White-tailed deer can thrive in a variety of landscapes but can often be found along the edge of where two or more different habitats meet, allowing them to easily feed and avoid predators. Deer are most active at dawn and dusk when they like to feed on tender leaves, weeds, flowers, acorns and fruits of trees and shrubs. When trying to find a good place to hunt, look for these food sources as well as deer sign like tracks, trails and where deer have rubbed smaller tree trunks with their antlers.
During most of deer season, you are only allowed to take deer that have antlers that meet the regulations for the deer management unit that they are in. Youth 15-years-old and younger may harvest only 1 antlered deer (any deer having one or more antlers at least five inches in length) annually that does not meet antler point regulations for the deer management unit being hunted, and it counts toward the youth’s annual bag limit. See FAQs About Deer Hunting and Florida Hunting Regulations for more information.
During archery season, hunters are also allowed to take antlerless deer as long as they don’t have spots. Antlerless deer are females called does and also bucks that have less than 5-inch antlers.
Deer have an amazing sense of smell and are able to detect danger from far away, so care should be taken to cover your scent as much as possible and pay close attention to wind direction. Hunters enjoy using a variety of bows and firearms during specific seasons, but no rimfire cartridges can be used in taking deer.
Florida has abundant wild turkey populations, which offer sustainable harvest opportunities throughout the state. Two subspecies of wild turkeys occur in Florida - eastern wild turkeys occur in north Florida and the Osceola subspecies lives only on the state’s peninsula and nowhere else in the world.
Hunting wild turkeys is challenging but can be rewarding when you have opportunities to see birds and harvest a gobbler (male turkey). Important factors in becoming a successful turkey hunter are spending time scouting and learning the area you are going to hunt and being patient while hunting.
Wild hogs, also called wild pigs, wild boars or feral pigs, are not native to Florida and may have been introduced by Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto as early as 1539. Wild hogs, legally defined as wildlife, are popular to hunt in Florida. They can reach weights of more than 150 pounds and be 5-6 feet long.
Wild hogs occur in all 67 counties in Florida within a variety of habitats. They prefer oak-cabbage palm hammocks, freshwater marshes and sloughs and pine flatwoods. Wild hogs eat plants and animals and feed by rooting with their broad snouts. They may disturb the soil and ground cover vegetation, leaving an area looking like a plowed field.
On private property with landowner permission, wild hogs may be hunted and trapped year round using any legal-to-own rifle, shotgun, muzzleloader, crossbow, bow, pistol or air gun. There is no size or bag limit, and you may harvest either sex. On wildlife management areas (WMAs), wild hogs may be taken during most hunting seasons, except spring turkey. There are even WMAs that offer late spring and summer hog hunting opportunities. A hunting license is not required to hunt wild hogs in Florida.
Gray squirrel hunting is truly a sport for all ages and steeped in tradition. Squirrel hunting at an early age often translates into a lifetime of appreciation and respect for wildlife, the outdoors and hunting. Good squirrel hunting areas can be found throughout most of Florida and many are convenient to major urban areas. Squirrel hunters can find success on small tracts of private and public lands.
To find a good spot, look for areas with a lot of oak trees that have good limb structure and can provide cavities for denning. For these reasons, squirrels are often found on tree lines, oak/hickory ridges and hardwood hammocks bordering creeks, rivers or lakes. 22-caliber rifles and air guns are the choice of squirrel hunters who seek the challenge of marksmanship.
Shotguns of any size may also be used, and are effective at short ranges and when squirrels are running from limb to limb. Shot size is a matter of personal preference but normally ranges from No. 6s to No. 9s.
Small hunting dogs, such as Jack Russell and rat terriers, enjoy treeing squirrels and retrieving them once they’re downed. Hunting fox squirrels is prohibited.
Learn more about hunting small game.
Rabbit hunting provides year-round opportunities on private property. Rabbits are abundant and can be found throughout Florida.
The key to good rabbit habitat is a mixture of grassy and brushy vegetation. Because rabbits are wary of predators such as hawks, foxes and bobcats, look for them in areas having good escape cover, such as hedgerows and brush piles. In central and south Florida, you can find rabbits along grassy roadways and drainage canals associated with vegetable, citrus and sugar cane fields. In north Florida, try hunting old farm fields, brushy clear cuts and utility right-of-ways. Where grazing pressure isn't too high, pastures also are great places to find rabbits.
If you’re looking for even more excitement, try hunting with beagles. This breed of dog lives to find rabbits, and a seasoned rabbit dog can make your hunting experience much more productive, especially in heavy thickets and deep brush.
Most hunters prefer a shotgun. Any gauge will do and the most common shot size is No. 6. Some hunters opt to use .22-caliber rifles and air guns.
Learn more about hunting small game.
Approximately 20 species of waterfowl regularly winter in Florida. Deep marshes with lily pads and underwater vegetation attract ring-necked ducks and coots. Blue and green-winged teal and shovelers frequent shallow marshes. Large numbers of redheads winter on the Gulf Coast. Scaup (bluebills) congregate in brackish marsh and lagoons. In addition, mottled ducks, wood ducks, black-bellied whistling ducks and fulvous whistling ducks live in Florida year round.
Waterfowl hunting can take place on private property with landowner permission and on most water bodies that have public access. Some public water bodies may be closed for specific reasons, such as being in a park or in an area where the discharge of firearms is prohibited. Please check with local law enforcement agencies or FWC regional offices prior to hunting on public water bodies.
Shotguns must be plugged to a 3-shell capacity, and most hunters prefer using No. 4 shot size, but only nontoxic (steel, iron, bismuth-tin, tungsten-alloy) shot may be used or in your possession when hunting ducks, geese and coots. To be a good and legal duck hunter, study and become proficient at being able to identify different waterfowl species, because many ducks have bag limits on how many can be taken.
Check out the Guide to Waterfowl Hunting in Florida, which lists public duck hunting areas, illustrates several decoy placement setups, gives scouting and hunting tips, and provides outstanding duck identification photos of most every duck you’re likely to see in Florida.
Visit MyFWC.com/Duck for more information about waterfowl hunting and management.
Florida is home to resident and migratory populations of mourning and white-winged doves. Good dove hunting opportunities can be found near agricultural lands where birds feed on crops and seed. Doves concentrate on areas where they can find an easy meal, primarily because they have weak feet and cannot scratch through heavy vegetation for seed. They prefer bare ground, or soil that has been disked (turned over) or burned. That way they can land and readily pick up seed. They also seek out sources of water and grit. Successful dove hunts often occur on areas that provide many of these features. There are public hunting opportunities on several FWC-managed dove fields throughout the state.
You may hunt doves over an agricultural field, as long as the crop has been planted as part of regular agricultural practices. However, it’s against the law to scatter agricultural products over an area for the purpose of baiting. For more information, see “Dove Hunting and Baiting.”
The only firearm you’re allowed to hunt doves with is a shotgun, and it must be plugged to a three-shell capacity (magazine and chamber combined), but you can’t use one larger than a 10-gauge. Most hunters prefer to use a 12-gauge, although smaller-framed hunters or those that seek more of a challenge may opt for a smaller gauge. Shot sizes normally range from 7½ to No. 9s.
Visit MyFWC.com/Dove for more information about dove hunting.
Bobwhite quail prefer a patchwork of frequently burned upland pine forests with trees spaced far apart. Other habitats include brushy fence rows and fallow (weedy) agricultural fields.
Shotguns using small shot sizes ranging from 7 ½ to No. 9s are typically used for quail hunting. A good bird dog is essential in quail hunting and, for many hunters, watching the dog work and seeing its enjoyment is the most rewarding part. Quail hunting is a great way to hunt with family or friends in a social setting.
Learn more about quail hunting and management.