Other Migratory Game Bird Hunting Opportunities
Florida offers a range of other migratory gamebird hunting opportunities. Doves, woodcock, snipe, rails and common gallinule (moorhen) offer exciting wingshooting and make great table fare as well.
To hunt all species listed below, hunters will need a hunting license and no-cost migratory bird permit. If you are hunting on a wildlife management area, you will also need a management area permit. Find information about individuals who are exempt from license and permit requirements. Also, learn more about recreational license and permit information and requirements
If you are hunting on a WMA, you also may need a quota permit. Check the WMA regulations under the “Migratory Bird Season” section for the specific area you wish to hunt for that information as well as what is legal to hunt, allowed methods of take, season dates, and more.
Licenses and permits can be purchased at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com, county tax collectors’ offices and most retail outlets that sell hunting and fishing supplies, or by calling toll-free 888-HUNT-FLORIDA (486- 8356).
Quota permits may be applied for during specific application periods at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com and at county tax collectors’ offices.
Find current hunting season dates, legal shooting hours and bag limits for the following migratory game birds.
Florida ranks among the top states in the nation in the number of snipe harvested each year. Their fast, erratic flight pattern make them exciting and challenging to hunt. And with proper care in the field and kitchen, snipe make good table fare, providing locally sourced, organic protein.
Wilson's snipe is found in Florida only during the winter. They occur mostly in shallow wetlands, low pastures and open shorelines of lakes, ponds and streams. Be aware that snipe respond to changing habitat conditions during periods of rain or drought. Periods of dry weather tend to reduce available snipe habitat but can improve snipe hunting. During these periods, snipe often concentrate around lakes and ponds as water levels recede, exposing muddy shorelines. They also concentrate around certain impoundments during drawdowns. During rainy periods, snipe move to soggy pastures and fields.
Hunting strategy is simple - find their habitat, and trek through the mud and the muck until you locate and flush one of these migratory birds. While camouflage clothes aren’t required, you’ll want a pair of waterproof boots, a shotgun and #8 or #9 shot. A close-working bird dog or retriever can help find, flush and retrieve snipe.
Mourning doves are a popular game species throughout the state while white-winged doves also provide opportunities for hunters in south Florida. Good dove hunting can be found near agricultural lands where birds feed on crops and seed. Because doves have weak feet and can’t scratch through heavy vegetation, they often prefer cultivated fields where the soil has been turned over, allowing them to easily pick up seed. Doves also seek out sources of water and grit.
The most successful dove hunts often occur when large numbers of doves migrate into Florida with seasonal cold fronts, but resident doves also can provide good hunts on opening days of each phase.
Most hunters prefer using a 12-gauge shotgun, although smaller framed individuals or those seeking more of a challenge may opt for a smaller gauge. Shot sizes normally range from #7.5 to #9. A retriever or bird dog isn’t necessary but can help you find downed birds that landed in thick vegetation or are just difficult to locate.
American woodcock are a migratory gamebird that winters in Florida. They are known to hold well for pointing bird dogs and provide a challenging shot when flushed. Finding them is a real challenge, though. They prefer cypress swamps and thickets with heavy overhead cover. Look for woodcock in wet bottom hardwood hammocks along rivers and creeks. Within this general habitat, particularly watch for thickets of wax myrtle, gallberry, tree saplings, titi, honeysuckle, blackberries and grapevine. During the colder months, woodcock occur in all parts of the state, but better concentrations of birds are more common in central and north Florida. They tend to move with cold fronts and large flights of them can often be found a day or two after a strong cold front has passed through, making it a great time to hunt them.
Hunting strategy is much like quail hunting. Walk with your bird dog until it points. Keep in mind, when preparing for a shot, woodcock often flush straight up before choosing a direction. Shotguns using shot size ranging from #7.5 to #9 work best.
Rails and Common Gallinules (moorhens)
Florida offers an abundance of hunting opportunity for these marsh dwelling species.
There are four rail species legal to hunt in Florida, including the clapper, king, Virginia and sora. In general, rails are elusive, marsh-dwelling birds that feed on insects, crayfish, fiddler crabs, fish, frogs and aquatic plants.
Common gallinule (moorhen)
Common gallinules are in the rail family, but they are different from their rail cousins. To start with, most rails prefer shallow water marshes, whereas common gallinules prefer deep-water marshes.
Common gallinules primarily eat aquatic vegetation and, unlike rails, they are not cautious. They are known to walk across lily pads, chattering at intruders who they perceive are in their territory.
How to hunt rails and common gallinules
The most common method for hunting rails and common gallinules is by using a shallow-draft boat and push-poling through the marsh until a bird is spotted or flushed. This works best if you have one person in the front of the boat doing the shooting and the other in the back doing the poling. Another effective strategy involves wading through marshes to flush birds. This method can be strenuous and requires lots of stamina and being in good physical condition. Shotguns using shot sizes between #4 and #6 are best for common gallinule and larger rails. Smaller shot sizes may be adequate for smaller rails.