St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge really is a jewel of a hunting area, especially for sambar deer. It is an undeveloped barrier island just offshore from the mouth of the Apalachicola River, in the Gulf of Mexico.
The down side is they have only 3 hunts a year. If you like to bow hunt or black powder hunt, don't mind the 'draw' system and can get off during the week to go -- this is an honest to goodness American safari adventure!
There are a lot of rules and structured guidelines. You have to follow the rules or they won't let you come back. The only access is by boat at designated landing points. Camping is allowed only in designed camp zones. You have to walk everywhere, or you can take a bike to ride if you can handle the sandy roads.
Tim and Kenny at St. Vincent
But the St. Vincent experience is well worth the effort as my son Tim and I found out first hand. You can take a hog on any hunt; but the big game is limited to the specified hunt. We opted for the black powder sambar deer hunt. We chose the sambar deer because of its unique stature in the North Florida game hierarchy. This is the only place you can find them. The sambar is a relative to the Asian elk. The largest male killed on record is over 500 pounds. The does aren't quite as large, but it's more meat than you can eat. While on the island we picked up sheds from both whitetail and sambar deer -- remember this is a relative of an Asian elk so they are quite large.
We hunted during the day. We fished from the beach at night. When we weren't eating fish, we ate steak complements of a fellow hunter. The comradery with the other hunters, some of which are regulars, can highlight your experience.
We didn't take home a deer, but I saw several during scouting before the season opened. And the only live doe I saw stepped out into the open; I raised my gun, prepared to fire -- and she took off! So I didn't get her. Which means we didn't have to drag, skin, debone, and haul out 200+ pounds of pure meat -- but that would have been okay too. We will be going back.
See also on our website Frequently Asked Questions re: St. Vincent Deer Hunt for more information.