. In Zone C, archery and crossbow seasons open on the third Saturday in September. This year, that date is Sept. 15.
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.
If you’re hunting during the archery season, you may hunt only with a bow and 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.