Hunting articles by Tony Young, the media relations coordinator for the Florida Wildlife Commission’s Division of Hunting and Game Management. You can reach him with questions about hunting at Tony.Young@MyFWC.com.
Tony Young, FWC, 850-488-7867
Football season is in full swing, and the 2010-11 hunting season is starting to crank up. Heck, in Zone A, they’re already into general gun season! But for the rest of us, I’d like to cover the rules and regulations regarding three hunting seasons that are just around the corner – crossbow, muzzleloading gun and the first phase of dove.
Crossbow season, which occurs only on private lands, fits between archery and muzzleloading gun, opening on a Monday and running for five days: Nov. 15-19 in Zone B, Oct. 18-22 in Zone C and Nov. 29 – Dec. 3 in Zone D.
This season is for any hunter who’d like to use a crossbow or continue using a bow on private lands. This is not just for disabled hunters.
The most common types of game to take during crossbow season are deer and wild hog. Only bucks may be taken, and one antler must be at least 5 inches long above the hairline. The daily bag limit on antlered deer is two. You can hunt wild hogs year-round on private lands, but only with landowner permission. There are no bag or size limits.
It’s also legal to shoot gobblers and bearded turkeys during crossbow season. You may take only one per day, and there’s a two-bird, fall-season limit. But you can’t hunt turkeys in Holmes County during the fall and winter.
Crossbows and bows must have a minimum draw weight of 35 pounds, and hand-held releases on bows are permitted. For hunting deer, hog and turkey, broadheads must have at least two sharpened edges with a minimum width of 7/8 inch.
Legal shooting hours are a half-hour before sunrise to a half-hour after sunset. Except for turkeys, hunters may take resident game over feed such as corn on private lands.
Some things you can’t do during crossbow season include hunting deer or turkey with dogs and using explosive or drug-injecting arrows.
Immediately following the close of crossbow season in each zone, the muzzleloading gun season begins. Season dates run Nov. 20 – Dec. 3 in Zone B, Oct. 23 – Nov. 5 in Zone C and Dec. 4-10 in Zone D.
During muzzleloading gun season, bows and crossbows are legal methods of taking game on private lands, along with muzzleloaders. On wildlife management areas (WMAs), only muzzleloaders may be used.
Legal shooting hours are the same for muzzleloading gun season as for crossbow season. And, legal game, including bag limits and prohibited methods for taking game, also are the same as for crossbow season. Bag limits and antler/size restrictions for game on WMAs can differ, so check the specifics of the area before you hunt.
For hunting deer, muzzleloaders firing single bullets must be at least .40-caliber. Guns firing two or more balls must be 20-gauge or larger. You may not use muzzleloaders that take smokeless powder, ones that can be loaded from the breech or those with self-contained cartridge ammunition capabilities during muzzleloading gun season.
The first phase of the mourning and white-winged dove season begins Oct. 2 and ends Oct. 25 statewide. Shooting hours during this first phase are noon to sunset, and there’s a 15-bird daily bag limit.
The only firearm you’re allowed to use to hunt doves is a shotgun, but you can’t use one larger than a 10-gauge. Shotguns must be plugged to a three-shell capacity (magazine and chamber combined).
You may hunt doves over an agricultural field, as long as the crop has been planted and manipulated under normal agricultural practices. However, it’s against the law to scatter agricultural products over an area for the purpose of baiting.
Some things you can’t do while dove hunting are use rifles, pistols or crossbows; shoot from a moving vehicle; and herd or drive doves with a vehicle.
In addition to a Florida hunting license, you’ll need a $5 crossbow permit to hunt during crossbow season and a $5 muzzleloading gun permit to hunt during muzzleloader season. To hunt deer, you need the new $5 deer permit, and if you’d like to take a fall turkey, you’ll need a $10 turkey permit ($125 for nonresidents). If you’re going to hunt doves, you’ll need a no-cost migratory bird permit, and if you hunt on a WMA, you also must have a management area permit, which costs $26.50.
All are available at county tax collectors’ offices, license agents, by calling, toll-free, 888-HUNT-FLORIDA or by going online to www.fl.wildlifelicense.com.
So if you’re going after that monster buck during the crossbow and muzzleloading gun seasons, or dove hunting with friends and family, I hope I’ve helped explain some of these rules and regulations.
Public Hunting Land (WMA)