Tony Young: Guest Columnist
On behalf of all of us at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), we continue to keep Floridians and visitors who were affected by Hurricane Irma in our thoughts and prayers. The FWC and its land management partners are working hard to address storm impacts to our wildlife management areas so these public lands are available for recreation while balancing the need for public safety. For information about the status of our WMAs, visit MyFWC.com. This list is updated as new information is received, so check back regularly. There’s a new kind of hunter afield these days creating a new trend. Young urbanites, many of them millennials, are taking up bowhunting. According to an article published by the Archery Trade Association, these young people are motivated by healthy lifestyles, organic food and the ever-growing farm/field-to-table movement. During archery season, in addition to taking a legal buck, you are allowed to take antlerless deer, which greatly increases your chances of putting quality meat in the freezer. Millennial hunters care about fitness, red meat and doing their own thing. Bowhunting is booming with this new generation of hunter, Bloomberg Businessweek reported. Because hunting with a bow requires more tracking, these young fitness-minded people are picking it up. Today, teen girls are being inspired to take up archery and bowhunting because of movies like “The Hunger Games” and “Brave,” and are motivated by a generation of women who are dedicated to the outdoors, fitness and wellness. Whatever might draw you to pick up a bow, bowhunting takes practice, the ability to judge distance, and stealth when it comes to movement and covering your scent. To help you get ready, the FWC manages several archery and shooting ranges across the state. Information on these ranges is at MyFWC.com/Ranges. Also, the FWC offers a bowhunter education course, and some classes are still available this fall. You can register and get more information about this course at MyFWC.com/HunterSafety. You can get more information about how to begin hunting at MyFWC.com/NewHunter. Besides hunting the rut, early bow seasons provide a great opportunity to take a mature whitetail and are among the best times to do so. In northwest Florida, it’s even better because bucks are still hangin’ out in their bachelor groups. Historically, during September, the rut is in full swing southeast and west of Lake Okeechobee, and in the counties of Dixie, Levy, Nassau, Duval and St. Johns, so you really have an advantage when hunting there. Find out when the deer rut where you hunt by checking out the FWC’s updated rut map at MyFWC.com/Deer. License and permit requirements Before you go, you need to make sure your license and required permits are up-to-date. To hunt during archery season, you’ll need a Florida hunting license and an archery permit. During crossbow season, you’ll need a hunting license and crossbow permit. If you’re a Florida resident, an annual hunting license costs $17. Nonresidents have the choice of paying $46.50 for a 10-day license or $151.50 for 12 months. Archery and crossbow permits are $5 each, and all deer hunters must have the $5 deer permit. Anyone planning on hunting one of Florida’s many wildlife management areas must purchase a management area permit for $26.50, and don’t forget to study up on the rules and regulations for the area you wish to hunt. You can download these brochures from MyFWC.com/Hunting under “WMA Brochures.” Many of these WMAs require a quota permit to hunt during archery season, but there are several that don’t require one to hunt some or all of their archery season. Those WMAs not requiring a quota permit can be found at MyFWC.com/Hunting. Hurricane Irma impacted some WMAs resulting in area closures. Information about the open/closed status of WMAs can be found at MyFWC.com. You can obtain all the licenses and permits you’ll need at a county tax collector’s office, any retail outlet that sells hunting and fishing supplies, by calling 888-HUNT-FLORIDA or at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com. But if you’re 15 years old or younger, 65 or older or have a resident persons with disabilities hunting and fishing certificate, you’re exempt from needing any of these licenses and permits. Legal to take During archery season and that part of crossbow season that runs concurrent with archery, you can take legal-to-take bucks (as defined by the regulations within the deer management unit you’re hunting in) and antlerless deer, which are does and bucks with less than 5-inch antlers. You may never take spotted fawns. After archery ends, during the remaining portion of the crossbow season, you may only take legal-to-take bucks according to the specific DMU antler rules. The daily bag limit on deer is two. Bag limits for deer on WMAs can differ, so check the specifics of the area before you hunt. You can hunt wild hogs on private lands year-round with no bag or size limits. On most WMAs, there’s also no bag or size limits, and hogs are legal to take during most hunting seasons except spring turkey. But on a few WMAs, bag and size limits do apply so, to be certain, check the brochure for the specific area. In addition to hunting big game, it’s also legal to shoot gobblers and bearded turkeys during archery and crossbow seasons, assuming you have a turkey permit ($10 for residents, $125 for nonresidents) or are exempt from the permit requirement. You can take two turkeys in a single day on private lands, but the two-bird combined fall-season limit still applies. The daily bag is still one on WMAs, however, on many of them you may take hen turkeys during the archery season. It’s against the law to hunt turkeys in Holmes County in the fall, and it’s illegal to shoot them while they’re on the roost, over bait, when you’re within 100 yards of a game-feeding station when bait is present or with the aid of recorded turkey calls.