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General gun season arrives!

(Editor's note- Remember to check the the Sportsman's Calendar in the Resource Room for additional season dates)

November means the 2009-10 huntin’ season is in full swing. This month, I’ll cover everything ya’ need to know about several huntin’ seasons, including: general gun, antlerless deer, fall turkey, quail and gray squirrel, snipe, and the second phase of mourning and white-winged dove.

General gun season runs Oct. 31 – Jan. 10 in the South Hunting Zone and Nov. 14 – Jan. 24 in the Central Zone. In the Northwest Hunting Zone, it starts Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 26) and lasts four days until Nov. 29. Two weeks later, the season reopens Dec. 12 and runs through Feb. 17.

The beginning of November historically is when the deer rut occurs in Hardee County, Camp Blanding and Avon Park Air Force Range. Then, about mid-month is when it normally comes in in Alachua County, and by month’s end, the rut’s turning on in Jefferson County.

During general gun season, only bucks having at least one antler, 5 inches or more in length, may be taken. On private land, the daily bag limit on deer is two. Bag limits for deer on wildlife management areas (WMAs) can differ, so before you hunt, pick up the specific WMA brochure from the local county tax collector’s office or download it online from MyFWC.com/Hunting.

Wild hogs on private lands can be hunted year-round with no bag or size limits. On most public lands, there are no bag or size limits also, and hogs are legal to take during most hunting seasons except spring turkey. On a few public hunting areas, specific bag and size limits do apply, so check the WMA brochure to be sure.

Hunters are allowed to take deer and wild hogs over feeding stations on private land, but they may not use such feed on WMAs, no matter the season or the game.

It’s illegal to take deer using rimfire cartridges or non-expanding, full-metal case ammunition. Shooting swimming deer also is against the law.

Within the general gun season is the highly anticipated antlerless deer season, better known as “doe week.” On private lands, these seven days run Nov. 7-13 in the South Hunting Zone, Thanksgiving week (Nov. 21-27) in the Central Zone and Christmas week (Dec. 19-25) in the Northwest Hunting Zone.

During doe week, deer of either sex may be taken (except for spotted fawns) on private lands. The daily bag limit during this week-long season is one buck and one doe or two bucks. You may not take two does in one day like you can during archery season.

Also, regardless of season, sex or number of permits, hunters are never allowed to harvest more than two deer per day under any circumstances. Taking antlerless deer is prohibited during general gun season on WMAs, unless you have an antlerless deer permit for that particular area.

Folks hunting deer with dogs on private or public lands, where it is allowed, must have their names and addresses displayed on their dogs’ collars. Hunters must confine their dogs to the tract of land they have permission to hunt and not allow them to wander off it, or the hunter could be subject to a citation.

Hunters using dogs to take deer on private property must register the tract of land they will be hunting. The statewide deer-dog registration program doesn’t apply for training or hunting with deer dogs on WMAs.

The registration number may be issued to hunting clubs, landowners or anyone having the rights to hunt deer with dogs on a particular tract of land upon filling out the required application. Application forms are available from all regional FWC offices and at MyFWC.com/Hunting.

Once you’ve registered the property, you’ll be issued a number that must be attached to the collars of all dogs used to run deer on that property, when taking deer with dogs is permitted. All individuals must have a copy of the registration with them while they’re engaged in training or hunting with deer dogs.

Fall turkey season runs Nov. 14 – Jan. 10 in the Central and South hunting zones. In the Northwest Zone, fall turkey season mirrors the general gun season but ends a month sooner (Nov. 26-29 and Dec. 12 – Jan. 17). Only bearded turkeys and gobblers may be taken, and you must have a turkey permit ($5 for residents, $100 for nonresidents) to hunt them.

Only one turkey may be harvested per day. There’s also a two-bird fall-season limit some folks aren’t aware of. This means you only may harvest two turkeys during the archery, crossbow, muzzleloading gun and fall turkey seasons combined.

You’re not permitted to hunt turkeys with dogs or with recorded turkey calls; you’re not permitted to shoot them while they’re on the roost or when you’re within 100 yards of a game-feeding station when feed is present. You’re also not permitted to hunt turkeys over bait. In Holmes County, you may not hunt turkeys in the fall or winter at all.

Quail and gray squirrel season runs statewide Nov. 14 – March 7. Of course, the use of dogs is allowed, as a good pointer can really help locate a covey of quail, and feists, like Jack Russells and rat terriers, enjoy treeing squirrels and retrieving them once they’re downed. The daily bag limit on quail and gray squirrel is 12, but shooting fox squirrels is against the law.

On private lands, shooting hours for deer, turkey, quail and gray squirrels are a half-hour before sunrise to a half-hour after sunset. All legal firearms, muzzleloaders, bows, crossbows and handguns may be used during the general gun, antlerless deer, fall turkey, and quail and gray squirrel seasons.

Illegal firearms and ammunition are defined as centerfire, semi-automatic rifles having magazine capacities of more than five rounds and fully automatic or silencer-equipped firearms. Other prohibited methods for taking game include shooting from a moving vehicle or herding or driving game with a vehicle.

Snipe season this year runs Nov. 1 – Feb. 15 statewide. The second phase of the mourning and white-winged dove season also runs the last half of the month, Nov. 14-29. Shooting hours for both migratory birds is one-half hour before sunrise to sunset. There’s an eight-bird daily bag limit on snipe, and the bag limit on dove is 15. You must have the no-cost migratory bird permit if you want to hunt snipe, dove or any other migratory game birds.

The only firearm you’re allowed to hunt snipe and dove with is a shotgun, although you can’t use one larger than a 10-gauge. Shotguns also must be plugged to a three-shell capacity (magazine and chamber combined).

You may hunt over an agricultural field, as long as the crop has been planted and manipulated by normal agricultural methods. However, you’re not allowed to scatter agricultural products over an area for the purpose of baiting. Retrievers or bird dogs can be used (you can even use a bow, crossbow or birds of prey) to take snipe and doves.

Some things you can’t do while hunting snipe and doves include using rifles or pistols, shooting from, herding or driving birds with a vehicle.

The FWC provides an online dove update that gives the latest information on Florida’s public dove fields (MyFWC.com/Dove). It is updated every Thursday throughout the dove season to provide dove densities, previous week’s harvests and field conditions.

All licenses and permits are available at tax collectors’ offices, retail outlets that sell hunting and fishing gear, by calling toll-free 888-HUNT-FLORIDA or online at www.wildlifelicense.com/fl.

Whether small-game hunting with friends and family or hunting solo, going after that monster buck, boar or big tom, November brings loads of great hunting.

Here’s wishing you a happy Thanksgiving and successful hunting season. Take a kid hunting, or introduce someone new to the sport we love. As always, have fun, hunt safely and ethically, and we’ll see you in the woods!