by Wayne Nichols
It’s a great time to be in South/Central Florida! If you can get past the 100° heat, 100% humidity, and the helicopter-size mosquitoes, what’s not to love! Lobster season is in full swing and hunting season has started as well. Florida has one, of if not the longest, hunting season there is in the U.S. With archery season starting usually the end of July for southern zones and central zones ending over halfway through January for deer, there’s always something in season seems like, and after only 2 months down time, the Spring Osceola season comes in for March and April. Realistically, there’s only about 2.5 months when there’s not an official season in. Throw in hog hunting and gator hunting on private lands year round and there’s always something to go hunting for here.
Florida has 1000’s of acres of public lands available for sportsman to hunt on from quota hunts, lottery hunts, and some walk-in management area places as well. But to be honest, if you can avoid them and hunt on private lands, you’re probably better off. Odds of harvesting big game on public lands is a crap shoot at best. No matter your experience level, most are simply overcrowded and sadly a lot of hunters lack the etiquette and respect of others. We hear tons of stories every season about it….”this guy just drove into our set up”, “that guy came through on an ATV with a radio blaring”, “I let that young buck walk and he shot it right around the corner from me”. It’s never ending folks and honestly, it’s actually usually more expensive to hunt public land than private once you add in all the extra costs. Camping equipment, hotels, food, gas, misc. supplies etc…you could have had a better time and luck elsewhere with no weekend warriors ruining it for you or worse, your kids. If hunting public land, look for low quota rates, restricted access and numbers of hunters to help your odds….and usually your blood pressure. Stick to basics down here. Scout some areas, get out early, be quiet, sit still. With our temperatures down here, we normally hang it up about 10am at the latest and head back out around 3:30pm til dark on private lands. On public lands, it’s basically the same, but with an exception. Most hunters head in off public lands between 9-10am and go back out the same at 3ish that afternoon. There’s a lot of noise before/at daylight and then again around 3pm… perfect time to stay put past 10am. Use other hunters impatient habits to your advantage. Be alert at these times, I’ve seen A LOT of great deer killed because of other hunters basically driving them to you with their noise. And also after the other hunters have left it’s suddenly quiet in the woods again, big deer have picked up on this over the years and will hold up until midday to get water, food, or look for a mate. An extra hour can make a huge difference. Pay attention to your hunting zone and regulations, antler restrictions, etc; know where you’re at and the rules.
This year Florida has implemented a tagging system and finally dropped the number of bucks to be harvested from roughly 360 per person to 3. THANK YOU! Yes I said 360 bucks per person per year…simple math, you can hunt from basically August through January, 6 months/30 days each, that’s 180 days at 2 bucks per day for any licensed hunter on private lands, which border a lot of public pressured lands; you see where that leads. We’ll get more into that next month, but we’ll done FWC, finally. And don’t be afraid to shoot that doe, you’re not gonna mount that small 6 pointer anyway. There’s some great bucks down here, but you have to take a chance on letting smaller ones walk to mature. Of course everyone can’t hunt every day and meat in the freezer is exactly that, so if you get an opportunity on private land, I probably wouldn’t pass on it! As always take a kid hunting and fishing whenever you get a chance, stay safe out there.