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More guns allowed on WMA hog dog hunts

The seven-member Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has directed staff to advertise a package of new rule proposals to be voted on at their February 2011 meeting.

The proposed rules will affect hunting for turkey and hogs on many of the state’s wildlife management areas (WMAs).

Most of the rule proposals apply to specific WMAs. A summary of the proposals is available online as part of the Dec. 1-2 meeting agenda at MyFWC.com/Commission. Two of the proposed changes, however, would affect FWC-managed areas statewide.

The first proposed rule would establish youth turkey hunts on 78 FWC-managed areas, all of which support adequate turkey populations, and would create a youth turkey quota permit.

Forty-nine of the 78 areas will require a youth turkey quota permit, and only those youth who will be less than 16 years old on the last day of the youth turkey hunt can apply.

The youth turkey hunts would be two-day, Saturday-Sunday hunts, which would occur the weekend prior to the opening of spring turkey season on each particular WMA. If approved in February, these new hunts would take effect beginning with the 2012 season.

These hunts will be available for youth younger than 16 years old who are supervised by, and in the presence of, an adult 18 years of age or older. Only the youth is allowed to harvest a turkey.

Adult supervisors won’t be required to have licenses or permits, but won’t be allowed to participate in the hunt. They will be allowed to supervise only. However, any adult supervisor who has all of the required license and permits would be allowed to do the “calling” and otherwise participate in the hunt; but again, only the youth is allowed to harvest a turkey.

The FWC first created the two-day youth turkey hunt to occur the weekend prior to the regular spring season in February 2010. However, because of rule complexity and timelines associated with working with WMA staff and cooperators, most public lands were not included in the original rule proposal.

Consequently, the proposed rule changes in this package would put youth turkey hunts in place on FWC-managed areas beginning with the 2012 season. The recommendations include areas where there is an adequate turkey population, such that there is a reasonable chance of the youth seeing, hearing, or harvesting a turkey.

The youth turkey hunts would be begin with the 2012 spring turkey season on the following public hunting areas:

Southwest Region: Avon Park Air Force Range, Chassahowitzka, Hilochee, Hilochee–Osprey Unit, Lake Marion Creek; Lake Wales Ridge–Royce Unit.

North Central Region: Andrews, Bayard, Belmore, Big Bend-Snipe Island Unit, Big Bend-Spring Creek Unit, Big Bend-Tide Swamp Unit, Big Shoals, Camp Blanding, Citrus, Cypress Creek, Devils Hammock, Four Creeks, Grove Park, Gulf Hammock, Hatchet Creek, Jennings Forest, Lochloosa, Log Landing, Lower Econfina River, Middle Aucilla River, Nassau, Osceola, Raiford, Ralph E. Simmons, Steinhatchee Springs, Thomas Creek -Kings Road Unit, Twin Rivers; Fort White, Lafayette Forest.

Northwest Region: Apalachicola, Aucilla, Blackwater, Blackwater–Hutton Unit, Choctawhatchee River, Econfina Creek, Eglin AFB, Escambia River, Flint Rock, Joe Budd, Juniper Creek, Ochlockonee River, Perdido River, Pine Log, Talquin, Tate’s Hell –Womack Creek Unit, Tyndall AFB, Upper Chipola River, Wakulla, Yellow River, L. Kirk Edwards.

South Region: Dinner Island Ranch, Fisheating Creek, J.W. Corbett, Spirit-of-the-Wild.

Northeast Region: Bull Creek, Caravelle Ranch, Charles H. Bronson, Fort McCoy, Half Moon, Jumper Creek, Lake George, Ocala, Ocklawaha River -Gores Landing, Relay, Richloam, Richloam-Baird Unit, Three Lakes, Three Lakes - Prairie Lakes Unit, Tiger Bay, Tiger Bay – Rima Ridge Unit, Twelve Mile Swamp, Upper St. Johns River Marsh.

Hog Dog Hunt Changes will allow more guns

The second rule proposal would remove the one-gun restriction on all hog quota hunts using dogs. Currently, these “hog-dog” quota hunts allow only one hunter (permit-holder), one gun, one assistant and up to three dogs.

An additional person also can join the hunting party – if a guest permit is obtained in that person’s name. But, guest permit holders are currently prohibited from carrying their own guns.

If the Commission approves the proposed rule at the February meeting, each participant will be allowed to hunt with a gun, beginning with the 2011-12 hunting season.

Allowing guests and helpers to possess their own guns would allow them to more actively participate in the take of the hog and would make the language consistent with other hunts that allow a guest hunter.

These WMAs would be affected:

Southwest Region: Chassahowitzka, Green Swamp, Green Swamp –West Unit, Hilochee –Osprey Unit

North Central Region: Potts, Steinhatchee Springs

Northwest Region: Apalachicola –Bradwell Unit, Blackwater – Hutton Unit, Box-R, Apalachicola River.

Northeast Region: Lake Panasoffkee, Salt Lake, Seminole Ranch, Tosohatchee.

Other WMA Rule Changes

Additional proposed rule changes would provide non-substantive technical changes, such as grammatical corrections and language standardization.

There are also proposed changes to some hunting seasons on FWC-managed areas in an effort to better align season dates with times of peak deer activity associated with the breeding season and other hunter preferences.

Other WMA changes include:

Avon Park Air Force Range – expand the small game season,

Upper Hillsborough – establish a 3-day wild hog-dog season (quota of 20, no exemptions), with each wild hog-dog quota permit allowing two hunters and a guest hunter, and the use of three free-running dogs per quota permit; and prohibit the use of rifles during the wild hog-dog season.

Camp Blanding – prohibit taking of wildlife from three roads.

Four Creeks – change general gun season from two 4- and 5-day hunts to three 3-day hunts.

Gulf Hammock – increase archery season scouting period; allow unlimited number of recreational use permits to be issued by removing the current 450 limit.

Osceola – clarify regulations concerning use of vehicles.

Apalachicola – clarify regulations concerning vehicles.

Aucilla – establish hunting seasons and rules for new parcel.

Blackwater – establish rules regarding vehicle use and hunting from roads; exempt nighttime raccoon hunters from quota requirements; allow rabbit chasing during fox, raccoon, opossum and bobcats season; increase quail hunting opportunity on field trail area.

Juniper Creek – establish new area (914 acres) and rules for family and youth hunts at request of U.S. Forest Service.

Point Washington – prohibit hunting from named/numbered roads.

Upper Chipola River – establish hunting seasons for new Altha tract.

Wakulla – add one day to second archery/muzzleloading gun hunt.

Blackwater - Hutton Unit, Flint Rock, Ochlockonee River, Pine Log, Point Washington, Talquin WMAs – increase hog hunting opportunities.

L. Kirk Edwards WEA – establish hunting seasons and rules for new parcel.

Caravelle Ranch – establish new camping rules; prohibit take of doves south of Rodeheaver Road and east of State Road 19, except on special-opportunity dove permits.

Etoniah Creek, Lake Panasoffkee – expand hog hunting opportunities.

Guana River – prohibit horses during spring turkey season.

Ocala – clarify regulations concerning use of vehicles; allow take of catfish by bow and arrow in Salt Springs Run, and increase quota for muzzleloading gun season on the Church Lake Unit from 225 to 250.