Football season is in full swing, and the 2014-15 hunting season is cranking up. Heck, in Zone A, they’re already into general gun season. But for the rest of us, I’d like to cover some things you should know regarding three hunting seasons that are just around the corner: muzzleloading gun, gray squirrel and the first phase of dove.
Immediately following the close of crossbow season in each zone, the muzzleloading gun season begins. Season dates on private lands run Nov. 22 – Dec. 5 in Zone B, Oct. 18-31 in Zone C and Dec. 6-12 in Zone D.
During muzzleloading gun season, bows and crossbows are also legal methods of taking game on private lands, in addition to muzzleloaders. But on wildlife management areas (WMAs), only muzzleloaders may be used.
The most common types of game to take during muzzleloader season are deer and wild hog. Regarding deer, only bucks that are legal to take in your area may be harvested, and the daily bag limit is two. You can hunt wild hogs year-round on private lands, and there are no bag or size limits.
For hunting deer, muzzleloaders firing single bullets must be at least .40-caliber. Guns firing two or more balls must be 20-gauge or larger. The only muzzleloaders that can be used during muzzleloading gun season are those that are fired by wheel lock, flintlock, percussion cap or centerfire primer (including 209 primers). Muzzleloaders that can be loaded from the breech are not legal to use during this time.
It’s also legal to shoot gobblers and bearded turkeys during muzzleloading gun season. You may now take up to two a day on private lands, but there’s still a two-bird fall-season limit. You can’t hunt turkeys in Holmes County during the fall or winter. And on WMAs, you may still shoot only one turkey per day and antler/size restrictions on bucks/hogs can differ, so check the specifics of the area before you hunt.
Gray squirrelseason on private lands starts Oct. 11 statewide and runs through March 1. There’s a daily bag limit of 12 gray squirrels, and shooting fox squirrels is against the law.
Legal shooting hours are from a half-hour before sunrise to a half-hour after sunset. Except for turkeys, hunters may take resident game over feed such as corn but only on private lands. No baiting is allowed on WMAs.
The first phase of the mourning and white-winged dove season began this year on Sept. 27 and ends Oct. 27 statewide. Shooting hours during this first phase is noon to sunset, and there’s a 15-bird daily bag limit.
The only firearm you’re allowed to use for hunting doves is a shotgun, but you can’t use one larger than a 10-gauge. Shotguns must be plugged to a three-shell capacity (magazine and chamber combined).
You may hunt doves over an agricultural field, as long as the crop has been planted and manipulated under normal agricultural practices. However, it’s against the law to scatter agricultural products over an area for the purpose of baiting.
Some things you can’t do while dove hunting include using rifles, pistols or crossbows; shooting from a moving vehicle; and herding or driving doves with a vehicle.
In addition to a Florida hunting license, you’ll need a $5 muzzleloading gun permit to hunt during muzzleloader season. To hunt deer, you need a $5 deer permit, and if you’d like to take a fall turkey, you’ll need a $10 turkey permit ($125 for nonresidents). If you’re going to hunt doves, you’ll need a no-cost migratory bird permit, and if you hunt on a WMA, you also must have a management area permit, which costs $26.50.
All are available at your local county tax collector’s office; through license agents; by calling 888-HUNT-FLORIDA; or by going online to License.MyFWC.com.
So if you’re going after that monster buck during the muzzleloading gun season or small-game hunting with friends and family, I hope I’ve helped explain some of the things you need to know.