FWC establishes deer management units, new deer hunting regulations
At its meeting in Jacksonville on Feb. 4, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved proposals aimed at managing Florida’s white-tailed deer at a local level by establishing deer management units (DMUs) throughout the state, each with its own set of antler regulations and antlerless deer harvest days.
These changes go into effect beginning with the 2015-2016 hunting season. The purpose of the changes is to manage deer on a more local scale, tailored to habitat quality, characteristics of the local deer herd and preferences of local hunters and other stakeholders.
Two DMUs were created last year in northwest Florida’s Hunting Zone D and were in effect during the current 2014-2015 hunting season. This new rule creates an additional 10 DMUs in hunting zones A, B and C.
Six of these DMUs make up Zone C in northeast and much of central Florida. In five of the six units in Zone C (C1, C2, C4, C5 and C6), antlered deer must now have at least three antler points (each point at least an inch long) on one side or have a main antler beam length of at least 10 inches to be legal to take. In DMU-C3 within the Big Bend region, antlered deer must now have at least two antler points (each point at least an inch long) on one side to be legal to take.
Zone B, which makes up much of the Green Swamp Basin, has been established as a single DMU (B1) with minimum antler requirements of three points on one side or a main antler beam of at least 10 inches for antlered deer. Also, the western boundary of Zone B has been shifted east from the Gulf of Mexico to Interstate 75. Beginning next hunting season, all lands that were previously located in Zone B west of I-75 will now be part of Zone C within DMU-C1 and, as a result, have earlier fall hunting-season dates.
Zone A in south Florida has been broken into three DMUs with the two southern-most units (A1 and A2) having antler regulations of at least two points on one side for an antlered deer to be legal to harvest. In the remaining DMU (A3), antlered deer now must have at least three points on one side or a main antler beam of at least 10 inches.
These rules were proposed because hunters had been asking the FWC to manage deer differently throughout the state, the way many other states do. Many hunters surveyed wanted deer populations to increase, more bucks in the population and a better chance to see and harvest larger-bodied and larger-antlered deer.
These new antler regulations will protect most 1.5-year-old bucks and apply to all lands (private property, public land, wildlife management areas) within each DMU. To help encourage youth participation, a special exemption was included. Youth (15 years old and younger) hunters in all DMUs are exempt from these greater antler regulations and may harvest antlered deer with at least a 5-inch antler.
Among these changes, antlerless deer season during general gun season on private lands has been modified. The new antlerless deer days reflect public input from farmers, landowners and hunters on how they would like to see the deer population managed in their unit. The antlerless deer seasons are only on private property and do not apply to wildlife management areas.
For more details on these new rule changes and to learn more about deer management units, go to MyFWC.com/Deer.