Hopefully, you’ve already started brushing up on your turkey calling, ’cause spring gobbler season is here. In March, whether you prefer to use a mouth call, box call, friction call or any combination, it’s time to talk turkey! And if you’re looking for some tips on turkey hunting or calling, I’ve posted several great videos on our YouTube channel at YouTube.com/HuntFloridaTV.
Season dates, bag limits and regulations
For adults, the highly anticipated spring turkey season comes in first south of State Road 70 and runs from March 5 to April 10. In the rest of the state (except for Holmes County), it runs from March 19 to April 24. In Holmes County, the season is March 19 to April 3.
Hunters may take bearded turkeys and gobblers only and the daily bag limit is two on private lands. On wildlife management areas, you may only take one bird a day. The season and possession limit on turkeys is two, except in Holmes County, where it is one.
Shooting hours on private lands and some WMAs are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset, but on most WMAs, you must quit hunting by 1 p.m.
Of course, you can use turkey decoys to help entice that stubborn old tom but you’re not permitted to hunt turkeys with dogs, use recorded turkey calls or sounds or shoot them while they’re on the roost, over bait or when you’re within 100 yards of a game-feeding station when feed is present.
License and permit
Besides a hunting license, you’ll need to buy a turkey permit. For Florida residents, the turkey permit costs $10. For all the out-of-staters seeking an eastern or Osceola to complete their “Grand Slam,” the permit costs $125.
If you plan to pursue a gobbler on one of Florida’s many WMAs, you also must purchase a management area permit for $26.50. Don’t forget to obtain a WMA brochure for the area you wish to hunt, because dates and rules can differ for each area. You can get these brochures at MyFWC.com/Hunting, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) regional offices or from your local tax collector’s office.
Youth turkey hunt weekend
Youth hunters can benefit from the two-day youth spring turkey hunting season the weekend prior to the opening of spring turkey season. This Youth Spring Turkey Hunt occurs on private lands and on 79 of the FWC’s wildlife management areas.
South of SR 70, that weekend is Feb. 27-28 this year. Above SR 70 in the rest of the state, that weekend falls on March 12-13.
Only those 15 years old and younger are allowed to harvest a turkey while supervised by an adult who is 18 years or older. On private land, no license or permit is required of the youth or supervising adult, unless the adult plans to help “call-in” the bird or otherwise participate in the hunt. In that case, he or she will need a hunting license and turkey permit.
Walk-in youth turkey hunt areas
23 of the participating wildlife management areas do not require a youth spring turkey quota permit. Those WMAs are Apalachicola, Aucilla, Big Bend – Spring Creek Unit, Big Bend – Tide Swamp Unit, Blackwater, Choctawhatchee River (only the south portion of the area), Escambia River, Herky Huffman/Bull Creek, J.W. Corbett, Joe Budd, Jumper Creek, Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, Kissimmee River, Lake Monroe, Lochloosa, Log Landing, Lower Econfina River, Middle Aucilla, Osceola, Richloam, Steinhatchee Springs, Three Lakes and Upper St. Johns River Marsh.
If the adult supervisor is going to attempt to call in a bird on any of the participating WMAs, he or she also will need a management area permit in addition to the hunting license and turkey permit.
But keep in mind that adults are not allowed to do any shooting. Only the kids may harvest a bird. Any turkey harvested during the Youth Spring Turkey Hunt counts toward the youth hunter’s spring season bag limit of two.
During spring turkey hunts on WMAs, the only allowed firearms are shotguns and muzzleloading shotguns, using shot no larger than No. 2. All legal bows and crossbows also can be used on most WMAs. But all rifles, pistols, buckshot and slugs are prohibited during spring turkey hunts on WMAs.
The exceptions are on Joe Budd, Raiford and Santa Fe Swamp. Muzzleloading rifles are still allowed on those three areas because spring turkey hunting there is restricted to primitive guns only. This rule does not apply to private property, where any legal rifle, shotgun, muzzleloader, crossbow, bow or pistol can be used to take turkeys.