FL: Deer hunting still goin’ strong in Zone D

Outta’ the Woods

It seems the deer in my neck of the woods have been a lot more
nocturnal than usual, and my hunting season has been pitiful thus
far. As I type this, I have harvested only one deer. Now I did
shoot a nice fall gobbler sporting an 11-inch beard on my 2/3-acre
Sopchoppy River lot, but that hardly counted, since I was really
tryin’ to get a doe during Zone D’s antlerless deer season.

Anyway, I’m not throwin’ in the towel just yet, but it has been
very frustrating, and that’s no lie. But, there’s still lots of
deer-hunting days west of where I live in Tallahassee, and I’m
thankful I’ve got some good friends who have offered to take me on
some of their leases.

So, if you’re like me and still have plenty of room left in your
freezer, or if you live in the central or southern part of the
state and don’t mind hunting with a primitive weapon, then point
your pickup northwest, because Zone D’s deer season’s still goin’
strong on private lands and on a lot of the wildlife management
areas (WMAs).

The second phase, if you will, of muzzleloading gun season runs
from Feb. 20-26 in this part of the Panhandle. This unique late
season, which occurs only in Zone D, was established to allow
hunters the chance to hunt the rut, which runs from mid-January
through February in this part of the state.

A $5 muzzleloading gun permit is required to hunt during this
season, where, on private land, hunters have the choice of using a
muzzleloader, bow or crossbow.

On WMAs, this post-season is referred to as the
archery/muzzleloading gun season. Hunters can use bows or
muzzleloaders, but not crossbows – unless they possess a disabled
crossbow permit. Hunters who choose to hunt with a bow must have
the $5 archery permit, and those using a muzzleloader need the
muzzleloading gun permit.

The most common kinds of game to hunt during this season are deer
and wild hogs. Only bucks may be taken (even if you use a bow), and
one antler must be at least 5 inches in length. If you’re hunting
deer, make sure you have the $5 deer permit. On private land, the
daily bag limit is two. Bag limits and antler size for deer on WMAs
can differ, so please consult the area brochure before you
hunt.

Wild hogs aren’t considered game animals on private lands, and
because of this, they can be taken year-round by most weapons with
no bag or size limits. On most WMAs, there’s also no bag or size
limits, and hogs are legal to take during most hunting seasons
except spring turkey. On selected WMAs, specific bag and size
limits do apply, so check the area’s brochure to make sure.

No dogs may be used in the pursuit of deer during this season.
However, leashed dogs can be used to track a wounded deer if
necessary. And it’s important to note that no turkeys may be taken
during this season.

Bows and crossbows must have a minimum draw weight of 35 pounds,
and hand-held releases on bows are permitted. Broadheads used in
taking deer must have at least two sharpened edges with a minimum
width of 7/8 inch.

During this season, you may use only muzzleloaders that take black
powder or a non-nitro-cellulose substitute and are fired by wheel
lock, flintlock or percussion cap ignition (including 209 primers).
You may not use muzzleloaders that require smokeless powder or
those with self-contained cartridge ammunition capabilities. For
hunting deer, muzzleloaders that fire single bullets must be at
least .40-caliber, and those firing two or more balls must be
20-gauge or larger.

And you’re allowed to take deer and hogs over feeding stations on
private land, but it’s illegal to do that on WMAs.

Eleven of the WMAs in Zone D have the late archery/muzzleloading
gun season, and if you plan to hunt any of ’em, you must have the
$26 management area permit as well. Nine of those areas don’t
require a quota permit during this period: Apalachicola,
Apalachicola River, Blackwater, Choctawhatchee River, Econfina
Creek, Escambia River, Point Washington, Tate’s Hell and Yellow
River WMAs. The only ones that do are Chipola River and Perdido
River WMAs.

You can get all of the licenses and permits you’ll need at any tax
collector’s office and retail outlet that sells hunting and fishing
supplies, by calling 888-HUNT-FLORIDA or by going online at
www.fl.wildlifelicense.com.

So if you’re like me and not quite ready to give up on deer
hunting, have no fear, ’cause February’s here! Grab your favorite
primitive gun and head over to Zone D where the rut’s goin’ on hot
and heavy.

 

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