Starting this hunting season, youth may take part in a Youth Waterfowl Hunting Day occurring the Saturday before the start of the first phase of the regular waterfowl season, which is Nov. 16, and another one held the second Saturday after the second phase of the season closes, Feb. 8. Previously, youth waterfowl hunting days were a Saturday-Sunday hunt in February.
“Federal rules allow each state to pick their youth hunt days, as long as they fall within two weeks of open migratory bird hunting seasons,” said Andrew Fanning, FWC’s waterfowl and small-game management program coordinator. “So, we surveyed Florida’s waterfowl hunters to see what they preferred, and they chose breaking up the two days.”
Youth 15 and younger may hunt ducks, light geese, Canada geese, mergansers, coots and common moorhens while being supervised by an adult (18 years or older). Only the kids may hunt – adults may only assist, and no licenses or permits are needed, including federal duck stamps.
“I believe splitting up the hunt days is a good choice for several reasons. It may better accommodate people’s busy schedules and provides an alternative in case of bad weather,” Fanning said. “Another important consideration is it can help youth hunters be more successful. Having a youth day in front of the season gives kids a chance at resident mottled ducks and whistling ducks before these species have experienced any hunting pressure. It also promotes added participation since the whole regular season lies ahead.
“Pushing the second Youth Waterfowl Hunting Day to two weeks after the regular duck season closes allows for a different type of hunt, when the weather is cooler and species such as scaup and ring-necked ducks are more abundant. Plus, the two-week break gives the birds a rest.”
Bag limits for each species are the same as during the regular season. Shooting hours are a half-hour before sunrise to sunset. All shotguns must be plugged to a 3-shell capacity, and only nontoxic (steel, iron, bismuth-tin, tungsten-alloy) shot maybe be used or in your possession.
If you’re not a duck hunter but your child is showing an interest in trying it, the FWC has online information to assist you – visit MyFWC.com/NewHunter and check out the “Guide to Waterfowl Hunting in Florida” at MyFWC.com/Duck.
FWC-managed youth waterfowl hunts
The FWC hosts managed youth waterfowl hunts at T.M. Goodwin Waterfowl Management Area, STA 1W and Guana River Wildlife Management Area. These fun, family-oriented events include raffles, free food and opportunities to hunt waterfowl. For more information on the Guana River hunt, call 904-825-6877. For more information on the T.M. Goodwin and STA 1W hunts, call 321-726-2862.
Waterfowl hunting season dates
The regular duck season as well as coot, light geese and merganser seasons open Nov. 23 and run through Dec. 1. Canada goose season also opens on Nov. 23 and runs through Jan. 30, with snipe season running Nov. 1 – Feb. 15.
General gun season
General gun season runs Nov. 2 – Jan. 19 in Zone C, and Dec. 7 – Feb. 23 in Zone B. In Zone A, the second phase of general gun season is Nov. 23 – Jan. 5. In Zone D, the first phase always starts Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 28) and lasts four days (until Dec. 1).
During general gun season, legal-to-take antlered deer as they are defined in each deer management unit may be harvested. Antlerless deer may still only be harvested: 1) during seasons when they are legal to take, such as during archery season, 2) on antlerless deer days and 3) under permit i.e., antlerless deer permit issued on land in the wildlife management area system, Antlerless Deer Program permit or Private Lands Deer Management Program permit.
Don’t forget you need to purchase a $5 deer permit, and there’s the new statewide annual bag limit of five deer, of which two may be antlerless – and the new deer harvest reporting requirement. Learn more about these new rules at MyFWC.com/Deer.
On private land, the daily bag limit for deer is two. Bag limits and other regulations for deer on WMAs can differ, so before you hunt download the specific WMA brochure only available at MyFWC.com/WMAbrochures and through the Fish|Hunt FL app.
You may hunt wild hogs on private lands year-round with no bag or size limits. Similarly, on most areas that offer public hunting opportunities, there are no bag or size limits, and hogs are legal to take during most hunting seasons except spring turkey. On a few WMAs, specific bag and size limits do apply, so check the online WMA brochure to be certain.
Hunters are allowed to take deer and wild hogs over feeding stations on private land, but that’s not the case on WMAs, no matter the season or game species.
It’s illegal to take deer using rimfire cartridges or non-expanding, full-metal case ammunition.
Antlerless deer days
While most WMAs do not allow harvest of antlerless deer, antlerless deer days are available during the general gun season on lands outside the WMA system.
These dates differ for each of the state’s 12 DMUs. To learn when these antlerless deer opportunities occur in your DMU, refer to the “2019-2020 Florida Hunting Regulations” handbook, which you can pick up at your tax collector’s office, FWC regional office or by downloading it online at MyFWC.com/Hunting.
During these antlerless deer days, the daily bag limit is one legal antlered deer and one antlerless deer, or two legal antlered deer. Unlike archery season, you may not take two antlerless deer in one day, unless you have antlerless deer tags issued for the private land you hunt.
All free-running dogs used in pursuing or hunting deer must wear a collar or tag displaying the name and address of the dog’s owner. Hunters must contain their dogs to the tract of land they have permission to hunt.
There are several ways to accomplish that: Equip and monitor dogs with devices that allow remote tracking and behavior correction; only deer-dog hunt on large tracts of land; make sure there are adequate cut-off roads that will enable you to keep in front of the dogs; and don’t turn out more dogs than your hunting party can manage.
Hunters using dogs to take deer on private lands must register that property before doing so. No-cost, statewide deer-dog registration is required during all open deer-hunting and training seasons when taking or running deer with dogs is permitted. However, this registration doesn’t apply to hunters hunting or training with deer dogs on areas within the WMA system.
This mandatory registration may be issued to hunting clubs, landowners or anyone who has permission to hunt deer with dogs on a particular tract of land as long as the required application is completed and approved. Application forms are available at all regional Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) offices and online at MyFWC.com/Deer. Applications should include proof of landowner permission or a copy of the written hunting-lease agreement, and a general map of the property showing boundaries and a legal description.
Once you’ve registered with the FWC, you’ll be issued a unique registration number that must be attached to the collars of all dogs used to pursue deer on registered properties during any open deer-hunting or deer-dog training season when taking or running deer with dogs is permitted. Hunters must possess copies of their registration while they’re hunting or training with their dogs.
WMAs that don’t require a quota permit
Florida’s WMAs offer a wide range of hunting opportunities from quota/limited entry hunts, special-opportunity hunts, and public hunting areas where hunters can walk on to hunt. There are more than 40 WMAs where hunters don’t need a quota permit to hunt some or all of the general gun season. You can find those WMAs not requiring a quota permit at MyFWC.com/WMAbrochures at the bottom of the webpage.
Fall turkey season starts on the same date as general gun season in zones B, C and D but ends a little earlier. It runs from Dec. 7 – Feb. 2 in Zone B; Nov. 2 – Dec. 29 in Zone C; and Nov. 28 – Dec. 1 and Dec. 14 – Jan. 19 in Zone D. In Zone A, the second phase of fall turkey season is the same as the zone’s second phase of general gun: Nov. 23 – Jan. 5. Hunters may only take bearded turkeys and gobblers, and they must have a turkey permit ($10 for residents, $125 for nonresidents) to hunt them.
You may harvest up to two turkeys per day on private land, if you’d like, but that would tag you out for the entire fall season because you’re only allowed to harvest a total of two turkeys during the archery, crossbow, muzzleloading gun and fall turkey seasons combined. In Holmes County, the harvest of fall turkeys is not allowed at all. And there’s not a fall turkey season on WMAs, however, on a half-dozen areas, turkeys are legal to take during general gun season.
You’re not permitted to hunt turkeys with dogs or with recorded turkey calls, and you’re not permitted to shoot them while they’re on the roost or when you’re within 100 yards of a game-feeding station when feed is present.
Shooting hours for deer and fall turkeys are a half-hour before sunrise to a half-hour after sunset. All legal rifles, shotguns, muzzleloaders, air guns (PCP .30 caliber for deer, .20 caliber for turkeys), bows, crossbows and handguns may be used to take each of these resident game animals during the general gun and fall turkey seasons.
Illegal firearms and ammunition are defined as centerfire, semiautomatic rifles having magazine capacities of more than five rounds, and fully automatic firearms. Other prohibited methods for taking game include shooting from a moving vehicle and herding or driving game with a vehicle.
License and permit requirements
The first thing you’ll need to participate in one or more of these hunting opportunities is a Florida hunting license. Residents pay just $17. Nonresidents have the choice of paying $46.50 for a 10-day license or $151.50 for 12 months.
If you want to hunt on a WMA, you also must purchase a management area permit for $26.50. And don’t forget to obtain the brochure about the WMA you’re going to hunt because dates, bag limits and rules differ greatly for each area. These are available only online at MyFWC.com/WMAbrochures and through the Fish|Hunt FL app.
All necessary licenses and permits are available online at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com, at your tax collector’s office, retail outlets that sell hunting and fishing gear, and by calling toll-free 888-HUNT-FLORIDA (486-8356).