First time hunting in FL
November 1, 2011, QUESTION: I have been stationed at Hurlburt Field for 3 years now and have decided to start hunting again. I have purchased the sportsman gold, but the way some of the regulations are written it has lead to some confusion. Do I need an additional wild life management area permit to hunt in the WMA areas? I have also purchased the Eglin range pass, but I noticed that their seasons were different than what the state's seasons were. I have always stuck to small game, but would like to hunt deer and hogs. I went to explore Yellow river but I found it nearly impossible to navagate due to all of the vines and under growth. I have a feeling I misread the Eglin small game season as well, since it sounded like you can only hunt them a few days during the general gun season. And finally is there a place that is easily accessible by foot near the escambia river or the surrounding areas that are promising for hunting/camping that you do not need a boat to get to. Thank you for reading this.
ANSWER: Well, Matt, since you've been stationed at Hurlburt field for 3 years, you've probably noticed the dry weather. So that means that you're gonna have to hunt near a water source to find the bulk of your activity. Unfortunately, I do not have access to the Eglin Range Pass that you purchased. So I don't know what the hunting dates are. But typically here in Florida, whoever controls the wildlife management area makes the rules. I'm sure Englin has good reasons for setting certain dates on certain game based on their military training schedule.
Since you have purchased the sportsman's gold license, your wildlife management area permit as well as the deer, turkey, and other permits are included, with the exception of the state and federal duck stamps. You say you explored in Yellow River, which requires a quota permit. And without the permit, you can get in trouble.
Every wildlife management area in your corner of the state requires some form of quota permit either to hunt on specific dates, seasons, or game. Therefore, this late in the year, all those permits whose application deadline starts in June may have already been taken, which means you would have to stick with the Eglin range pass rules this year. But you can still check for available quota permits for the different areas you would be interested in for availability by going to: http://myfwc.com/license/recreational/, and go to "Limited Entry/Quota Hunts."
Some wildlife management areas near you, all of which are quota hunts, are: Perdido River (Escambia County); Blackwater, Blackwater-Carr Unit, Blackwater-Hutton Unit (Santa Rosa and Okaloosa Counties); Lafayette Creek (Walton County); Point Washington (Walton County); and Pine Log (Bay and Washington Counties).
So between now and June of 2012, you need to get out, do some scouting, stop at all the sporting goods stores, and mom and pop shops, and learn all you can about your area. Sometimes if you leave your guns and bows at home, you can hang out at the checkout stations that are available in some of the wildlife management areas or boatramps and gather information from these locations as well.
I have personally found many great areas to access on foot by walking in from boatramps. A lot of times even in unknown territory, it can work out safety-wise because it puts you in a pocket between lakes, rivers, and roads, which sometimes makes dragging your game out a little easier.
So good hunting, enjoy your scouting, and let's hear about that little honey hole when you find it!