Florida offers unique waterfowl hunting opportunities
By Tony Young
“When people from out of state think about Florida, often the first things that come to mind are the state’s beautiful beaches and Disney World,” said Matt Coffey, senior communications specialist for Ducks Unlimited. “And I myself used to think the same thing – until I experienced my first Florida duck hunt.”
Coffey had an opportunity last year to hunt waterfowl at central Florida’s T.M. Goodwin Waterfowl Management Area.
“I didn’t realize how vast the estuaries and wetlands are and how much waterfowl habitat there is in Florida,” Coffey said. “Florida waterfowl hunters have great opportunities, especially with duck species like the black-bellied whistling duck and the fulvous whistling duck, where populations in the U.S. mainly occur in Texas, Louisiana and Florida. Hunting Florida mottled ducks is a totally unique experience because the only place in the world they exist is the Florida peninsula.”
Coffey also said he appreciates the fact that even in winter, temperatures are usually moderate and comfortable. Plus, there’s so much to do in the Sunshine State.
“The group I was with hunted teal, pintails and mottled ducks in the morning, snipe at midday, and then we fished for tarpon in the Intracoastal in the afternoon,” Coffey said. “Some of them even slipped off to enjoy the beach! Where else can you do all that in a day?”
Waterfowl hunting guide
Check out the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Guide to Waterfowl Hunting in Florida at MyFWC.com/Duck. It’s a valuable resource that lists where duck hunting is available, decoy placement setups, scouting and hunting tips, and provides duck identification photos of most duck species you’re likely to see in Florida.
Waterfowl seasons and license requirements
Waterfowl and coot season runs through Jan. 27 statewide. In addition to a hunting license, duck hunters also need a Florida waterfowl permit, federal duck stamp and migratory bird permit. And if you’re hunting on a WMA, you’ll also need a management area permit and maybe a quota permit. All licenses and permits are available at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com, county tax collectors’ offices or license agents, or by calling 888-HUNT-FLORIDA (888-486-8356).
The daily bag limit on ducks is six. But there may be only one mottled duck and one fulvous whistling duck; only two may be canvasbacks, black ducks, scaup, pintails or redheads; and only three may be wood ducks. And you may have no more than four scoters, four eiders, four long-tailed ducks and four mallards (of which only two may be female) in your bag. The daily limit on coots is 15, and there’s a five-bird limit on mergansers, only two of which may be hooded.
You also may take light geese statewide during the waterfowl and coot season, which includes the taking of snow, blue and Ross’s geese. There’s a 15-bird daily bag limit on any combination of these geese.
Waterfowl hunting regulations
Shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset. Shotguns must be plugged to a three-shell capacity (magazine and chamber combined), and hunters may use only nontoxic shot – iron (steel), bismuth-tin and tungsten alloys.
Ducks Unlimited and FWC partnership
In 2017, Ducks Unlimited, the FWC and others partnered to conserve, improve and restore nearly 30,000 acres of wetland habitat in Florida.
“The partnership between the FWC and DU is making an important difference in Florida,” Coffey said. “The FWC identifies local areas that need the most help, and DU delivers sound wetland restoration that benefits both Florida’s wildlife and people.”