Deer Hunting in Florida

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  • D
  • 750,000

    Est. Whitetail Population

  • 100,000

    No. Licenses Sold Annually

  • $27 and up

    Hunting license is $17 and deer permit is $5. Hunters must also have applicable license for archery, muzzleloader or gun hunting and they are $5 each.

    Resident hunting license and deer permit

  • $56.50 and up

    Hunting license is $151.50 and deer permit is $5. Hunters must also have applicable license for archery, muzzleloader or gun hunting and they are $5 each.

    Non-resident hunting license and deer permit

  • None

    Record B&C Typical Stat

  • None

    Total B&C Typical Entries

  • 201 3/8"

    Taken by Clark Durrance in Wakulla County in 1941.

    Record B&C Non-Typical Stat

  • 2

    Record B&C Non-Typical Entries

Don't forget about Florida. They have deer, too. (Tony Campbell)

Season Dates (2021):

Florida deer hunting seasons are pretty complex. The state is divided into four zones, and dates and weapon types vary greatly for each one. In most cases, archery season is July 31 to August 29 (Zone A), October 16 to November 14 (Zone B), September 18 to October 17 (Zone C), and October 23 to November 24 (Zone D). Crossbow season is July 31 to September 3 (Zone A), October 16 to November 19 (Zone B), September 18 to October 17 (Zone C) and October 23-24 and November 29 to December 3 (Zone D). Muzzleloader season is September 4-17 (Zone A), November 20 to December 3 (Zone B), October 23 to November 5 (Zone C), and December 4-10 and February 21-27 (Zone D). General gun season is September 18 to October 17 and November 20 to January 2 (Zone A), December 4 to February 20 (Zone B), November 6 to January 23 (Zone C), and November 25-28 and December 11 to February 20 (Zone D). Youth weekend is September 11-12, November 27-28, October 30-31, and December 4-5 in Zones A, B, C, and D, respectively. Even within the zone parameters, there are other variances, as additional regulations apply. Check the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website to confirm.

The Grade: D

Unless you are a resident of Florida or live nearby, the Sunshine State is most likely not the first state that comes to mind when thinking about deer hunting. Bucks run small, hot weather is frequently a hindrance, and the zones, seasons, and bag limits are complex.

Nonetheless, there are a lot of deer in Florida, with plenty of public land. There are some unique opportunities, including the chance to bowhunt rutting whitetails in early August in some areas of South Florida.

“Florida has one of the largest wildlife management area (WMA) systems in the country at 6 million acres,” said Tammy Sapp with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. “FWC is the lead manager or landowner on over 1.46 million acres and works in partnership with other governmental or private landowners on another 4.54 million acres. Florida’s WMAs offer a wide range of hunting opportunities including quota and limited entry hunts, special opportunity hunts, and public hunting areas where people can walk on to hunt.”

Still, as whitetail destinations go, Florida gets a D.

Antler Nation Knowledge:

There have only been two all-time trophies recorded in the Boone and Crockett record books and both were taken more than half a century ago. The No. 1 Florida buck was killed in 1941 and the No. 2 buck was bagged in 1959. Unsurprisingly, both deer came from the central part of the Panhandle where the largest bucks generally call home. If a good deer is what you’re looking for, the best ones comes from counties in or nearest to this region.

One good thing about Florida? It isn’t hard to find a place to hunt. With nearly 6 million acres of public, it has one of the largest WMA systems in the country. Don’t overlook National Wildlife Refuge hunts, either. There are also quota hunts and special-opportunity hunts. Just remember, while some locations don’t require permits, others do.

“Deer with larger antlers can be found in most areas of the state,” Sapp said. “Counties that consistently produce bucks with higher antler scores are Jackson, Gadsden, Alachua, and Calhoun. Hunters can find information on buck scores based on the county in which they were harvested at FWC’s buck registry interactive map.

“Two new areas were added to Florida’s 6-million-acre WMA system: Orange Hammock WMA, a 5,777-acre area in Sarasota County, and Everglades Headwaters WMA, Kissimmee Bend Unit, a 5,305-acre area in Okeechobee County,” Sapp continued. “Both areas provide new quota permit deer hunting opportunities.”

As for the rut, it’s pretty wacky in Florida. Depending on location, peak dates range from July to February. A long growing season and mild winters are partly to blame for this, which allows fawning to occur practically year-round, and can even shift a little from year to year.

Something else that changes? Regulations. According to Sapp, the statewide bag limit is set at five deer per hunter, and no more than two can be antlerless. All deer hunters must report their harvests. A youth deer hunt weekend is established in all four hunting zones. And to reduce the risk of chronic wasting disease (CWD) spreading into Florida, the FWC issued an executive order establishing special regulations related to importing deer carcasses. Also, this year, dogs being used to pursue game are required to wear GPS or telemetry collars.


Florida Harvests

  • Matthew Neri

    Tierra Verde, Florida

  • Eric Neri

    FL, Florida

From the Realtree Trophy Den