Florida Expands Hunting Opportunities, Deer Quota Hunts

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission approved draft rule language Dec. 6 that would expand hunting opportunities on private lands and on nearly 6 million acres of its public-hunting wildlife management area system.

The seven-member Commission directed FWC staff to advertise the modified proposals in the Florida Administrative Register, for final consideration at its February Commission meeting. Such proposals include allowing the use of air guns to take rabbits and gray squirrels, and making a slight modification to the boundary line between hunting zones C and D, south of Tallahassee.

Two new WMAs in the Southwest Region of the state are being proposed for the 2013-14 hunting season. Both properties are owned by the Southwest Florida Water Management District and would offer hunting and other outdoor recreational opportunities. Lower Hillsborough WMA in Hillsborough County is 2,775 acres, and Weekiwachee WMA is a 2,850-acre tract within Hernando County.

Approved draft changes to the quota system would adjust the bag limit on deer and spring turkey quota hunts on 39 WMAs, to better accommodate guest hunters.

Other changes would allow a quota permit holder the flexibility to take a different guest each day of a quota hunt. Currently, the rule allows for only one guest permit during a quota hunt.

Another proposed change to the quota system is that hunters would receive reinstatement of their preference points only if they electronically returned their unused quota permit 10 days or more prior to the first day of their quota hunt. This would allow such returned permits to be reissued to other hunters on a weekly basis, instead of once a month. The change would ensure that more hunters are able to participate in the hunts.