FAQs on Hunting Rule Changes
At its February 2019 meeting, the Commission approved rule changes for 2019-2020 regarding FWC-managed public hunting areas as well as statewide hunting rules, including many dealing with deer hunting.
Rule changes are based on requests from staff, cooperators and stakeholders. Stakeholder input on proposed changes was sought throughout the rulemaking process to achieve regulations based on hunter preference and sound science to ensure sustainability.
Deer Hunting Rules: Bag Limits
The new annual statewide bag limit is 5 deer per hunter of which no more than 2 deer can be antlerless (any deer, except a spotted fawn, without antlers or whose antlers are less than five inches in length). The annual statewide bag limit for deer applies to all hunters, including those exempt from hunting license/permit requirements (hunters under 16 years of age, resident hunters 65 years and older, those with a disability license, military personnel and those hunting on their homestead in their county of residence).
The annual statewide bag limit was developed through extensive collaboration with staff and stakeholders and aligns with the goals and objectives outlined in the Commission-approved strategic plan for deer management. This adaptive approach to deer management is intended to improve hunting opportunities by encouraging harvest among more hunters as well as greater selectivity while helping maintain a healthy and reasonably balanced deer herd. Until this limit was established, Florida was the only state in the Southeast without a specified annual bag limit.
The annual statewide bag limit includes the combined total of all deer harvested on private lands and public lands, which includes public hunting areas (e.g., wildlife management areas) in all four hunting zones. The limit also includes deer harvested under permits issued for public hunting areas (quota, special opportunity, antlerless, track vehicle, airboat, recreational use permits, etc.) and during any and all seasons (e.g., archery, crossbow, muzzleloading gun, and general gun).
Youth (15 years and younger) have their own, individual bag limit, and it may include only 1 antlered deer (any deer having one or more antlers at least five inches in length) that does not meet Deer Management Unit antler regulations.
The new annual statewide bag limit takes effect beginning with the 2019-2020 hunting season. It sets the maximum number of deer a hunter can take annually statewide throughout the entire deer hunting season, which next season runs from the first day of Zone A’s archery season on Aug. 3, 2019, through the last day of Zone D’s late muzzleloading gun season on March 1, 2020.
Yes. The possession limit is 4 and the daily bag is as follows:
- Two (2) antlered deer during the general gun, crossbow (last 5 days), muzzleloading gun or archery/muzzleloading gun seasons.
- One (1) antlered and 1 antlerless deer or 2 antlered deer during the antlerless deer season.
- Two (2) antlerless deer, or 2 antlered deer, or 1 antlered and 1 antlerless deer during the archery and crossbow (except the last 5 days).
On public hunting areas, hunter are required to adhere to bag limits and other regulations specific to the area they are hunting.
Deer harvested under permits issued to landowners via the following programs are excluded from annual statewide bag, daily bag and possession limits - Deer Depredation, Private Lands Deer Management Permit, or Antlerless Deer Permit (antlerless deer only). Deer harvested on licensed game farms and hunting preserves are also excluded from annual statewide bag, daily bag and possession limits. Antlered deer taken on lands enrolled in the Antlerless Deer Permit Program are NOT excluded from bag (daily and annual) and possession limits.
No. Antlerless deer (any deer, except a spotted fawn, without antlers or whose antlers are less than five inches in length) may still only be harvested during seasons when they are legal to take, such as during archery season and on antlerless deer days. Antlerless deer can only be taken outside of those periods under Antlerless Deer Permit Program and Private Lands Deer Management Permit Program permits.
Deer Hunting Rules: Harvest Reporting
Beginning with the 2019-2020 hunting season, a new rule goes into effect requiring all persons to comply with harvest reporting requirements including hunters under 16 years of age, resident hunters 65 years and older, those with a disability license, military personnel, and those hunting on their homestead in their county of residence. In addition, all deer taken under Antlerless Deer Permit Program and Private Lands Deer Management Permit Program permits are to be reported through the harvest reporting system by the hunter who harvested the deer.
Before moving a deer from the point of harvest, hunters who harvest deer (including deer harvested on lands enrolled in the Antlerless Deer Permit Program or Private Lands Deer Management Permit Program) are required to record in their harvest log information such as their name, date of harvest, sex of the deer, and county or wildlife management area where harvested. Additionally, this and possibly some additional information, must be reported to the FWC’s harvest reporting system within 24 hours of harvest and prior to: 1) final processing of the deer, 2) any parts of the deer being transferred to any meat processor or taxidermist, and 3) the deer leaving the state.
Before the start of the deer season, hunters can access harvest logs online. Hunters should keep the harvest log nearby when hunting deer.
A harvest reporting system will foster bag limit compliance and give the FWC another source of deer harvest data. The annual hunter phone survey will continue to be done after the season ends.
Deer Hunting Rules: Antlerless Deer Permit Program
All antlerless deer taken on lands enrolled in the Antlerless Deer Permit Program must be tagged with an issued antlerless deer tag, even if they are harvested on a day when the take of antlerless deer is otherwise allowed within the zone in which the enrolled lands are located (e.g., archery season). In addition, they must be recorded on the harvest log of and reported to the FWC’s harvest reporting system by the hunter who harvested the deer. After the season ends, permittees must report the total number of antlerless deer (any deer, except a spotted fawn, without antlers or whose antlers are less than five inches in length) taken on his or her enrolled properties by April 1.
Because of this new tagging requirement for properties enrolled in the Antlerless Deer Permit Program, the application period for these permits and associated tags is earlier. The application periods for 2019-2020 are as follows:
Zone A: May 15 – July 14, 2019
Zone B: May 15 – Sept. 29, 2019
Zone C: May 15 – Aug. 11, 2019
Zone D: May 15 – Sept. 29, 2019
The Antlerless Deer Permit Program is intended to provide flexibility in managing deer populations. Tag issuance rates will be set by Deer Management Unit and are designed to allow sustainable harvests while minimizing overharvest of antlerless deer, particularly females, on permitted lands. Additionally, harvest information provided by antlerless deer permittees will help improve the FWC’s science-based deer management decisions.
Deer Hunting Rules: Youth-Related Rules
Beginning with the 2019-2020 hunting season, only youth 15-years-old and younger who are supervised by an adult (18 years or older) can participate in a new youth deer hunt weekend. This new Saturday-Sunday youth deer hunt coincides with the muzzleloading gun season in all four hunting zones and is not available on wildlife management areas. Youth are allowed to harvest 1 antlered or antlerless deer (except spotted fawn) and the deer counts toward the annual bag limit. Youth only are allowed to use any method of take legal for deer including the use of dogs to pursue deer (only allowed on deer dog registered properties).
No license or permit is required of youth hunters (15-years-old and younger) or accompanying adults (18 years or older) who only supervise. If adult supervisors or any persons 16 years of age or older participate in the hunt, they are required to have a hunting license, deer permit and muzzleloading gun permit unless exempt. If youth use dogs to pursue deer (only allowed on deer dog registered properties), any person (16 years of age or older) participating in the hunt may not shoot or shoot at deer.
Wildlife management areas have had youth and family deer hunts for years, so this newly established season is a way to encourage youth deer hunting on other lands. This new opportunity supports the FWC’s commitment to igniting interest in hunting and creating the next generation of conservation stewards.
Zone A: Sept. 14-15
Zone B: Nov. 30 – Dec. 1
Zone C: Oct. 26-27
Zone D: Dec. 7-8
Having this opportunity early in the season is expected to provide youth a better hunting experience when more deer are available and hunting pressure is relatively low.
Yes. Since the youth hunt coincides with muzzleloading gun seasons, supervising adults and other non-youth also may hunt but must use either a muzzleloader, bow or crossbow, and possess a hunting license, deer permit and muzzleloading gun permit unless exempt. However, if youth hunters on the property are using dogs to pursue deer (only allowed on deer dog registered properties), persons 16 years of age or older may not take deer with a gun.
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.
Deer hunting stakeholders believed limiting youth to one antlered deer annually that doesn’t meet Deer Management Unit antler point regulations would allow more youth to see and harvest antlered deer, while developing a better understanding of Deer Management Unit antler regulations.
Other Statewide Rules
Yes. The special waterfowl hunt for youth 15 years old and younger was modified to occur the Saturday before the start of the first phase of the regular waterfowl season and on the second Saturday after the second phase of the season closes. This change is intended to provide higher quality and more diverse hunting opportunities for youth within the allowable federal framework.
Beginning next spring (2020), shooting hours during spring turkey season on most wildlife management areas (WMAs) are extended to all day – one-half hour before sunrise until sunset – the same as it is for non-WMA lands. For this (2019) spring season, there are some WMAs that allow all-day turkey hunting, however, on most WMAs, you can’t shoot past 1 p.m. It’s always recommended that hunters check the individual WMA brochure online before going hunting on any WMA.
Bows can be equipped with electronic computational (rangefinders) or light projection (laser) sights or aiming devices for hunting during archery season. These accessories are already allowed on archery equipment used during other established seasons.
The minimum caliber for hunting deer with a muzzleloading gun was changed from .40 caliber to .30 caliber. This change makes muzzleloading gun caliber regulations consistent with existing regulations for pre-charged pneumatic air guns when hunting deer.
The falconry dove season was expanded by 17 days to conform with federal regulations. Proposed dates for 2019-2020 are as follows:
Sept. 28 – Oct. 20
Nov. 9 – Dec. 1
Dec. 19 – Feb. 17