The cooler weather and Thanksgiving holiday has many of us wanting to take to the woods and enjoy the opening of several hunting seasons.
The general gun season for Zone D, which includes Okaloosa and Walton counties, always starts Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 23) and lasts four days (until Nov. 26).
General gun season
During general gun season, only legal-to-take bucks as they are defined in each deer management unit may be harvested, but don’t forget that you need to purchase a $5 deer permit first. On private land, the daily bag limit on deer is two. Bag limits and other regulations for deer on wildlife management areas can differ, so before you hunt, download the specific WMA brochure by going to MyFWC.com/Hunting.
You may hunt wild hogs on private lands year-round with no bag or size limits. Similarly, on most public lands there are no bag or size limits, and hogs are legal to take during most hunting seasons except spring turkey. On a few public hunting areas, specific bag and size limits do apply, so check the 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 the game.
Private land doe days
Within the general gun season are antlerless deer days, better known to us hunters as “doe days.” 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 “2017-2018 Florida Hunting Regulations” handbook, which you can pick up at your tax collector’s office, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) regional office or by downloading it online at MyFWC.com/Hunting.
During these doe 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. Also, regardless of the season, deer gender or the number of permits, hunters are never allowed to harvest more than two deer per day under any circumstances.
Fall turkey and quail
Fall turkey season starts on the same date as general gun season for Zone D, but ends a little earlier. It runs from Nov. 23-26 and Dec. 9 – Jan. 14. 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, 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, muzzle loading gun and fall turkey seasons combined.
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.
The uproar a covey of bobwhite quail cause when suddenly taking to the air in front of a pointing bird dog is enough to thrill even the most seasoned veteran hunter. Quail season this year runs Nov. 11 – March 4, and the daily bag limit is 12. Bobwhites prefer a patchwork of brushy fence rows, weedy fields and open upland forests that are frequently burned. A good bird dog is essential in quail hunting and, for many hunters, watching the dog work and seeing its enjoyment is the most rewarding part.
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.
All necessary licenses and permits are available at your tax collector’s office, retail outlets that sell hunting and fishing gear, by calling toll-free 888-HUNT-FLORIDA or by going online at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com.
Whether you prefer small-game hunting with friends and family or hunting solo and going after that monster buck, boar hog or big tom, November brings loads of great hunting opportunities.
Here’s wishing you a happy Thanksgiving and a successful hunting season. Take someone hunting when you can. As always, have fun, hunt safely and ethically, and we’ll see you in the woods!
Tony Young is a columnist for Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.