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Restricted Hunting Areas

At the February 2021 Commission meeting, the FWC approved the advertisement of draft rule changes designed to improve the process for requesting and establishing a restricted hunting area (RHA) by providing clear, objective criteria. Rules for establishing RHAs were created in 1997 to address the needs and concerns of the public and stakeholders. Proposed draft rules presented at the Commission meeting would prohibit a person from taking game with a firearm within 300 feet of a dwelling inside of an established RHA, unless they are the dwelling owner or have written permission from said owner.  
 
We’ll continue working with stakeholders to address the feedback received from stakeholders and Commissioners and bring this item back to the Commission for final adoption at the August 2021 meeting. Find more information about the proposed draft rule changes. You can also check out the presentation and comments at the Florida Channel (starting at 1:29:24) and review the FAQs below. If you have questions or want to provide input, please email Ducks@MyFWC.com

Houses on the water

FAQs About Restricted Hunting Areas

  • Updated rule language is needed to provide clear, objective criteria for establishing restricted hunting areas.
  • These changes are designed to maintain acceptance of hunting at its current level of public support by addressing safety concerns expressed by homeowners. Most migratory bird hunters already voluntarily choose to hunt away from dwellings.
  • The proposed changes would still allow hunting in areas 300 feet or more away from dwellings within a restricted hunting area. It also would allow hunting on properties within the restricted hunting area by the dwelling owner or with the dwelling owner’s permission.
  • Most concerns expressed by the public are related to hunting migratory birds such as ducks. Because shotguns are the primary method of take allowed for this type of hunting, the 300-foot buffer zone is appropriate due to the fact the effective range of birdshot is approximately 40 yards (120 feet).
  • This buffer distance is commonly used by other states as an appropriate space between hunters and homeowners.
  • The 300-foot buffer, depending on the location of the dwelling, can extend onto public waters.  The buffer is meant to address homeowner concerns regarding hunters too close to their homes. 
  • RHAs would not include any FWC or federally owned or managed lands; nor would the 300-foot buffer extend onto these areas.
  • Adding a directional component to the rule would likely not fulfill one of the core purposes of RHAs, which is to maintain acceptance of hunting by providing appropriate spatial separation, where homeowner-hunter conflicts are acute and ongoing.
  • This rule seeks to objectify and simplify both implementation and enforcement of RHAs.

 

  • Dwelling is defined in the proposed rule as a shelter built on land in which people live; a house, apartment, or other land-based place of residence.
  • Docked boats with berths, houseboats, or boathouses on docks are not considered dwellings under the above definition.

The last bird sanctuary was established in 1996 and this designation has been replaced by the restricted hunting area designation, which better balances the needs and concerns of the public, stakeholders, and local governments. Significant concentrations of birds and other wildlife can be protected from human disturbance by establishing critical wildlife areas under other Commission rules.