The white-tailed deer is the most popular game species among Florida’s hunters. Our state has traditionally offered long deer hunting seasons and liberal bag limits. This opportunity has given flexibility to private landowners in how they manage deer on their property. We are a state that allows for the longstanding tradition of using dogs to hunt deer, and we always look for ways to provide additional hunting opportunities, commensurate with sustainable deer populations. For example, this past season, we extended crossbow season to coincide with the archery season on private lands, where hunters can take deer of either sex.
Florida has one of the largest wildlife management area systems in the country with more than 160 areas covering nearly 6 million acres. Due to the popularity of public lands, good deer management requires that we are more conservative on these areas, with shorter seasons and different variations of bag limits designed to promote a diversity of deer hunting opportunities.
To help improve hunter satisfaction, we recently adjusted the zone boundaries and modified hunting season dates based on breeding chronology and hunter preferences. In this process, and every chance we can, we involved the public heavily in these important decisions. We rely on the Deer Management Technical Assistance Group, composed of deer-resource stakeholders, to assist us on deer management issues. That is one of the many ways we involve the public and incorporate people’s input as we work to improve management of Florida’s game resources. Thanks to the strong support from hunting stakeholders, the Florida Legislature recently approved a $5 deer permit;. The revenues generated from this new permit go directly to fund deer
This year, our deer management team will implement Deer Management Units (DMUs), which will be smaller units within our four hunting zones. DMUs will be used primarily to refine management of deer populations and hunter preferences, tailored to the needs and characteristics of individual parts of the state. We also will use geographically specific data to determine harvest trends within these areas, to measure and evaluate any management outcomes. Our staff is developing a new voluntary, statistically reliable hunter survey that will be able to give us much more refined harvest information than we have had in the past.
As you can tell, we have our work cut out for us with many exciting opportunities ahead to fine-tune deer management. As we face the challenge of fulfilling our agency’s mission to manage fish and wildlife resources for their long-term well-being and the benefit of people, we see that our state’s human population growth is predicted to double in the next 50 years to 36 million residents. If this prediction comes true, it is estimated that 7 million acres of the state’s 34 million acres will be converted from natural/rural lands to urban uses. Connecting people with wildlife by helping Florida’s citizens to experience, value, and use wildlife will be the keys to ensuring the necessary future support for wildlife conservation.
Please consider taking kids hunting with you. Hunting is a wonderful way to provide our next generation with the opportunities and experiences they need to become true conservationists. Hunting not only teaches respect for habitat and game, but also gives our children a love of the land so they can continue our traditions and become the next generation that cares.