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Up your odds by applying for a special-opportunity hunt!

If you haven’t been seeing the quantity or quality of game you’d like while in the field, I suggest applying for a special-opportunity hunt permit.

For the past 13 years, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has offered these unique, fall-season hunts for deer, wild hog and released quail on the state’s best public hunting lands. Maybe it’s time you looked into getting in on the action and experiencing the hunt of a lifetime.

These extraordinary hunts offer large tracts of land with an abundance of game and low hunting pressure. All deer hunts allow you to take only mature bucks with at least one antler having four or more points, one inch or longer.

Hunters can take does during the archery hunts and, if they draw an antlerless deer permit, during general gun hunts. This practice of quality deer management offers hunters excellent chances of taking quality bucks and the opportunity to take a doe on public land. Wild hogs are legal to take during the deer hunts, with no size or bag limit.

These special-opportunity deer and wild hog hunts take place in Central Florida on Fort Drum, Lake Panasoffkee, Triple N Ranch and Green Swamp West Unit wildlife management areas (WMAs). Camping is legal on all areas.

• There is one, seven-day general gun deer and hog hunt Nov. 13-19 on the 20,858-acre Fort Drum WMA in Indian River County. The hunt costs $50, if you get drawn, and there are only 20 permits available. The St. Johns River Water Management District (WMD) owns the property, and hunters took 18 deer last year – a third of ’em being quality bucks. Hunters also bagged 22 wild hogs.

• Lake Panasoffkee in Sumter County has eight, four-day archery hunts for deer and hog on 8,676 acres. There are 20 permits available at $100 each for archery hunting Sept. 30 – Oct. 3, Oct. 7-10, Oct. 19-22, Nov. 4-7, Nov. 16-19, Dec. 2-5, Dec. 14-17 and Jan. 6-9. The Southwest Florida WMD owns the tract, and last season, hunters took 27 deer – 14 of which were good bucks.

• There are two, seven-day general gun deer and hog hunts at Triple N Ranch in Osceola County. There are 15 permits available costing $175 for each of the hunt dates, Oct. 30 – Nov. 5 and Nov. 13-19. Hunters took 16 deer last year off 15,391 acres, all of ’em being quality bucks.

• Green Swamp West Unit is where James Stovall took the state’s highest-scoring deer on record – a 25-point, non-typical that netted a 206 Boone-and-Crockett score. He took the trophy buck in 1999 after getting drawn for the special-opportunity archery hunt. Last year, hunters bagged 87 deer – 62 of which were quality and 288 hogs from the 34,335 acres in Pasco County owned by the Southwest Florida WMD.

This season, Green Swamp West Unit has two archery hunts for deer and hogs: Nov. 6-9 and Nov. 18-21. There are three general gun hunts for deer and hogs as well: Dec. 16-19, Jan. 10-13 and Jan. 20-23. All are four-day hunts costing $100, and 54 permits are available for each hunt. All special-opportunity permit holders can bring one non-hunting guest if they wish during the deer and hog hunts on all four areas.

• The FWC also has released-quail hunts on Blackwater WMA Carr Unit (Santa Rosa County), which is owned by Florida’s Division of Forestry. With these hunts, you must bring and release your own pen-raised quail. These are seven-day (Saturday – Friday) hunts that run 16 consecutive weeks, beginning Nov. 13 and ending March 4.

There’s just one permit available for each week, and if you’re lucky enough to draw one, you and up to three of your friends will have the entire 590 acres to yourselves. The permits cost $100 each.

Special-opportunity hunt permits are transferable by simply giving the permit to another person. Permit holders under age 16, or those who are certified mobility-impaired, may have a non-hunting assistant accompany them during all special-opportunity hunts.

The first thing you’ll need to do is get hold of a 2010-11 Special-Opportunity Fall Hunt Worksheet if you’d like to take part in one or more of these hunts. The worksheets are available at FWC offices and at MyFWC.com/Hunting under “Limited Entry Hunts.”

All you have to do to complete the worksheet is list your birth date and driver’s license number, Social Security number or your customer ID number, which is right above your name on your hunting or fishing license. Then, include your name and your mailing address. Don’t list someone else’s address, or your permit might not get returned.

Where it says “Hunt Choice,” enter the four-digit hunt number of the hunt date for which you are applying. Then, indicate the number of times you’re applying for the hunt, multiply that by the $5 application fee and the total due.

Beginning at 10 a.m. (EDT) May 4, you can submit your completed application at www.fl.wildlifelicense.com, county tax collectors’ offices or retail outlets that sell hunting and fishing supplies. The application period runs through midnight June 10.

These coveted permits are assigned through a random drawing that takes place after the application period. You may apply for as many special-opportunity hunts and dates as you like to increase your chances of being selected, but you must include a $5, non-refundable application fee for each. Hunters are limited to only one permit per hunt.

The worksheets may be photocopied, but there are no exceptions to having to pay the $5 application fee. You may apply for only one hunt date per worksheet, but you may fill out and submit multiple worksheets for as many hunt areas and dates as you wish.

If you submit your application at a license agent or tax collector’s office, be sure to get your worksheet back from the clerk, along with your receipt. Also make sure the receipt has your correct mailing address, because this is where your permit will be mailed. Call the FWC at 850-488-3641 if you notice any misinformation on your receipt.

If you’re selected in the random drawing and have a valid e-mail address on file with the FWC, you should receive an e-invoice via e-mail about mid-June. You also can check the results online at MyFWC.com/Hunting by clicking under “Limited Entry Hunts” and “Check Permit Availability and Drawing Results.”

You have until the deadline specified on the e-invoice to pay the cost of the hunt if you get drawn. You can do this online at www.fl.wildlifelicense.com or at any license agent or tax collector’s office. If you don’t claim your permit by paying for it in full by the deadline, you forfeit it, and it’ll go to the next applicant selected in the random drawing. So make sure you get ’er done in time.

Whether still-hunting by yourself or dog-hunting with family and friends for deer, hogs or released quail, if you’re looking for an unbelievable hunting experience, the FWC’s special-opportunity fall hunts are just what the doctor ordered.

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By Tony Young

FWC Media Relations Coordinator,

Division of Hunting and Game Management