Florida

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Video what is a legal buck or antlered deer in florida

Image: ImageBy_Tony_Campbell_FL

Check out the latest info for Florida. Image by Tony Campbell

Season Dates (2023):

Florida deer hunting seasons are pretty complex. The state is divided into four zones, and dates and weapon types vary greatly for each. Check the FLORIDA FISH AND WILDLIFE CONSERVATION COMMISSION WEBSITE to confirm season dates.

The Grade: D

Unless you are a resident of Florida or live nearby, the Sunshine State is likely not the first state that comes to mind when thinking about deer hunting. Bucks run small, hot weather is frequently a hindrance, and the zones, seasons, and bag limits are complex. Plus, chronic wasting disease was recently discovered here.

“CWD was recently detected in Florida in June 2023,” said Lauren Claerbout, public information coordinator with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “In response, the FWC established a CWD Management Zone centered around the location of the positive sample in an executive order signed by FWC Executive Director Roger Young. The CWD management zone includes the portions of Holmes, Jackson, and Washington counties north of Interstate 10, east of State Road 81 and west of U.S. Highway 231. The new executive order also prohibits the export of whole carcasses and high-risk parts originating from the CWD management zone. Hunters are being asked to support the FWC’s efforts to monitor Florida deer for CWD by voluntarily submitting their deer heads for testing (skull cap and antlers can be removed and kept by the hunter). Hunters can learn more about how they can support FWC’s surveillance efforts by calling the CWD hotline: (866) CWD-WATCH (293-9282) or visiting MyFWC.com/CWD.”

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Nonetheless, there are a lot of deer in Florida, with plenty of public land. There are some unique opportunities, including the chance to bowhunt rutting whitetails in early August in some areas of southern Florida.

“Florida has one of the largest wildlife management area systems in the country at 6 million acres,” said Tammy Sapp, with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. “FWC is the lead manager or landowner on over 1.46 million acres and works in partnership with other governmental or private landowners on another 4.54 million acres. Florida’s WMAs offer a wide range of hunting opportunities, including quota and limited-entry hunts, special opportunity hunts and public hunting areas where people can walk on to hunt.”

All said, as whitetail destinations go, Florida gets a D.

Antler Nation Knowledge:

There have only been two all-time trophies recorded in the Boone and Crockett record books, and both were taken more than a half-century ago. The No. 1 Florida buck was killed in 1941, and the No. 2 buck was bagged in 1959. Unsurprisingly, both came from the central part of the Panhandle, where the largest bucks generally call home. If a good deer is what you’re looking for, the best ones comes from counties in or nearest to this region.

One good thing about Florida? It isn’t hard to find a place to hunt. With nearly 6 million acres of public land, it has ONE OF THE LARGEST WMA SYSTEMS in the country. Don’t overlook NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE HUNTS, either. There are also QUOTA HUNTS and SPECIAL-OPPORTUNITY HUNTS. Just remember, some locations don’t require permits, but others do.

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“Deer with larger antlers can be found in most areas of the state,” Sapp said. “Counties that consistently produce bucks with higher antler scores are Jackson, Gadsden, Alachua, and Calhoun. Hunters can find information on buck scores based on the county in which they were harvested at FWC’s buck registry INTERACTIVE MAP.

“Two new areas were added to Florida’s 6-million-acre WMA system: Orange Hammock WMA, a 5,777-acre area in Sarasota County, and Everglades Headwaters WMA, Kissimmee Bend Unit, a 5,305-acre area in Okeechobee County. Both areas provide new quota permit deer hunting opportunities.”

As for the rut, it’s pretty wacky in Florida. Depending on the location, peak dates RANGE FROM JULY TO FEBRUARY. A long growing season and mild winters are partly to blame for this, as it allows fawning to occur almost year-round, and it can even shift a little from year to year.

Something else that changes? Regulations. According to Sapp, the statewide bag limit is set at five deer per hunter, and no more than two can be antlerless. All deer hunters must report their harvests. A youth deer hunt weekend is established in all four hunting zones. Also, this year, dogs being used to pursue game are required to wear GPS or telemetry collars.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>