As hunting season nears, brush up on regs

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Part of many deer hunters’ preseason prep includes brushing up on hunting regulations. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has compiled a list of common questions its customer call center staff and biologists receive.

What are the new rules for hunters who pursue deer with dogs?

Beginning July 2021, dogs pursuing deer, wild hog, fox or coyote must have collars equipped and monitored with devices that allow remote tracking (GPS or telemetry). This rule change, which was requested by dog hunters, requires these devices be attached by a collar or similar means. 

Also new this year: Removing, tampering or otherwise interfering with any collar or tag (including remote tracking devices and behavior correction collars) of a dog used for hunting without the owner’s permission is prohibited. Violating this rule is a second-degree misdemeanor that carries a fine of up to $500.  

Keep in mind, on July 1, 2022, an additional corrective device will also be required on the collars of hunting dogs pursuing deer, wild hog, fox or coyote. 

Do I need to wear hunter orange when deer hunting?

If you are hunting deer on public lands or accompanying someone hunting deer on public lands, you must wear a minimum of 500 square inches of daylight fluorescent orange material as an outer garment. Hunter orange clothing must be worn above the waistline and may include a head covering. This rule does not apply during an archery-only season or when hunting on private lands at any time. 

What is an antlerless deer? What is an antlered deer?

An antlerless deer is any deer, except a spotted fawn, without antlers or whose antlers are less than 5 inches in length. An antlered deer is any deer having one or more antlers at least 5 inches in length. 

Can antlerless deer be taken during any day of the deer season?

No. Antlerless deer (any deer, except a spotted fawn, without antlers or whose antlers are less than 5 inches in length) may only be harvested when they are legal to take, such as during archery season, and on antlerless deer days or 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. 

Can youth harvest any antlered deer during the deer season?

Youth 15 years old and younger may harvest only one antlered deer (any deer having one or more antlers at least 5 inches in length) annually that does not meet antler point regulations for the deer management unit being hunted and it counts toward the youth’s annual bag limit. 

What license and permits do I need to hunt deer in Florida?

Hunters must have the following licenses and permits to hunt during: 

Archery season:  A Florida hunting license, deer permit and an archery season permit. If hunting a wildlife management area, a management area permit is required. In addition, a limited entry/quota hunt permit may be required to participate in designated hunts on select wildlife management areas.  

Crossbow season: A Florida hunting license, deer permit and a crossbow season permit. On most wildlife management areas, there is not a crossbow season and only those with a Persons With Disabilities Crossbow Permit are allowed to use crossbows during archery season and a management area permit also is required (review the WMA regulations brochure for the area you want to hunt).  

Muzzleloading gun season: A Florida hunting license, deer permit and a muzzleloading gun permit. If hunting a wildlife management area, a management area permit is required. In addition, a limited entry/quota hunt permit may be required to participate in designated hunts on select wildlife management areas. 

General gun season: A Florida hunting license and a deer permit. If hunting a wildlife management area, a management area permit is required. In addition, a limited entry/quota hunt permit may be required to participate in designated hunts on select wildlife management areas. 

Can I use my bow during muzzleloader season?

Yes, crossbows and bows may be used during muzzleloading gun season on lands outside of the wildlife management area system. 

If you plan to hunt a WMA, it’s important to review that area’s regulations brochure to make sure you’re up to speed on what methods of take are allowed as well as season dates, bag limits, and license and permit requirements because they can vary from statewide regulations and other WMAs.

Are all muzzleloaders legal during muzzleloading gun season?

The only muzzleloaders that may be used during muzzleloading gun season are those that are fired by wheel lock, flintlock, percussion cap or centerfire primer. Beginning in July 2021, muzzleloading guns designed to allow accelerant (gun powder) to be loaded at the breech may be used during muzzleloading gun season. 

When hunting deer, muzzleloading guns firing single bullets must be at least .30-caliber or larger. Muzzleloading guns firing two or more balls must be 20-gauge or larger. 

How is deer permit revenue used?

Funds from the sale of deer permits are used to support deer management across Florida. This includes research and management of deer and their habitat as well as work to better understand the needs, attitudes and opinions of stakeholders interested in deer. This money also helps fund efforts to monitor Florida deer for chronic wasting disease, reduce the risk of CWD spreading into our state as well as planning to contain this fatal deer disease if it is detected here. 

Is it possible for deer to get chronic wasting disease if they haven’t come into direct contact with each other?

Yes, deer can become infected with chronic wasting disease when browsing an area contaminated by CWD prions. Here’s how that can happen: An infected animal can shed CWD prions onto the landscape through its feces, urine, saliva and other bodily fluids or its decomposing carcass. These CWD prions persist in the environment for years – even after a prescribed burn. 

CWD is a disease of the brain and central nervous system that is always fatal to infected members of the deer family. It’s a concern because it could substantially reduce deer populations. There’s no vaccine, no cure and it’s virtually impossible to eliminate once it’s been established. 

Currently, there is no scientific evidence that CWD can be transmitted to humans.

What are the requirements for labeling a deer carcass when transferring it to another party AFTER the deer has been reported?

Once a harvested deer is reported through the FWC’s harvest reporting system and prior to that deer being transferred to another party (including taxidermists, meat processors or anyone else), the deer, or portions or parts thereof, must be labeled by the harvester with their first and last name and the harvest reporting confirmation number. Such labeling shall remain on the deer, or portions or parts thereof, until final processing or until stored at the permanent residence of its possessor. 

As an alternative to labeling, a processor may use a logbook and numbering or other tracking system. The logbook shall contain the same information that is required on the label (first and last name and the harvest reporting confirmation number).

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