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Ready for archery and black powder season?

Even though you can’t really tell, summer is almost over. Kids are back in school, football is back on TV, and hunting season’s already been going on for a month now in South Florida!

Finally, the time of year we’ve been waiting for is here – although some of us still have to wait just a bit longer for our season to come in. Most of us, though, have finished our preseason scouting and hung our tree stands along well-traveled deer trails next to a mature oak that’ll soon begin dropping acorns.

Bowhunting continues to be popular in our state, accounting for more than 10% of all deer harvested, 15% of harvested does and 25% of the deer taken on wildlife management areas (WMAs). Last year, more than 30,000 people bowhunted in Florida.

Besides the chance to hunt the rut, early bow seasons provide a great opportunity to take a trophy whitetail, and arguably are one of the best times to do so. In Northwest Florida, it’s even better, because bucks are still hangin’ out in their bachelor groups. If you’re stealthy enough and have done your homework, you’ve got a good chance of having a nice one come within shooting range.

A lot of the rutting that goes on in Central Florida occurs during this time – so you’ve really got a great advantage when hunting there as well. The rut’s in full swing in Nassau, Duval, Clay, Bradford, Dixie, Levy and Highlands counties, as well as on Seminole Forest WMA, Rock Springs Run WMA and Tosohatchee WMA.

After gun season starts and some hunters start running dogs, a lot of mature bucks go nocturnal. You might not see that big ’un again for the rest of the season, except for a picture taken by your game-cam in the middle of the night.

Most of us already know the rules as far as hunting goes, but I’m gonna give you some good information that you need to know before hitting the woods.

Just like last year on private lands, hunting season still comes in first in Zone A, which is that part of the state south of State Road 70. Archery and crossbow seasons there started July 28.

The fourth hunting zone, which was added two years ago, makes up part of the Green Swamp Basin and is called Zone B. It lies south of S.R. 50, west of U.S. 441 and the Kissimmee Waterway, north of S.R. 60 and east of the Gulf of Mexico (see map on page 75).

This year, archery and crossbow seasons in Zone B start October 13.

The line that divides zones C and D begins at U.S. 27 at the (Gadsden County) Florida-Georgia state line and runs south on U.S. 27 until it meets S.R. 61 in Tallahassee.

From there, it follows S.R. 61, running south until it hits U.S. 319. There, the line follows U.S. 319, continuing south to U.S. 98; it then runs east along U.S. 98 before turning south on Spring Creek Highway and continuing to the Gulf of Mexico.

If you hunt west of that line, you’re in Zone D, where archery and crossbow seasons begin on Oct. 20 this year.

In Zone C, archery and crossbow seasons open on the third Saturday in September (Sept. 15).

But, before you go, you need to make sure your license and required permits are up to date. To hunt during archery season, you’ll need a Florida hunting license and an archery permit. During crossbow season, you’ll need a hunting license and crossbow permit. If you’re a Florida resident, an annual hunting license will cost $17.

Nonresidents have the choice of paying $46.50 for a 10-day license or $151.50 for 12 months. Archery and crossbow permits cost just $5 each, and all deer hunters must have the $5 deer permit. Anyone planning on hunting one of Florida’s many WMAs must purchase a management area permit for $26.50.

You can obtain all the licenses and permits you’ll need at a county tax collector’s office, any retail outlet that sells hunting and fishing supplies, by calling 888-HUNT-FLORIDA or at License.MyFWC.com. But, if you’re under 16 years old, over 64 or have a resident disabled-person hunting and fishing certificate, you’re exempt from having to buy any of these licenses and permits.

And don’t forget to pick up the WMA brochure for the area you wish to hunt at your tax collector’s office, or print them from MyFWC.com/Hunting.

During archery season and that part of crossbow season that is concurrent with archery, you can take deer of either sex, regardless of antler size (except for spotted fawns). After archery ends, during the remaining portion of the crossbow season, only legal bucks (having at least one antler that is at least 5 inches long) may be taken.

The daily bag limit on deer is two. Bag limits for deer on WMAs can differ, so check the specifics of the area before you hunt.

You can hunt wild hogs on private lands year-round with no bag or size limits. On most WMAs, there’s also no bag or size limits, and hogs are legal to take during most hunting seasons except spring turkey. On a few WMAs, bag and size limits do apply, so be sure to check the brochure to be certain.

During archery season, you may hunt only with a bow and arrow and you must have the $5 archery permit. During crossbow season, you may use either a crossbow or bow, but must have the $5 crossbow permit.

On WMAs, only hunters with a disabled crossbow permit are allowed to use crossbows during archery season. All bows must have a minimum draw weight of 35 pounds, and hand-held releases are permitted. For hunting deer, hogs and turkeys, broadheads must have at least two sharpened edges with a minimum width of 7/8-inch.

As far as legal shooting hours go, you’re allowed to let your arrow or bolt fly between a half-hour before sunrise and a half-hour after sunset. Except for turkeys, you’re permitted to take resident game over feed such as corn or soybeans on private property. It’s against the law to use bait on WMAs.

You can’t use dogs to hunt deer or turkeys, but you can use bird dogs if you’re quail hunting. You can, however, use a dog on a leash to help you trail any wounded game.

Here’s hoping all your preparation and persistence pay off and wishing you luck on taking that monster buck.

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By Tony Young

FWC Media Relations Coordinator,

Division of Hunting and Game Management