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Hunting rule changes

Draft Hunting Rule Changes for 2021-2022

At the December 2020 meeting, the Commission approved the draft rule changes related to FWC-managed areas and hunting (see list below). Draft rule change proposals are based on requests from staff, cooperators and stakeholders. The FWC seeks input on proposed changes throughout the rulemaking process to achieve regulations based in hunter preference and sound science to ensure sustainability. Commissioners will consider the following proposed rule changes for final adoption at their February 2021 meeting. If approved as final rules in February 2021, most would take effect July 1, 2021.

Provide Your Input!

Provide input on draft rule changes for 2021-22 hunting seasons related to hunting, management and FWC-managed lands.

Summary of Proposed Hunting Rule Changes

68A-1.004 Definitions

  1. Bows, Minimum Draw Weight – remove the minimum draw weight requirement for bows when taking game. This proposed change would help simplify bow hunting regulations in Florida.
    • The current minimum draw weight requirement is 35 pounds
    • Florida is one of only 11 other states that have a minimum draw weight requirement greater than 30 pounds
    • States having either a 30-pound minimum draw weight or no minimum draw weight requirement have reported no issues
  2. Muzzleloading Gun Definition – clarify that a muzzleloading gun is a firearm designed to have projectiles loaded through the muzzle and is fired by a wheel lock, flintlock, percussion cap, or centerfire primer. This proposal would clarify that muzzleloading guns designed to allow accelerant (gun powder) to be loaded at the breech may be used during muzzleloading gun seasons.
  3. Common Moorhen/Common Gallinule – change all references of “common moorhen” to “common gallinule.”

68A-13.001 Open Season for Taking Game; Bag and Possession Limits – allow free-ranging, unprotected non-native deer of either sex to be harvested without antler, bag and possession limitations during established seasons for taking deer. The effect of the proposed rule amendment would be to exempt non-native deer from regulations designed to manage Florida’s population of native white-tailed deer.

68A-13.004 Hunting Regulations for Non-Migratory Game and Issuance of Antlerless Deer Permits and Private Lands Deer Management Permits – during the youth deer hunt weekend, allow adult supervisors to participate in the youth deer hunt provided the adult supervisors shall not take wildlife with a gun except according to muzzleloading gun season regulations. This would allow supervising adults to assist in the use of dogs for hunting during the youth deer hunt.

68A-13.008 Hunting Regulations for Migratory Birds Other than Ducks and Coots – change all references of “common moorhen” in 68A to “common gallinule.”

 68A-15.004 General Regulations Relating to Wildlife Management Areas – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during established small game seasons, but only on WMAs where hunting with centerfire rifles is already allowed during other seasons, and except as otherwise specified by area-specific rule. This change would not be applied to areas where hunting with centerfire rifles is currently prohibited.

 68A-15.006 Regulations Relating to Miscellaneous Areas – the proposed rule amendment would adjust how season dates are described to better conform to calendar year changes on miscellaneous areas and adjust specific area regulations regarding centerfire rifles during small game season in response to proposed changes in rule 68A-15.004, F.A.C.

68A-4.0053 Importation and Possession of Carcasses from Species in the Family of Cervidae – this proposed rule amendment would prohibit importing or possessing whole carcasses and certain parts thereof of any species in the family Cervidae (deer family) originating from any place outside of Florida except for de-boned meat; finished taxidermy mounts; antlers; hides; and skulls, skull caps, and teeth if all soft tissue has been removed. Exempt from these carcass importation and possession limits are white-tailed deer legally harvested from any property in Georgia or Alabama that is bisected by the Florida state line and under the same ownership. This rule would replace current requirements as established by Executive Order 19-41.

Northwest Region

68A-15.063 Specific regulations for Wildlife Management Areas –the proposed rule amendments would adjust how season dates are described to better conform to calendar year changes, adjust specific area regulations regarding the use of centerfire rifles during small game season in response to proposed changes in rule 68A-15.004, F.A.C., and revise specific area regulations on wildlife management areas (WMAs) in the Northwest Region as follows:

Aucilla WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

Apalachicola WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

Apalachicola WMA, Bradwell Unit – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

Beaverdam Creek WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

Blackwater WMA - remove quota requirement for each of the four 2-day Field Trial Area quail hunts; and change the four 2-day quail hunts in the Field Trial Area from 2 consecutive hunts every other week in February to one hunt weekly during February; and adjust dog collar rules conflicting with 68A-12.007.

Blackwater WMA, Hutton Unit – shift the September wild hog-dog hunt to occur the second weekend of the month each year (instead of the third weekend) to avoid overlapping with dove field hunts.

Box-R WMA – establish a bag limit of 1 antlerless deer per quota permit during archery season; establish that mourning and white-winged dove may be hunted each Saturday and Sunday during Phase 1 of mourning and white-winged dove season; and allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

Chipola River WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season except in the Hayes Spring Run and Waddell Mill Creek areas.

Choctawatchee River WMA – remove all check station requirements during spring turkey season; and allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

Econfina Creek WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

Econfina Creek WMA, Fitzhugh Carter Tract – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

Escambia River WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

Escribano Point WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

Flint Rock WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

Joe Budd WMA – establish that mourning and white-winged dove may be hunted the first and second Saturdays during Phase 1 of mourning and white-winged dove season.

Lafayette Creek WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

Perdido River WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

Plank Road WMA – prohibit public access during the mobility-impaired general gun hunt except for individuals permitted to participate in the hunt (including guest hunter and non-hunting assistant); and during the mobility-impaired general gun hunt allow mobility-impaired hunters to harvest antlerless deer (1 antlerless deer per quota permit).

Point Washington WMA – change reference of “common moorhen” to “common gallinule.”

Yellow River WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

North Central Region

68A-15.062 Specific regulations for Wildlife Management Areas – the proposed rule amendments would adjust season dates to conform to calendar year changes, adjust how some season dates are described to better conform to calendar year changes, and revise specific area regulations on wildlife management areas (WMAs) in the North Central Region as follows:

Andrews WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

Belmore WMA – allow the use of any dog to hunt small game (quail, rabbit, squirrel and migratory birds) during small game season.

Big Bend WMA, Hickory Mound Unit – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

Big Bend WMA, Jena Unit – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season; allow the use of dogs for hunting wild hog during the first 9 days of general gun season; and remove the 17-inch shoulder height requirement for dogs used to hunt deer.

Big Bend WMA, Snipe Island Unit – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

Big Bend WMA, Spring Creek Unit – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

Big Bend WMA, Tide Swamp Unit – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season; allow the use of any dog to hunt small game (quail, rabbit, squirrel and migratory birds) during small game season.

Citrus WMA – establish that part of Withlacoochee State Forest that lies south of County Road 480, north of U.S. 98 and west of the power line (1,000 acres) as part of Citrus WMA and allow hunting there only during small game season (quail, rabbit, squirrel and migratory bird hunting only) and youth turkey and spring turkey seasons.

Devil’s Hammock WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

Grove Park WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season; prohibit vehicle access on Prison Farm, Ivey and Johnson Roads by persons not in possession of a Grove Park WMA Recreational Use Permit.

Gulf Hammock WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

Jennings Forest WMA – allow the use of any dog to hunt small game (quail, rabbit, squirrel and migratory birds) during small game season.

Little River WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

Log Landing WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

Mallory Swamp WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

Middle Aucilla WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

Osceola WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

PotashCorp, White Springs WMA – change area name from PotashCorp – White Springs WMA to Nutrien – White Springs WMA.

Potts WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

Steinhatchee Springs WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

Northeast Region

68A-15.065 Specific Regulations for Wildlife Management Areas – the proposed rule amendment would adjust season dates to conform to calendar year changes, adjust specific area regulations regarding the use of centerfire rifles during small game season in response to proposed changes in rule 68A-15.004, F.A.C., adjust how season dates are described to better conform to calendar year changes and revise specific area regulations on wildlife management areas (WMAs) in the Northeast Region as follows:

Bull Creek/Herky Huffman WMA – allow wild hog to be hunted during small game season; and prohibit the use of dogs for hunting wild hog during small game season.

Caravelle Ranch WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season; prohibit camping except in designated campsites from 8:00 a.m. one day prior to each established hunt through 6:00 p.m. one day after each established hunt (except dove hunts).

Gores Landing WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

Guana River WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season; change all references of “common moorhen” to “common gallinule.”

Half Moon WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season; shift the January wild hog-still hunts 6 weeks earlier into December, shift the December small game season into January, and allow wild hog to be hunted during small game season.

Herky Huffman/Bull Creek WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

Lake Panasoffkee WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season; change the wild hog-still hunt into a small game hunt; allow wild hog to be hunted during small game season; prohibit the use of dogs for hunting wild hog during small game season; and shift the small game hunts 4 weeks earlier to better overlap the waterfowl season.

Little Big Econ WMA – allow vehicular access through the Winding River Lane entrance during the September duck season.

Matanzas WMA – remove the quota requirement for the wild hog-still season.

Ocala WMA – remove the requirement that no deer or turkey shall be dismembered or transported out of the hunt area until checked at a check station.

Salt Lake WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

Three Lakes WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

Three Lakes WMA, Prairie Lakes Unit – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

Triple N Ranch WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

Southwest Region

68A-15.061 Specific regulations for Wildlife Management Areas – the proposed rule amendment would adjust how season dates are described to better conform to calendar year changes, adjust specific area regulations regarding the use of centerfire rifles during small game season in response to proposed changes in rule 68A-15.004 F.A.C., and revise specific area regulations on wildlife management areas (WMAs) in the Southwest Region as follows:

Arbuckle WMA – allow the use of any dog to hunt small game (quail, rabbit, squirrel and migratory game) during small game season; and remove 15-inch shoulder height restriction for dogs used for hunting.

Avon Park Air Force Range WMA – prohibit hunting equipment except from 8:00 a.m. seven days prior to the opening of archery season until 6 p.m. seven days following the close of general gun season, unless otherwise authorized by the Installation Commander or a designee.

Fred C. Babcock/Cecil M. Webb WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

Everglades Headwaters WMA, Hatchineha Unit – shift small game season to open the weekend following the close of general gun season; and allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

Green Swamp WMA – allow camping at the Rock Ridge Road campground during small game season; and allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

Green Swamp WMA, West Unit – shift the special-opportunity general gun hunts two weeks earlier to open the first and third Thursdays in January and the first Thursday in February; schedule each of the three 4-day hunts Thursday through Sunday; and allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

Hickory Hammock WMA – allow the use of any dog to hunt small game (quail, rabbit, squirrel and migratory game) during small game season; and establish two 5-day wild hog-still hunts (one in late April and one in late May) and remove the three existing 3-day wild hog-still hunts (two in September and one in January). The proposed April and May wild hog-still hunts would run concurrently with the adjacent Kissimmee River Public Use Area wild-hog dog season.

Hilochee WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

Hilochee WMA, Osprey Unit – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

KICCO WMA – remove quota requirement for wild hog-still hunts; allow the use of any dog to hunt small game (quail, rabbit, squirrel and migratory game) during small game season; and establish two 5-day wild hog-still hunts (one in late April and one in late May). The proposed April and May wild hog-still hunts would run concurrently with the adjacent Kissimmee River Public Use Area wild-hog dog season.

Lake Marion Creek WMA – allow the use of any dog to hunt small game (quail, rabbit, squirrel and migratory game) during small game season.

Orange Hammock WMA – establish open seasons and regulations for a new WMA (5,777 acres) in Sarasota County as follows:

Proposed Open Seasons:

  • Archery: 9-day season (three 3-day hunts, 15 no-cost, quota permits for each hunt, no exemptions)
  • Muzzleloading gun: 3-day season (15 no-cost, quota permits, no exemptions)
  • Mobility-impaired general gun: 2-day hunt (8 no-cost, quota permits, no exemptions)
  • General gun: 6-day season (two 3-day hunts, 15 no-cost, quota permits for each hunt, no exemptions)
  • Small game: 18-day season (six 3-day hunts, no quota)
  • Youth turkey: 2-day hunt (5 no-cost, quota permits, no exemptions)
  • Spring turkey: 9-day season (three 3-day hunts, 5 no-cost, quota permits for each hunt, no exemptions)
  • Fishing and frogging: allowed year-round
  • Trapping: prohibited

Proposed Legal to Hunt:

  • Allow hunting of all legal game, turkey (gobbler or bearded turkeys only), fish, frogs, and furbearers
  • Deer bag limit will be 1 antlered deer per quota permit except during the mobility impaired hunt when the bag limit for deer will be 1 antlered or one antlerless deer per permit (only mobility-impaired hunters may take antlerless deer)
  • Turkey bag limit will be 1 per day during archery season and 1 per quota permit during the youth turkey hunt and spring turkey season
  • Prohibit the harvest of antlered deer not having at least 1 antler with 3 or more points or a 10-inch main beam
  • Prohibit the harvest of antlerless deer during archery season
  • Allow take of turkey during archery, youth turkey, and spring turkey seasons only (gobbler or bearded turkeys only)
  • Allow take of wild hog during small game season and all quota hunts (except youth and spring turkey) with no bag limits or size restrictions
  • Allow 1 antlered deer per quota permit during the archery, muzzleloading gun and general gun seasons
  • Allow 1 antlered or 1 antlerless deer per quota permit during the mobility-impaired hunt (only mobility-impaired hunters may take antlerless deer)
  • Allow 1 turkey per day during archery season and 1 turkey per quota permit during the youth turkey and spring turkey season

Proposed General Area Rules:

  • Allow public access from 1.5 hours before sunrise to 1.5 hours after sunset
  • Allow access by foot, horseback, or bicycle, except that vehicular access is allowed only on Main Grade to Parking Area 3 during non-quota hunt periods
  • Allow vehicle access on Main Grade south of Parking Area 3 for authorized hunters and their guests only, from 5 hours before sunrise to 1.5 hours after sunset one day prior to and during each archery, muzzleloading gun, mobility-impaired general gun hunt, general gun hunt and from 4:30 a.m. until one hour after sunset during spring turkey hunts
  • Prohibit the use of tracked vehicles, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), swamp buggies, recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs) or unlicensed and unregistered motorcycles, except ATVs and ROVs may be used by certified mobility-impaired hunters during the mobility-impaired hunt
  • Allow entry into and exit from the area at designated entrances only
  • Allow hunting equipment on the area 8:00 a.m. one day before each hunt and removed by the last day of each hunt
  • Prohibit horses during periods open to hunting
  • Allow horses only on named and numbered roads and designated trails
  • Allow bicycle access on Main Grade and designated trails only
  • Restrict access to certified mobility-impaired hunters and their guests during the mobility-impaired hunt
  • Require mobility-impaired hunters to attend a pre-hunt orientation meeting
  • Prohibit hunting with dogs except any dog may be used to hunt small game (gray squirrel, quail, rabbit and migratory birds) during small game season
  • Prohibit hunting deer and wild hog with dogs
  • Prohibit camping

Walk in the Water WMA – allow the use of any dog to hunt small game (quail, rabbit, squirrel and migratory game) during small game season; and remove 15-inch shoulder height restriction for dogs used for hunting.

South Region

68A-15.064 Specific Regulations for Wildlife Management Areas – the proposed rule amendment would adjust how season dates are described to better conform to calendar year changes, adjust specific area regulations regarding the use of centerfire rifles during small game season in response to proposed changes in rule 68A-15.004, F.A.C., and revise specific area regulations on wildlife management areas (WMAs) in the South Region as follows:

 Big Cypress WMA, Corn Dance Unit – establish that only deer having at least one antler with 4 or more points can be harvested; and establish a bag limit for deer of 1 annually (all seasons combined) in Corn Dance, Loop, and Stairsteps units (all units combined). 

  • These proposed changes regarding the antler point restriction and bag limit for the Corn Dance Unit are consistent with existing deer hunting regulations within the Stairsteps and Loop units.
  • These conservation measures are necessary based on the declining deer population as shown by trends in harvest data within this portion of Big Cypress WMA.

Big Cypress WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season except in the Deep Lake, Corn Dance, Loop, and Stairsteps units; allow wild hog to be hunted during small game season; remove the 15-inch shoulder height restriction for wild hog; remove the bag limit for wild hog; and eliminate the check station pass requirement.

Dinner Island Ranch WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season; allow wild hog to be dismembered before checking at the check station; remove the bag limit for wild hog; shift the first family hunt to occur on the opening weekend of the zonal antlered deer season; and shift each of the three 3-day general gun hunts to occur 1 week later.

Everglades and Francis S. Taylor WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

Everglades Headwaters WMA, Kissimmee Bend Unit – establish open seasons and regulations for a new WMA (3,992 acres) in Okeechobee County as follows: 

Proposed Open Seasons:

  • Archery:  16-day season (four 4-day hunts, 10 no-cost, quota permits for each hunt, no exemptions)
  • Muzzleloading gun:  3-day season (10 no-cost, quota permits, no exemptions)
  • Family hunt:  3-day hunt (5 no-cost, quota permits, no exemptions)
  • General gun:  6-day season (two 3-day hunts, 10 no-cost, quota permits for each hunt, no exemptions)
  • Small game season: opening the day after the last day of general gun season and closing the first Sunday in March (no quota)
  • Youth turkey:  2-day hunt (5 no-cost, quota permits, no exemptions)
  • Spring turkey:  9-day season (three 3-day hunts, 5 no-cost, quota permits for each hunt, no exemptions)
  • Fishing and frogging:  allowed year-round

Proposed Legal to Hunt:

  • Allow hunting of all legal game, turkey (gobbler or bearded turkeys only), fish, frogs, and furbearers (excluding bobcat and otter)
  • The bag limit for deer will be 1 antlered deer per quota permit except during the family hunt when the bag limit will be 2 antlered deer per quota permit but no more than 1 per person
  • The bag limit for turkey will be 1 per quota permit
  • Prohibit the harvest of antlered deer not having at least 1 antler with 3 or more points or a 10-inch main beam (except by persons less than 16 years of age)
  • Prohibit the harvest of antlerless deer
  • Allow take of turkey during archery, youth turkey, and spring turkey seasons only (gobbler or bearded turkeys only)
  • Allow take of wild hog during small game season and all quota hunts (except youth and spring turkey) with no bag limits or size restrictions

Proposed General Area Rules:

  • All persons must enter and exit the area at a designated entrance
  • Allow public access year-round except during quota hunts when public access is prohibited except for persons participating in a hunt and their guests
  • Vehicular access is prohibited except licensed and permitted hunters and their guests may operate licensed and registered vehicles on designated roads and trails beginning 15 days prior to the opening of archery season and ending the day after spring turkey season ends
  • Airboats, off-highway vehicles, swamp buggies, and tracked vehicles are prohibited except during quota hunts when only persons participating in a hunt may operate all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs), and swamp buggies only on designated roads and trails
  • Prohibit hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season
  • Hunting with dogs is prohibited, except bird dogs and retrievers may be used to hunt migratory birds in season and any dog may be used to hunt small game (gray squirrel, migratory game, quail, and rabbits) during small game season
  • Allow camping by permit only and only in designated campsites

Fisheating Creek WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

Holey Land WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

J.W. Corbett WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season; allow wild hog to be dismembered before checking at a check station; allow wild hog to be hunted during small game season; remove the bag limit for wild hog; and remove 20-inch shoulder height restriction for wild hog.

Okaloacoochee Slough WMA – in response to the establishment of 5,528 new acres into the WMA, increase the quota from 125 to 145 permits (for each archery, muzzleloading gun, and general gun hunt), from 40 to 45 permits for the family hunt, and from 50 to 55 for each spring turkey hunt; establish a 2-day youth spring turkey hunt opening the last Saturday in February (10 no-cost, quota permits, no exemptions); and expand the small game season from 65 days to 121 days (opening the second Saturday in October and closing the first Sunday in February).

Picayune Strand WMA – remove the bag limit for wild hog; allow wild hog to be hunted during small game season; and prohibit public access from 1.5 hours after sunset until 1.5 hours before sunrise, except for permitted campers at designated campsites and individuals participating in a hunt during established seasons.

Rotenberger WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

Spirit-of-the-Wild WMA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season; allow wild hog to be dismembered before checking at the check station; and remove the bag limit for wild hog.

Wildlife and Environmental Areas

68A-17.005 Specific regulations for Wildlife and Environmental Areas – the proposed rule amendment would adjust how season dates are described to better conform to calendar year changes, adjust specific area regulations regarding the use of centerfire rifles during small game season in response to proposed changes in rule 68A-17.004, F.A.C., and revise specific area regulations on wildlife and environmental areas (WEAs) as follows:

Southwest Region

  • Lake Wales Ridge WEA – allow each youth turkey quota permit holder to bring 1 additional non-hunting guest.

North Central Region

  • Fort White WEA – allow each youth turkey quota permit holder to bring 1 additional non-hunting guest.
  • Lafayette Forest WEA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.
  • Watermelon Pond WEA – allow camping on the Goethe State Forest portion of the area by permit from the Florida Forest Service.

Northwest Region

  • Apalachicola River WEA – allow hunting with centerfire rifles during small game season.

South Region

  • Southern Glades WEA – establish that, for purposes other than hunting, dogs are allowed but must be kept under physical restraint at all times.