To say I’m a little bit amped for the bow season opener in Florida’s Zone A is an understatement, which is why at nearly 11 p.m. Friday my calloused ol’ fingers were still pecking away at the keyboard.
By Alan Clemons, Managing Editor
The season-opener is just special anywhere.
If you’re a deer hunter, it may be hot and humid in the Southeast or there could be a chill in the air in the Midwest, Northeast or elsewhere. If you’re a wingshooter, then you’re
itchy for doves, quail, grouse or pheasant. Waterfowlers get geeked for that first morning when they can shoot the cupped mallards they’ve been watching from afar for weeks over the rice fields, marshes or timber.
Deer & Deer Hunting publisher Brad Rucks and I are in HendryCounty, southwest of Lake Okeechobee, for the Zone A opener. We’re covering the opening day of deer season in the United States– it’s the first legal season anywhere – for DeerandDeerHunting.com and one of our television shows, Whitetail Destinations.
Our gracious hosts are Charlie and Laura Palmer, who live in Fort Lauderdale and own about 1,200 acres here in the boonies. That’s not a slam. We’re in the middle of nowhere. Lauderdale is about two hours east, and Fort Myers is about 45 minutes or so west.
Now, you’re probably thinking a couple of things and I’m going to try to read your mind.
Deer season in July? Three years ago, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission rezoned the state into four zones based on hunter feedback and the whitetail rut. Zone A, where we are, is roughly the Everglades – the lower part of Florida. It’s pasture and scrub, palmettos and pines and beautiful live oaks dripping with Spanish moss.
Laura had to slow down for a gator crossing the road today when she was driving over. There are black bears and Florida panthers in the area, along with rattlesnakes, probably some other snakes like pythons further south in the true Everglades, and some incredible bird life. Just today driving over from Fort Myers I saw kites, wood storks and sandhill cranes. Amazing diversity.
You guys are crazy, aren’t you? We’ve never been formally tested, but there’s probably a crazy gene or two in our DNA makeup.
Deer rut in July? Yes, which is strange and a biological oddity. But based on the latitude and their breeding habits, now is when the bucks and does are getting’ jiggy. The bucks already have split up and should be chasing does soon, if they’re not already doing it. Talk about stoked! The peak of the rut may not be for another couple of weeks, though, but we should see some activity.
Why does the season start early? The Florida FWC moved the dates for the opener here to coincide more with the rut. That lopped off a few weeks on the back end, though, which is when the breeding is over for the most part and deer are back in their feeding modes. Kinda weird, yes, but that’s how it’s set up.
What are you going to do if you see a rattlesnake? Probably wet my pants.
What else could you hunt? Turkey season, with archery gear, also opens Saturday morning according to the FWC site. These are Osceola birds, typically considered one of the toughest to bag for a turkey hunter’s Grand Slam. I have a turkey license and my turkey broadheads. Might give it a try although I’m not hugely enamored with bowhunting for turkeys.
Feral hogs, of course, are fair game although they haven’t been spotted as much here lately. I did see one monster black hog in a field driving over, so they’re around. Coyotes also are on the “kill with impunity” list and my trusty .30-30 Winchester may get pulled out.
What’s the weather like down there? It’s hotter than New York streetwalkers during a political convention! When I woke up Friday morning, it was 82 degrees at 9 a.m. and the television weather gal said it “feels like 93.” Sheesh! I have an array of Under Armor ColdBlack for my base layer to go under my bug suit, and although we’re going to try for a roughly four-hour sit in the morning it’ll get pretty toasty in a hurry.
We also have enough ThermaCell units to stock a small store and several bottles of odor-killing spray. My two Dead Down Wind bottles may not be enough. Dunno yet.
How big are the deer? Not too big, in body or antler size. A combination of the latitude, heat and genetics don’t allow the deer to get big. As for antlers, anything scoring about 110 B&C would be considered a whopper. The Palmers have an “8-point or better outside the ears” management plan, which appears to be working. They have some nice bucks on the wall including a few head-turners (for this area) and we’re hoping to see one.
What if you see a bear or Florida panther? I’ll be very excited, and then I may wet my pants again.
Check in with us throughout the day as we provide updates this weekend and, if you’re on Twitter, follow me @BigAlFishes for updates as cell service allows.