FWC modifies some hunting zones; adjusts turkey bag limit on private lands
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Media contact: Tony Young, 850-488-7867
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The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at its meeting today in Tampa amended rules to modify fall hunting season dates in parts of Sarasota, St. Lucie, Martin and Palm Beach counties, and to increase the daily hunting bag limit of wild turkeys on private lands statewide. There is no change to the season bag limit on wild turkeys.
These rule amendments take effect in the fall with the start of the 2014-2015 hunting season.
Currently, the boundary line between hunting zones A and C is State Road 70, which runs west to east from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean, just above Lake Okeechobee. Hunting seasons and dates in Zone A, below S.R. 70, come in earlier and end earlier than they do in Zone C, which lies above the line.
Hunters had noted, and recent biological surveys have confirmed, that deer living below the zonal line in the counties of Sarasota, St. Lucie, Martin and Palm Beach have a breeding period that occurs later than that of most of the deer in Hunting Zone A. These deer actually have a breeding period more in line with deer living north of the line in Zone C. The breeding period, also known as “the rut,” is the time of year when bucks actively pursue female deer, which more often leads bucks to venture out during daylight hours, giving hunters a better chance at seeing and harvesting one.
It is because of this that a number of local hunters asked the FWC to move the boundary line between hunting zones A and C, so that all or parts of these counties would instead be included in Hunting Zone C, which has the later hunting season dates that better align with when the rut occurs in these areas.
The new boundary line between hunting zones A and C will begin at the Gulf and run east through Charlotte Harbor and up the Peace River until it intersects with S.R. 70. The boundary line then becomes S.R. 70, continuing east until it meets U.S. 441 north of Lake Okeechobee. The line then follows U.S. 441 south, where it proceeds around the eastern shore of Lake Okeechobee, then turns east and follows County Road 880 and runs just a few miles before continuing east on U.S. 98/441/S.R. 80/Southern Boulevard until it reaches the Atlantic.
This new line separating hunting zones A and C only affects the fall hunting seasons for deer and turkey. Spring turkey season dates will remain unaffected and will continue as they have been. In other words, spring turkey season below S.R. 70 will continue to open the first Saturday in March, while above S.R. 70 in the rest of the state, the season will continue to open the third Saturday of March.
In the rule amendment regarding the increased daily bag limit for turkeys, the daily harvest limit per hunter will increase from one bearded turkey or gobbler per day to two on private lands. This is a statewide change and will affect both the fall and spring turkey hunting seasons. Only the daily bag limit will increase; the season limit for turkeys will remain at two birds.
That means hunters may still only take a total of two turkeys during the fall (all fall seasons combined) and another two during the spring season, but what changes is that hunters will have the option and flexibility of getting their season limit of two birds in a single day. However, on wildlife management areas, the daily bag limit on turkeys will remain at one bird.
Both the rule modifying the boundary line between hunting zones A and C and the one increasing the daily bag limit for turkeys on private lands will not go into effect until the 2014-2015 hunting season, which starts in early August. Because of that, the daily bag limit during the upcoming March-April 2014 spring turkey season will still be one turkey.
The Commission also passed rules that either added hunts, hunting days, species or increased the number of quota permits offered on 29 of its wildlife management areas within the public hunting system, giving hunters additional opportunities next season.