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Looking Out for Florida Hunters

FWC implements user-friendly changes to permit system, guest hunter rules and more.

Wild turkey taken on Dexter/Marys Farm WMA. Many Florida public lands are managed on a Limited Entry basis.

Success in hunting is never a sure thing and neither is getting drawn for Limited Entry Hunts in Florida. These high-demand hunting areas are popular and the only way to make access fair is with a lottery system. In the past, hunters had the same odds of getting drawn each year they applied. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) changed this by establishing a point system similar to ones used in western states, allowing hunters to accumulate preference points each time they are not drawn. Each year, their odds of getting selected increases. This practice has been in place for several years and seems to be effective.

Changes this year by the FWC have made this program even better for hunters. In the past, according to Eddie White in the FWC’s License and Permit Section, hunters who were unable to use their permits could retain preference points as long as they returned their unused permits to FWC before the hunt. This was of little help to hunters wanting the unused permits, however, because many arrived at the last minute and the FWC only posted available permits monthly.

The new changes require unused permits to be returned electronically at least 10 days before the hunt. Hunters who comply retain their preference points and are given an additional bonus point. The only exceptions are the National Wildlife Refuges. The FWC posts the available permits weekly, which gives much more time for other hunters to pick them up.

For example, if you are drawn for the October 25-27 muzzleloader hunt on Lake George Dexter/Mary Farms Unit but have a schedule conflict and can’t make it: Log onto your account under the Purchase License
link on the FWC website. Anyone who has ever purchased a hunting or fishing license or applied for a limited entry hunt has an account number in the FWC database. To access this account, simply enter either a driver’s license number and date of birth, social security number and date of birth, or customer number that is printed on any licenses or permits you have. The account shows all of your active licenses, permits and applications. Next, click the Return button next to the permit you wish to turn in.

The permit is instantaneously made available for re-issue and preference points, plus a bonus point, are added to your account.

Now, hunters who want to apply for available permits go to the FWC website and click on permit availability on the License Page above the log in provision. Eddie White suggests looking on Saturday or Sunday since it will list all permits that will be available the following Tuesday. Hunters can submit an application online or download a worksheet and take it to any place that sells hunting and fishing licenses and they will submit it electronically for them. FS

More NEWS for Hunters

›› Bag Limit for Guest Hunters: Hunters with quota hunt permits who wish to take a guest have, in the past, been limited to one bag limit to be shared. Recent changes in 39 Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) allow one bag limit each. This means they no longer have to share a bag limit and it applies to both the deer and turkey. Quota hunters have also been limited to only one guest. This has been changed to allow hunters to invite different guests by simply downloading a guest permit and filling out the new name. Only one guest is allowed at a time.

›› Air Rifle Hunting Approved: Also new this year is a “kid-happy” change permitting
the use of air rifles for squirrel and rabbit hunting on selected WMAs. This is not allowed during Archery or Muzzleloading seasons. On some WMAs, this is limited to Small Game season and in others it applies to General Gun season.

›› New WMAs: The FWC has added two new WMAs to the menu for hunters in Hernando and Hillsborough counties. The Weeki Wachee WMA is 2,845 acres, offering five different 6-day Archery hunts. The 2,774-acre Lower Hillsborough WMA offers Family Hunts as well as Spring Turkey Hunts.

First Published Florida Sportsman October 2013