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Deer season’s not over yet!...

Thus far, this deer season has been pretty good to me as far as quantity goes. I shot two does during doe week, and I got my season limit on fall gobblers, but I have yet to even see horns, much less harvest a buck. But I still have plenty of room left in my freezer, and I’m not throwing in the towel just yet.

After all, there are still lots of hunting days left in my neck of the woods, and my game camera is still taking pictures of some good bucks.

So, if you’re like me, or if you live in the central or southern part of the state, and you don’t mind hunting with a primitive weapon, then point your pickup truck north, because the Northwest Hunting Zone’s deer season’s still goin’ strong on private lands and on a lot of the wildlife management areas (WMAs).

The second phase, if you will, of muzzleloading gun season runs Feb. 18-28 in this part of the Panhandle. This unique late season, which occurs only in the Northwest Zone, was established to give hunters the chance to hunt the rut, which runs from late January through February in this part of the state.

A $5 Muzzleloading Gun Permit is required to hunt this season, where, on private land, hunters have the choice of using a muzzleloader, bow or crossbow.

On WMAs, this post-season is referred to as the archery/muzzleloading gun season. Hunters can use bows or muzzleloaders, but no crossbows – unless they possess a Disabled Crossbow Permit. Hunters who choose to hunt with a bow must have the $5 Archery Permit.

The most common game to hunt during this season are deer and wild hogs. Only bucks may be taken (even if you use a bow), and one antler must be at least five inches in length.

On private land, the daily bag limit is two. Bag limits and antler size for deer on WMAs can differ, so please consult the area brochure before you hunt.

Wild hogs are not considered game animals on private lands, and because of this, they can be taken 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 selected WMAs, specific bag and size limits do apply, so check the area brochure.

During this season, dogs cannot be used to hunt deer; however, you may use a leashed one to track a wounded deer if necessary. No turkeys may be taken.

Bows and crossbows must have a minimum draw weight of 35 pounds, and hand-held releases on bows are permitted. Broadheads used in taking deer must have at least two sharpened edges with a minimum width of 7/8 inch.

And during the muzzleloading gun season, you may use only muzzleloaders that take black powder or a non-nitro-cellulose substitute and are fired by wheel lock, flintlock or percussion cap ignition (including 209 primers). You may not use muzzleloaders that require smokeless powder or those with self-contained cartridge ammunition capabilities. For hunting deer, muzzleloaders that fire single bullets must be at least .40-caliber, and those firing two or more balls must be 20-gauge or larger.

Legal shooting hours are between a half-hour before sunrise and a half-hour after sunset. You’re allowed to take deer and hogs over feeding stations on private land, but it’s illegal on WMAs.

Thirteen of the WMAs in the Northwest Hunting Zone have the late archery/muzzleloading gun season, and if you plan to hunt any of ’em, you must have the $26 management area permit as well as your hunting license.

Nine of the WMAs don’t require a quota permit during this period, including: Apalachicola, Apalachicola River, Choctawhatchee River, Econfina Creek, Escambia River, Point Washington, Tate’s Hell, Upper Chipola River and Yellow River WMAs.

Once you’ve decided where to hunt, grab that area’s brochure from the local tax collector’s office because dates, bag limits and rules and regulations can differ greatly for each. For instance, on Tate’s Hell, you may take only bucks with forked antlers.

You can also get all of the licenses and permits you’ll need at any retail outlet that sells hunting and fishing supplies, by calling 1-888-HUNT-FLORIDA or online at www.wildlifelicense.com/fl.

Here’s hoping your persistence pays off. Take a kid hunting. If you don’t have any children, offer to take someone else’s; be a mentor. Have fun, hunt safely and ethically, and I’ll see you in the woods!