Hunting for my region is broken up into two zones: Zone B which runs south of State Road 50, north of State Road 60 and west of Rte. 441. Zone C encompasses all the rest of the area in the Northwest Region. Just to give you an idea how that works, Archery season opens September 14th in Zone C, but October 19th in Zone B, so you want to know the areas you’re hunting and the seasons and rules for all those areas.
The majority of hunters that put their time in in my region hunt on public land, and there’s just a ton of public hunting land in my region, and most of it is north of Pasco County. The biggest buck ever shot in the state of Florida came off of a public Wildlife Management Area out of the Green Swamp, which is in my region. There are Florida Wildlife Management Areas from Tampa all the way up to the Panhandle. There are even paid draws through the state that you can pay to be a member of if your name gets drawn.
There’s also a lot of private land to hunt on and private leases that you can pay the land owner to hunt. These areas tend to be more productive than the public hunting areas because they don’t get the hunting pressure that the public lands experience, so the wildlife is more abundant and not as wary. That being said, the state of Florida has excellent hunting on public land.
The most popular targets for hunters in my region are deer, hog, turkey, dove, quail and ducks. Deer and hog are probably the most popular wild game, with the deer going into the rut around the first cool mornings of fall. Hogs are more plentiful than deer, and are considered a pest on private land, where you can hunt them year-round.
The majority of deer and hog hunters in Florida target them either with rifle or bow, although there’s still some old-school hunters that use shotguns and muzzleloaders. There’s a specific season for muzzleloader, which gives the guys using the primitive hunting methods an opportunity to shoot a deer or hog before the larger masses of hunters take to the woods.
The thing to remember about hunting deer and hog in Florida is that while the seasons open in the early fall, it’s still usually pretty warm, so the animals are most active at dawn and dusk—the coolest periods of the day. In the middle of the day, they like to find a place in the shade to bed down and rest, although there’s an old hunter that told me he had his best success on public land in the middle of the day, because that’s when all the hunters got down from their tree stands and pushed the game in his direction.
We have a fall and spring turkey season, with the spring season the most popular. There are two species of wild turkeys in my region, the Eastern Turkey and the Osceola Turkey. The Osceola is less prevalent and probably the toughest turkey species in the country to hunt. They don’t call as much as Eastern Turkeys, especially on public land, and they’re a smaller bird.
Turkey hunting on the Wildlife Management Lands is outstanding in my region, and a lot of birds are harvested every year. Of course, for any hunting in these areas you need a valid Florida Wildlife Management Area Stamp, as well as a hunting license, and if you’re hunting turkey you need a turkey stamp.
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