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Q: I was wondering what advice you might give someone that hunts the wildlife management area specifically Ocala and the Lake Delancy section? It seems that with so much land and the inability to food plot or feed it's harder than that of private land? What specific target areas or terrain would you suggest for setting up stands for archery through general gun seasons? Also, is there an antlerless season in WMA? Thanks, Jason S

A: #1 Ocala is unique in that it is both a WMA and a National Forest land so it is governed by both FWC and USFW, with assistance from the State Forestry Division. The terrain in most of Ocala, including Lake Delancy, is primarily sugar pine, sand pine and loblolly pine mixed with pin oak, scrub oak and blackjack oak flats. Because the entire area is logged for timber, there are expansive cut-over areas which usually sport crepe myrtle and palmetto growth. This type of terrain is difficult to hunt because finding both food sources and active trails can be a real challenge.

Water is at a premium in the area, so any time you can find a creek bottom or pond, you are likely to find both an abundance of sign and an abundance of hunters. The key is to find thick edges with lots of acorns and early producing oaks during the archery season and then moving to the edges of the cut-over areas during the gun season or a mature stand of pines surrounded by thick cover.

Any time you can find a thick area with plenty of sign, try to locate a saddle, point, or inside corner where deer are likely to move from one bedding area to another in search of food. these travel corridors are key in successful hunting in the Ocala area.

The majority of bucks are killed during the short muzzleloader season and first three weeks of the gun season in Ocala. As the rut peaks, bucks are in search of does and can be found traveling greater distances in order to find a receptive doe. Since the forest allows ATV use on numbered trails, jeeps, buggies and four-wheelers are a great tool on this WMA for scouting, especially at night. Spot light counts for does can help you find feeding areas where does concentrate and could help you to land a buck during the daylight hours. Just make sure you leave all weapons back at camp and don't ride off the roads or disturb the wildlife.

The stand of choice in Ocala is obviously the 12 foot ladder stand. Due to the low canopy and small tree diameters, it's nearly impossible to find a productive area capable of hanging a lock on stand or climber. Some guys use box or tower blinds with some success on the cut-overs, but those usually require some prep work and set up prior to the season starting.

In Lake Delancy, look at areas along the north side of the feeder creek to the west of Lake George just east of 19 and to the south side of Lake Delancy west of 19 and north of NFR 23. These areas hold plenty of game and have some excellent diversity of terrain. Best of luck, wear your orange safety vest, and happy hunting.

Chuck Echenique

A: #2 I grew up hunting the Ocala WMA and have put quite a bit of venison in my freezer from there. As a still hunter, I frequented the Big Scrub area and employed two different strategies to get a shot at a buck. First, I'd walk the edge of timbered clear cuts with growth about knee high looking for trails entering the clearing. Once I'd locate a well used trail I'd set up a stand within bow shot and intercept the bucks as they came out to feed in the cutover.

Second, during the gun season, I'd hunt the bottoms with mature pines and with fairly open cover. Dogs are used during this time of year and many bucks will stick to these open bottoms to use as escape routes when the hounds and other hunters come into the area. Always remember too, if a hound is actively trailing your deer when you shoot him; do the right thing and offer to share the carcass with the houndsman.

Doe season? Not in Ocala. My opinion is that the WMA could stand to thin the does out a bit, but the FWC and their biologists feel otherwise and that's what counts. Lots of changes in the way the Ocala WMA is to be used; road closures, camp ground uses, and such, so be sure to get up to date copies of the hunt map and regulations before your next hunt.

Best of luck!

Toby Benoit


DK Flatwoods Pro-Staff