May 19, 2016
By Tony Young
May "Outta the Woods"
Fall quota hunt permits
The summer brings fishing and other recreational activities, but it's never too early to start planning for the upcoming hunting season. If you're going to hunt public land, you may submit your applications for fall quota hunt permits from now through June 15 to hunt during archery, muzzleloading gun and the general gun season.
A quota limits the number of hunters allowed on a particular WMA. The FWC's Quota Hunt Programs offer quality public hunting opportunities, prevent overcrowding and regulate the harvest of game on wildlife management areas. The FWC sets quotas based on an area's size, habitat, game populations and regulations.
There are several types of quota permits issued by random drawing during the May 15 to June 15 Phase I application period. I'm talking about archery, muzzleloading gun, general gun, wild hog, youth, family, track vehicle, airboat and mobility-impaired quota hunt permits.
You may apply for each of the hunt types, and there is no fee to do so. But unless exempt, you must have an up-to-date $26 management area permit (or a license that includes one) when applying for a quota permit or the system won't accept your application.
The FWC offers youth deer hunts on Camp Blanding WMA in Clay County and on Andrews WMA in Levy County. If you have children between the ages of 8 and 15, and you want them to have a chance to experience one of these great hunts, apply for a youth quota hunt permit –160 kids will get this opportunity. During these hunts only the youngsters may hunt, and they, along with their adult supervisors, are the only people allowed on the area.
There will be family quota hunts on 28 WMAs, and if drawn, the permit requires one adult take one or two youths hunting. The adult may not hunt without taking along a youngster.
And hunters certified by the FWC as mobility-impaired may apply for mobility-impaired quota permits, which allow exclusive access to general-gun hunts on nine of the state's public hunting areas.
If you want to get the jump on one of these hunts, apply between May 15 and June 15 at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com or have a license agent or tax collector's office apply for you. To find out if you've been selected, log onto your customer account at that same web address after 10 a.m. on June 19.
If you don't get drawn for a particular quota hunt, you'll get a preference point for next year's drawing, which will improve your chances of being selected. If you're unable to use your quota permit and you return it at least 10 days prior to your hunt, you'll get your preference point restored.
Special-opportunity fall hunts
If you haven't been seeing the quantity or quality of game you'd like, may I suggest applying for a special-opportunity fall hunt permit? For the past 19 years, the FWC has offered these unique fall-season hunts for deer, wild hog and released quail on arguably the state's best public hunting lands.
These extraordinary hunts offer large tracts of land with an abundance of game and low hunting pressure. All deer hunts allow you to only take bucks with at least one antler having four or more points, 1 inch or longer. Wild hogs also are legal to take during the deer hunts, and there is no size or bag limit on hogs.
These special-opportunity deer and wild hog hunts take place in central Florida on Fort Drum, Lake Panasoffkee, Triple N Ranch and Green Swamp West Unit WMAs. Camping is legal on all areas.
There is one seven-day general gun deer and hog hunt on the 20,858-acre Fort Drum in Indian River County. The hunt costs $50 if you are drawn.
Lake Panasoffkee, in Sumter County, has eight four-day archery hunts for deer and hog on 8,676 acres. The permits are $100 for each hunt.
There are two seven-day general gun deer and hog hunts at Triple N Ranch in Osceola County. The permit costs $175 for each of the two hunt dates.
Pasco County's Green Swamp West Unit, where the state's highest-scoring deer on record was taken, has two archery hunts for deer and hogs on its 34,335 acres. There are also three general gun hunts for deer and hogs as well. All are four-day hunts costing $100.
All special-opportunity permit holders may bring one non-hunting guest during the deer and hog hunts.
The FWC also has released-quail hunts on Blackwater Carr Unit in Santa Rosa County. With these hunts, you must bring and release your own pen-raised quail. These are seven-day (Saturday through Friday) hunts that run 16 consecutive weeks.
There's just one permit available for each week, and if you're lucky enough to draw one, you and up to three of your friends will have the entire 590 acres to yourselves. The permit costs $100 for each week.
Special-opportunity hunt permits are transferable by simply giving the permit to another person. Permit holders under age 16, or those who are certified mobility-impaired, may have a non-hunting assistant accompany them during all special-opportunity hunts.
If you'd like to take part in one or more of these hunts, you may apply at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com, county tax collectors' offices or most retail outlets that sell hunting and fishing supplies beginning 10 a.m. on May 15. The application period runs through midnight of June 15.
You may apply for as many special-opportunity hunts and dates as you like, to increase your chances of being selected, but each one will cost you a $5 nonrefundable application fee. Hunters are limited to drawing only one permit per hunt area, though.
Special-opportunity drawings allow for the purchase of the permits in rounds. Successful applicants in the first round may opt to claim the permit by paying the cost of the selected hunt at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com or at any license agent or tax collector's office, while other applicants are “waiting” and have a place in line. Permits not claimed by the deadline for that round are forfeited and will then be available to the next customer waiting in line in the next round.
The Babcock Ranch Preserve in Charlotte County offers prime public hunting opportunities, which can be applied for in the form of Babcock Ranch Preserve Tier II permits. The Preserve offers 14 tracts ranging in size from 594 acres to 6,529 acres. The Tier II program allows a permit holder and a limited number of participants and guests to have year-round access and limited hunting privileges in their designated area. A designated number of antlerless deer permits are included for each tract. If interested, you may apply between May 17 and 27 at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com.
So whether it's a fall quota permit, special-opportunity hunt, or unique new chance to secure a season-long permit you're after, here's wishing you success in planning for your upcoming hunting season.