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Final rule changes related to hunting and to FWC-managed areas

by Florida Fish and Wildlife
Conservation Commission

Summary: At its February meeting, the commission approved rule changes related to hunting and FWC-managed areas around the state. Most of the rule changes expand or enhance hunting opportunities based on hunter preference and sound science to ensure sustainability, officials said. Other rules promote safety or address declining deer populations at a couple WMAs. Final rules take effect July 1, 2018.

(See Final Hunting Rules Presentation for more details: http://myfwc.com/media/4370817/8A-FinalHuntingRules-Presentation.pdf)

Statewide rule proposals

Rule changes related to doves

Modifies the dove season dates to better accommodate hunter preference.  An expected expansion of dove season dates by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides an opportunity for FWC to redistribute days to allow dove hunting later in the year, which most hunters indicated they preferred. The total season length of 90 days combined over all 3 phases would remain the same.

Expands shooting hours during Phase I of the dove season from 1/2 hour before sunrise to sunset. Currently Phase I shooting hours are from noon to sunset.

Modifies the $35 special-opportunity daily dove hunt permit to allow for a host hunter and youth hunter to each take a daily bag limit of doves. Currently, a host and youth must share a bag limit unless a $10 youth permit option is purchased.  This change was proposed to encourage youth participation in hunting as a part of the FWC’s R3 efforts to recruit, retain and reactivate hunters.

Rule changes related to
pre-charged pneumatic air guns

Allows the use of pre-charged pneumatic air guns for hunting deer and turkey on public and private lands.

Creates a definition of what a pre-charged pneumatic air gun is – a powerful air gun charged from an external source such as a SCUBA tank – and specifies what caliber and projectile types may be used to take deer and turkey.

Limits hunting seasons when air guns may be used to avoid conflicting with current methods of take allowed during a given season. For example, proposal would allow air guns during existing general gun hunting seasons but not during archery seasons.

Background: The design and capabilities of air guns have evolved significantly. Today, pre-charged pneumatic air guns have the range and power to take big game. In addition, in the last decade they have become more affordable and commercially available. As a result, more hunters have requested using them to take big game. Currently, eight states allow air guns to be used to take deer and four states allow them to take turkey.

Rule changes to expand
hunting opportunities and
establish public hunting areas

Rule changes for 61 WMAs include:

a) Adding new hunts.

b) Increasing the number of days of hunting.

c) Adding methods of take or species legal to take to existing hunts.

d) Removing the need for quota permits.

Rule changes to establish the
following three public hunting areas (which add about 11,260 acres):

Everglades Headwaters WMA, Hatchineha Unit (1,460 acres), a new WMA located in Polk County. This area will be the second tract of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge to be included in Florida’s WMA system.

Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, Rolling Meadows Unit (~1,800 acres) in Polk County, which is managed by the South Florida Water Management District.

Plank Road WMA (8,000 acres), a new WMA in Leon and Jefferson counties managed by the Florida Forest Service.

Additional specific area
rule change proposals

Changing regulations on 27 areas related to roads, vehicles, access, hunting equipment, scouting, check stations or camping.

Changing regulations on nine areas related to unit designations, dates, bag limits or use of dogs.

Prohibiting the take of antlerless deer on two WMAs to address population declines and ensure the sustainability of hunting opportunities.

Addressing unsafe target shooting on the Everglades Complex of WMAs, which includes Everglades and Francis S. Taylor, Holey Land and Rotenberger WMAs.

Removing restrictions related to stoves when camping on J.W. Corbett WMA.

Rules process details

The process for developing rules started in April 2017 with the review of 205 requests for changes received from the public, staff and cooperators. Of these, staff recommended 141 rule change proposals.

Summaries of all rules were available to the public for commenting online. Public comment opportunities were solicited through:

• FWC’s HuntFlorida Facebook page.

• @MyFWC Twitter account.

• Hunting Hot Sheet e-newsletter.

• GovDelivery (FWC’s email news group service) e-blast to over 152,000 unique email addresses.

Input was received via phone, email, online and other channels. Staff evaluated this public input and made appropriate changes to rule proposals when necessary. The majority of rule proposals were well supported.

(Media contact: Tammy Sapp, 850-228-1353)