Provided by the FWC

Beginning with 2019-2020 hunting seasons, new statewide hunting rules, including many dealing with deer hunting and rules regarding FWC-managed public hunting areas, will take effect. Rule changes are based on requests from staff, cooperators and stakeholders. Stakeholder input on proposed changes was sought throughout the rulemaking process to achieve regulations based on hunter preference and sound science to ensure sustainability.

Deer Bag Limits

WHAT IS THE NEW ANNUAL STATEWIDE BAG LIMIT FOR DEER? The new annual statewide bag limit is five deer per hunter, of which no more than two deer can be antlerless (any deer, except a spotted fawn, without antlers or whose antlers are less than five inches in length). The annual statewide bag limit for deer applies to all hunters, including those exempt from hunting license/permit requirements (hunters under 16 years of age, resident hunters 65 years and older, those with a disability license, military personnel and those hunting on their homestead in their county of residence).

WHY IS AN ANNUAL STATEWIDE BAG LIMIT FOR DEER NEEDED? The annual statewide bag limit was developed through extensive collaboration with staff and stakeholders and aligns with the goals and objectives outlined in the Commission-approved strategic plan for deer management. This adaptive approach to deer management is intended to improve hunting opportunities by encouraging harvest among more hunters as well as greater selectivity while helping maintain a healthy and reasonably balanced deer herd. Until this limit was established, Florida was the only state in the Southeast without a specified annual bag limit.

WHAT COUNTS TOWARD THE ANNUAL STATEWIDE BAG LIMIT? The annual statewide bag limit includes the combined total of all deer harvested on private lands and public lands, which includes public hunting areas (e.g., wildlife management areas) in all four hunting zones. The limit also includes deer harvested under permits issued for public hunting areas (quota, special opportunity, antlerless, track vehicle, airboat, recreational use permits, etc.) and during any and all seasons (e.g., archery, crossbow, muzzleloading gun, and general gun). Youth (15 years and younger) have their own, individual bag limit, and it may include only one antlered deer (any deer having one or more antlers at least five inches in length) that does not meet Deer Management Unit antler regulations.

WHEN WILL THE NEW ANNUAL STATEWIDE BAG LIMIT TAKE EFFECT? The new annual statewide bag limit takes effect beginning with the 2019-2020 hunting season. It sets the maximum number of deer a hunter can take annually statewide throughout the entire deer hunting season, which next season runs from the first day of Zone A’s archery season on Aug. 3, 2019, through the last day of Zone D’s late muzzleloading gun season on March 1, 2020.

ARE POSSESSION LIMITS AND DAILY BAG LIMITS STILL IN EFFECT? Yes. The possession limit is four and the daily bag is as follows:

• Two antlered deer during the general gun, crossbow (last five days), muzzleloading gun or archery/muzzleloading gun seasons.

• One antlered and one antlerless deer or two antlered deer during the antlerless deer season.

• Two antlerless deer, or two antlered deer, or one antlered and one antlerless deer during the archery and crossbow (except the last five days).

On public hunting areas, hunter are required to adhere to bag limits and other regulations specific to the area they are hunting.

ARE THERE EXCEPTIONS TO BAG OR POSSESSION LIMITS? Deer harvested under a Private Lands Deer Management Program permit are excluded from annual statewide bag, daily bag and possession limits. Hunters who harvest deer under this permit must comply with harvest reporting requirements. Antlerless deer harvested under the Antlerless Deer Program permit are excluded from annual statewide bag, daily bag and possession limits. Hunters who harvest deer (antlerless and antlered) under these permits must comply with harvest reporting requirements. Deer harvested on licensed game farms and hunting preserves are also excluded from annual statewide bag, daily bag and possession limits. In addition, harvest reporting requirements do not apply to deer harvested on licensed game farms or hunting preserves.

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 five inches in length) may still only be harvested during seasons when they are legal to take, such as during archery season and on antlerless deer days. Antlerless deer can only be taken outside of those periods under Antlerless Deer Permit Program and Private Lands Deer Management Permit Program permits.

Deer Harvest Reporting

ARE DEER HUNTERS REQUIRED TO LOG AND REPORT THEIR HARVEST? Beginning with the 2019-2020 hunting season, a new rule goes into effect requiring all persons to comply with harvest reporting requirements including hunters under 16 years of age, resident hunters 65 years and older, those who possess a Florida Resident Disabled Person’s Hunting and Fishing License, military personnel home on leave for 30 days or less, and those hunting on their homestead in their county of residence. To learn how the system works, go to http://bit.ly/341Qqmt.

Youth Deer Hunt

WHAT ARE THE REGULATIONS GOVERNING THE NEW YOUTH DEER HUNT WEEKEND? Beginning with the 2019-2020 hunting season, only youth 15 years old and younger who are supervised by an adult (18 years or older) can participate in a new youth deer hunt weekend. This new Saturday-Sunday youth deer hunt coincides with the muzzleloading gun season in all four hunting zones and is not available on wildlife management areas. Youth are allowed to harvest 1 antlered or antlerless deer (except spotted fawn) and the deer counts toward the annual bag limit. Youth only are allowed to use any method of take legal for deer including the use of dogs to pursue deer (only allowed on deer dog registered properties).

No license or permit is required of youth hunters (15 years old and younger) or accompanying adults (18 years or older) who only supervise. If adult supervisors or any persons 16 years of age or older participate in the hunt, they are required to have a hunting license, deer permit and muzzleloading gun permit unless exempt. If youth use dogs to pursue deer (only allowed on deer dog registered properties), any person (16 years of age or older) participating in the hunt may not shoot or shoot at deer.

Dates of the youth deer hunt are as follows: Zone A: Sept. 14-15; Zone B: Nov. 30-Dec. 1; Zone C: Oct. 26-27; Zone D: Dec. 7-8.

Other Statewide Rules

HAS THE YOUTH WATERFOWL HUNT BEEN CHANGED? Yes. The special waterfowl hunt for youth 15 years old and younger was modified to occur the Saturday before the start of the first phase of the regular waterfowl season and on the second Saturday after the second phase of the season closes. This change is intended to provide higher quality and more diverse hunting opportunities for youth within the allowable federal framework.

HAVE THE SHOOTING HOURS DURING SPRING TURKEY SEASON ON WMAS BEEN EXTENDED? WHEN DOES THAT TAKE EFFECT? Beginning next spring (2020), shooting hours during spring turkey season on most wildlife management areas are extended to all day (one-half hour before sunrise until sunset), the same as it is for non-WMA lands. It’s always recommended that hunters check the individual WMA brochure online before going hunting on any WMA.

WHAT ARE THE NEW ARCHERY HUNTING REGULATIONS? Bows can be equipped with electronic computational (rangefinders) or light projection (laser) sights or aiming devices for hunting during archery season. These accessories are already allowed on archery equipment used during other established seasons.

WHAT NEW MINIMUM MUZZLELOADING GUN CALIBER IS ALLOWED FOR HUNTING DEER? The minimum caliber for hunting deer with a muzzleloading gun was changed from .40 caliber to .30 caliber. This change makes muzzleloading gun caliber regulations consistent with existing regulations for pre-charged pneumatic air guns when hunting deer.

WHAT CHANGED WITH FALCONRY OPPORTUNITIES? The falconry dove season was expanded by 17 days to conform with federal regulations. Proposed dates for 2019-2020 are as follows: Sept. 28-Oct. 20; Nov. 9-Dec. 1; and Dec. 19-Feb. 17.

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