Florida Hunting in the Fall Season
Florida Hunting - Fall Hunting Hotspots Explored
Florida Hunting is second to none. The experienced hunter knows there is much more to Florida than beaches and theme parks. Beyond the typical tourist hustle and bustle, a wild side is just waiting for exploration. From small game like squirrels and waterfowl to deer, hogs and an occasional alligator, the fall hunting season in Florida is slightly different that just about any other.
Considering its geographical diversity, it should come as no surprise that Florida's hunting season in Fall tends to draw quite a crowd. Between Florida's own hunters and those from regions all over the world, the rugged landscape here attracts those looking for something different. The possibilities presented make the state an ideal destination for game and sports hunters alike.
Florida Hunting Rules
With more than 100 separate wildlife management areas under the state's watchful eye, resident hunters and visitors alike should have no difficulty finding just the right spot to stake out for the big fall season.
Before heading out to bag a turkey or stalk a whitetail deer, we strongly recommend researching Florida's hunting laws, its management areas and the types of game that are up for grabs or off limits within them. Not all of Florida's wild creatures make the list in the fall and the state's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission takes breeches of its regulations very seriously.
When typical fall game is what a hunter has in the sights, it is still wise to check and double-check the regulations on the season and the land in question before heading out. Remember, if one of the state's 100-plus Wildlife Management Areas are chosen for a hunt, their dates and what game is up for grabs might vary a bit.
Permits and licenses are available in a number of locations throughout the state. Many stores that sell hunting gear and ammunition can also issue permits. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission also offers detailed information on licenses, permits and quota hunts available in the fall and at other times of the year.
The Fall Season for Florida Hunting
Florida hunting seasons are a little hard to keep track of for visitors who aren't familiar with the territory. The Wildlife Management Areas offer their own dates, but seasons on private property and other locations tend to run fairly consistent from year to year. They do, however, vary depending on the region of the state a hunter happens to be in.
- In general, the fall archery season starts between September and October, depending on the zone. The southern part of the state tends to kick of the season the earliest with the north coming online the latest. The next season to open is deer-dog training in October throughout the state. Crossbow comes next between October and November, followed by muzzleloader and general gun.
- The famous Florida Osceola turkey comes up for grabs in a very brief period throughout the state. Typically, the season runs only a few days, right near Thanksgiving. Holmes County, however, offers no fall gobbler season at all. This turkey was named after the famous Seminole Chief Osceola.
- An alligator harvest also runs in the fall. The rules and regulations for this particular draw are a bit different than those that apply to other game. Several months of advanced preparation is generally needed to take part.
Florida Hunting Hotspots
Florida is noted for its diverse hunting terrain. From swamplands and forests to scrub areas and beyond, the state's management areas encompass it all. What is found within each management area tends to differ a bit. Some of the top spots for hunting favored by locals and visitors alike include:
Hunting in Chassahowitzka
Chassahowitzka is a favorite stop of hunters in the central part of the state. The managed area is noted for its deer, hogs, small game and waterfowl. In addition to hunters, bird waters and nature lovers flock to this management area. The management area offers 150 regular quota hunt permits and 150 special quota hunt permits. A special quota hunt permit is required for Chassahowitzka during the first nine days of archery or muzzleloading seasons. Regular quote hunt permits suffice during the first nine days of general gun season.
Hunting in Big Bend
Big Bend is noted for its west coast location and plenty of game. This management area is home to dove, quail, deer, wild turkeys and a host of other creatures. The Hickory Mount Impoundment is noted for its duck hunting opportunities when the rainfall is right. Tide Swamp is noted for its turkey, hogs and deer. Regulations here depend on the portion of the area being hunted, as do dates.
Hunting in Salt Lake
Brevard County's Salt Lake WMA offers about 7,800 acres of preserved land. This is one of the state's newest areas open to hunting. Here visitors will find all hunts are quota hunts. The area is known for its abundance of feral hogs and wild turkeys. It also has more than a few deer within its boundaries.
Hunting in Half Moon
Half Moon offers nearly 9,500 acres to explore in Sumter County. This WMA is noted for its small game, hog, deer and turkey. Dog hunting is prohibited here with the exception of bird dogs and small dogs during small game season. The area is noted for having a very stable deer population of about 60 deer per square mile.
Hunting in Apalachicola River
Spanning two counties – Franklin and Gulf – the Apalachicola River management area covers an impressive 86,000-plus acres. The area is noted for its fall squirrel hunting in particular because of its draw for primitive campers who take in the small game and fishing at the same time. While deer and turkey populations are low here, a 60-acre dove field is planted each year to draw in game for the area's dove season.
Hunting in Holey Land
Holey Land covers more than 30,000 acres in Palm Beach and Broward counties in South Florida. This management area is noted for its white-tailed deer and waterfowl fall and winter seasons. The deer population here is carefully counted and managed with annual surveys taken to determine recommended annual harvests.
Hunting in Green Swamp
Green Swamp encompasses almost 50,000 acres in Polk, Sumter and Lake counties. This area offers a diverse landscape within which to hunt and even explore. It is home to cypress domes, hardwood swamps and pine flatwoods. It is run in conjunction with the Southwest Florida Water Management District and does offer some very unique hunting prospects. The area is home to alligators, white-tailed deer, hogs, armadillo and more. What is harvestable and during which times of the year is at the state's discretion. Camping is allowed by permit, especially along the Florida Trail, which is part of the Florida National Scenic Trail.
Hunting in Eglin Air Force Base
Eglin Air Force Base is open, conditionally, for hunting. Spanning more than 450,000 acres, the property crosses the Walton, Okaloosa and Santa Rosa county lines. About 280,000 acres are made open to public regulation when military activities permit. Hunting here is considered some of the best in the state with excellent hog, turkey and deer populations roaming the base's expanse
Tips For Out-Of-State Hunters
Florida welcomes out-of-state hunters in many of its management areas, but it is wise to carefully look into desired hunt areas, permits and specific seasons before charging in. Since the management areas tend to all offer their own set dates, having a destination in mind before making the trek to find white-tailed deer, turkey or hog is quite smart. Alligators are harvestable in the fall, as well, but special permits are required. They go up for grabs in the summer, generally in June.
Beyond the unusual seasons and permitting requirements, there are a few others things about Florida hunting visitors should know about. These include climate, terrain and natives to watch out for.
Out-of-state hunters are often surprised at the unpredictability of Florida's weather during the fall hunting season. To stay ahead of the game, it's wise to prepare for anything. While temperatures tend to still run a little cooler in the fall, heat can still be an issue well into late October and early November in some years. Hurricane season runs through Nov. 1 each year. It's recommended to prepare for the potential deluge now and again.
Bug repellent – especially mosquito – is a necessity for those trekking into Florida's swamps and woods, as well. If game is bagged in swamp areas, it is almost a given a trek into the water will be required. Prepare for this and it won't come as such a big surprise.
When preparing gear, it's also a very good idea to remember, Florida's fall is not quite like other areas. Things tend to stay green here much longer, if not year round. Packing camouflage to match a variety of conditions is not a bad idea. Some regions stay very green, but more neutral colors might serve better in certain terrain. Hiking or hunting boots are a must in the river and swamp areas where snakes and other creatures live.
Florida hunting offers opportunities that few other regions can rival. Although the deer are generally smaller than northern hunters are used to, the challenge of the terrain and the occasional gator spotting tends to make up for the size. Just prepare for the weather and get a good handle one where and when to go and Florida hunting in the fall promises to deliver an experience that won't soon be forgotten.
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