When hunters return to the woods in August with bows and September with guns, they’ll face new sets of rules crafted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC).
One major change will be an increase in the total bag limit to five deer per hunter of which no more than two deer can be antlerless, up from four.
“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 the annual statewide bag limit was established, Florida was the only state in the Southeast without a specified annual bag limit,” the FWC noted.
Cory Morea, the FWC’s deer management program coordinator, said an extra deer is being allowed this year in part because the population is expanding.
“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,” Morea said. There are special hunting times and weapons for deer without antlers.
“The antlerless deer permit program is intended to provide flexibility in managing deer populations,” Morea said. “Tag issuance rates will be set by deer management unit and are designed to allow sustainable harvests while minimizing overharvest of antlerless deer, particularly females, on permitted lands.
“Additionally, harvest information provided by antlerless deer permittees will help improve the FWC’s science-based deer management decisions,” More added.
The FWC passed a whole host of new regulations, including adding reporting requirements labeled as “harvest reporting system”.
“A harvest reporting system will foster bag limit compliance and give the FWC another source of deer harvest data,” Morea said, noting hunters will be required to collect information long before they leave the woods. “Before moving a deer from the point of harvest, hunters who harvest deer are required to record in their harvest log information such as their name, date of harvest, sex of the deer, and county or wildlife management area where harvested.”
The FWC is also adding a youth deer hunting weekend. Hunters must be 15 or younger and supervised by an adult 18 or older. This event will be held the same weekend when muzzle loading hunting is allowed. The dates of this event vary by region of the state.
“Wildlife management areas have had youth and family deer hunts for years, so this newly established season is a way to encourage youth deer hunting on other lands,” Morea said. “This new opportunity supports the FWC’s commitment to igniting interest in hunting and creating the next generation of conservation stewards.”
To see a full listing of the changes and new rules, go here.
Reach Mike Synan at Mike.Synan@floridadaily.com.