Hunting Tips

 

White-tailed deer

Wild turkey

Gray Squirrel

Rabbit

Wild pig

Bobwhite quail

Waterfowl

Mourning and white-winged dove

 

 

whitetailed-deer
Rogue Eye Photography

The white-tailed deer is the most hunted big game species and the reason why most people buy a hunting license. Deer can thrive in a variety of landscapes but can often be found along the edge of where two or more different habitats meet, allowing them to easily feed and avoid predators. Deer are most active at dawn and dusk when they like to feed on tender leaves, weeds, flowers, acorns and fruits of trees and shrubs. When trying to find a good place to hunt, look for these food sources as well as deer sign like tracks, trails and where deer have rubbed smaller tree trunks with their antlers.

During most of deer season, you are only allowed to take deer that have antlers that meet the regulations for the deer management unit that they are in. Youth hunters 15 and under may take any deer with at least a 5-inch antler. During archery season, hunters are also allowed to take antlerless deer as long as they don’t have spots. Antlerless deer are females called does and also bucks that have less than 5-inch antlers.

Deer have an amazing sense of smell and are able to detect danger from far away, so care should be taken to cover your scent as much as possible and pay close attention to wind direction. Hunters enjoy using a variety of bows and firearms during specific seasons, but no rimfire cartridges can be used in taking deer.

 


 

Florida is home to two subspecies of wild turkey — the eastern found in North Florida, and the Osceola within the peninsula part of the state. The wild turkey is a woodlands bird that can be found in open forests and along forest edges and openings. Most turkeys prefer to roost (sleep at night) in trees within cypress ponds, hardwood bottoms, creeks or ravines. If you hunt near these wetland type areas in the early morning or later in the afternoon, you might catch a turkey coming from or headed to its roosting site. Also, be on the lookout for turkey sign such as tracks, feathers and where the ground has been scratched up.

In most cases, only male turkeys, called gobblers, or those with visible beards can be harvested. When comparing male and female wild turkeys, males are larger and darker. Gobblers have heads that are fleshy and are red, white and or blue in color. Females, called hens, have feathers that extend upward along the back of their neck almost to the head, which is a dull blueish-gray color. If you are unsure about a turkey’s gender, if it has a beard protruding from its chest, it is legal to take.

wild turkey
Jamie Adams

Most hunters prefer a shotgun using No. 4 to No. 6 shot size when hunting turkeys, and many hunters enjoy “calling” in turkeys using box calls, friction calls or mouth calls, especially during the spring season. Turkeys make a variety of sounds, and learning how and when to imitate them will improve your chances of bagging a gobbler.

The FWC offers a "First Gobbler Certificate"Adobe PDF for any hunters age 15 or younger who harvest their first gobbler.

 

 


 

Squirrel
Jamie Adams

Gray squirrel hunting is truly a sport for all ages and steeped in tradition. Squirrel hunting at an early age often translates into a lifetime of appreciation and respect for wildlife, the outdoors and hunting. Good squirrel hunting areas can be found throughout most of Florida and many are convenient to major urban areas. Squirrel hunters can find success on small tracts of private and public lands.

To find a good spot, look for areas with a lot of oak trees that have good limb structure and can provide cavities for denning. For these reasons, squirrels are often found on tree lines, oak/hickory ridges and hardwood hammocks bordering creeks, rivers or lakes. 22-caliber rifles and air guns are the choice of squirrel hunters who seek the challenge of marksmanship. Shotguns of any size may also be used, and are effective at short ranges and when squirrels are running from limb to limb. Shot size is a matter of personal preference but normally ranges from No. 6s to No. 9s.

Small hunting dogs, such as Jack Russell and rat terriers, enjoy treeing squirrels and retrieving them once they’re downed. Hunting fox squirrels is prohibited.


Rabbits are recognized nationwide as an excellent game animal. Rabbit hunting is something beginning hunters should consider, especially since the season is open year round on private property and rabbits are abundant.

The key to good rabbit habitat is a mixture of grassy and brushy vegetation. Because rabbits are wary of predators such as hawks, foxes and bobcats, look for them in areas having good escape cover, such as hedgerows and brush piles. In central and south Florida, you can find rabbits along grassy roadways and drainage canals associated with vegetable, citrus and sugar cane fields. In north Florida, try hunting old farm fields, brushy clear cuts and utility right-of-ways. Where grazing pressure isn't too high, pastures also are great places to find rabbits.

rabbit
Rogue Eye Photography

If you’re looking for even more excitement, try hunting with beagles. This breed of dog lives to find rabbits, and a seasoned rabbit dog can make your hunting experience much more productive, especially in heavy thickets and deep brush.

Most hunters prefer a shotgun. Any gauge will do and the most common shot size is No. 6. Some hunters opt to use .22-caliber rifles and air guns.

 

 


 

The wild pig, also called the wild hog, wild boar or feral pig, is not native to Florida and may have been introduced by Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto as early as 1539. Wild pigs are legally defined as wildlife and are the second-most popular, large animal hunted in Florida (second only to the white-tailed deer). Wild pigs can reach weights of more than 150 pounds and be 5-6 feet long.

wild-hog
Jamie Adams

They occur in all 67 counties in Florida within a variety of habitats. They prefer oak-cabbage palm hammocks, freshwater marshes and sloughs and pine flatwoods. Wild pigs eat plants and animals and feed by rooting with their broad snouts. They may disturb the soil and ground cover vegetation, leaving an area looking like a plowed field.

On private property with landowner permission, wild pigs may be hunted and trapped year round using any legal-to-own rifle, shotgun, muzzleloader, crossbow, bow, pistol or air gun. There is no size or bag limit, and you may harvest either sex. On wildlife management areas (WMAs), hogs may be taken during most hunting seasons, except spring turkey. But on some areas, daily bag limits do apply. A hunting license is not required to hunt hogs in Florida.


 

quail

The excitement that occurs when a covey of bobwhite quail suddenly take flight is enough to startle even the most seasoned hunter. That is what quail hunting is all about. Bobwhites prefer a patchwork of frequently burned upland pine forests with trees spaced far apart. Other habitats include brushy fence rows and fallow (weedy) agricultural fields.

Shotguns using small shot sizes ranging from 7 ½ to No. 9s are typically used for quail hunting. A good bird dog is essential in quail hunting and, for many hunters, watching the dog work and seeing its enjoyment is the most rewarding part. Quail hunting is a great way to hunt with family or friends in a social setting.


 

waterfowl

Approximately 20 species of waterfowl regularly winter in Florida. Deep marshes with lily pads and underwater vegetation attract ring-necked ducks and coots. Blue and green-winged teal and shovelers frequent shallow marshes. Large numbers of redheads winter on the Gulf Coast. Scaup (bluebills) congregate in brackish marsh and lagoons. In addition, mottled ducks, wood ducks, black-bellied whistling ducks and fulvous whistling ducks live in Florida year round.

Waterfowl hunting can take place on private property with landowner permission and on most water bodies that have public access. Some public water bodies may be closed for specific reasons, such as being in a park or in an area where the discharge of firearms is prohibited. Please check with local law enforcement agencies or FWC regional offices prior to hunting on public water bodies.

Shotguns must be plugged to a 3-shell capacity, and most hunters prefer using No. 4 shot size, but only nontoxic (steel, iron, bismuth-tin, tungsten-alloy) shot may be used or in your possession when hunting ducks, geese and coots. To be a good and legal duck hunter, study and become proficient at being able to identify different waterfowl species, because many ducks have bag limits on how many can be taken.

 


 

Mourning and white-winged doves are among the most popular game species in the country, and Florida is home to both resident and migratory populations. Good dove hunting opportunities can be found near agricultural lands where birds feed on crops and seed. Doves concentrate on areas where they can find an easy meal, primarily because they have weak feet and cannot scratch through heavy vegetation for seed. They prefer bare ground, or soil that has been disked (turned over) or burned. That way they can land and readily pick up seed. They also seek out sources of water and grit. Successful dove hunts often occur on areas that provide many of these features.

dove
Jamie Adams

You may hunt doves over an agricultural field, as long as the crop has been planted as part of regular agricultural practices. However, it’s against the law to scatter agricultural products over an area for the purpose of baiting. For more information, see “Dove Hunting and Baiting in Florida.”

The only firearm you’re allowed to hunt doves with is a shotgun, and it must be plugged to a three-shell capacity (magazine and chamber combined), but you can’t use one larger than a 10-gauge. Most hunters prefer to use a 12-gauge, although smaller-framed hunters or those that seek more of a challenge may opt for a smaller gauge. Shot sizes normally range from 7½ to No. 9s.

 



FWC Facts:
The Hunter Safety Mentoring Exemption enables newcomers to purchase a Florida hunting license and hunt during a one-year trial basis.

Learn More at AskFWC