TALLAHASSEE — This time of year, many hunters are getting ready for Florida’s archery and crossbow seasons. Your preseason to-do list might include finding a place to hunt, practicing with your bow or crossbow, and brushing up on new and existing regulations. Following are five steps to help you prepare.
Locate when and where to Hunt
Statewide - If you’re hunting on lands outside of Florida’s wildlife management area system, archery and crossbow seasons are as follows:
• Archery season: July 31 – Aug. 29
• Crossbow season: July 31 – Sept. 3
• Archery season: Oct. 16 – Nov. 14
• Crossbow season: Oct. 16 – Nov. 19
• Archery season: Sept. 18 – Oct. 17
• Crossbow season: Sept. 18 – Oct. 22
• Archery season: Oct. 23 – Nov. 24
• Crossbow season: Oct. 23 – Nov. 24, Nov. 29 - Dec. 3
See other season dates on lands outside of the wildlife management area system at MyFWC.com/Hunting by clicking on “Season Dates.”
Wildlife Management Areas
Florida has one of the largest wildlife management area systems in the country at 6 million acres and many areas offer archery hunting opportunities for deer and wild hog. It’s important to review the regulations brochure for the WMA you want to hunt to know what the season dates, bag limits, methods of take, and license and permit requirements are because they can vary from statewide regulations and other WMAs. For example, many WMAs require a quota hunt permit or special-opportunity hunt permit (in addition to a hunting license and permits including management area permit, deer permit, and archery permit, unless exempt) to participate in an archery hunt. These hunts are issued via random draw and if you didn’t apply or weren’t drawn during phase I and II, you still have the following options to hunt a WMA.
• The Phase III leftovers starts July 1 and it provides a first-come first-served opportunity to obtain any quota hunt permits that remain. This leftover phase runs until all the permits are spoken for or the final hunt date. Visit GoOutdoorsFlorida.com to apply for permits available during Phase III.
• Returned Permits, which are unused permits hunters can’t use and return within a specified time, are included in weekly reissue drawings throughout the season. Learn more about how to view in real time what permits are available and when and how to apply for them at MyFWC.com by clicking on “Limited Entry/Quota Hunts” and then scrolling down and clicking on “Returns and Reissues.”
• There are also WMAs throughout the state that provide opportunities to hunt without a quota permit during part or all of their season. You can search for these opportunities using the FWC’s WMA Finder. Learn more about this versatile search tool and start locating WMA hunting opportunities at MyFWC.com/WMABrochures.
Find a range to practice with your bow
Several FWC-managed shooting ranges provide archery opportunities including Klondike Archery Park, Bay County Shooting Range, Osceola Shooting Range, Tenoroc Public Shooting Range, Triple N Ranch Shooting Range and Indian River County Shooting Range. In addition, there are archery targets adjacent to Knight Trail Park Pistol and Rifle Range. Find FWC-managed shooting ranges at MyFWC.com/Ranges. Search for other archery facilities at Archery360.com/where-to-shoot.
Get ready to log and report harvested deer
Another way to prepare for the upcoming archery and crossbow seasons is to plan ahead for meeting the requirements to log and report your harvested deer. If you’re going to use the Fish/Hunt Florida App to log and report, now is a good time to download and open the app so you’re familiar with it when you need it. If you’re planning to log and report at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com, make it easy to find by bookmarking the webpage now. Those who want to log their harvest using a paper harvest log should consider printing a few copies now and stashing them in their hunting backpack or fanny pack. And if you’re going to report via the phone, add this phone number to your contact list before you head afield: 888-468-8356 (888-HUNT-FLORIDA).
Just a quick review of this requirement, which took effect during the 2019-2020 hunting season:
Who has to log and report harvested deer?
All hunters (including those under 16 years of age, resident hunters 65 years old and older, military personnel on leave for 30 days or less, and those hunting on their homestead in their county of residence). Hunters exempt from license requirements who do not have an FWC customer ID number can obtain one by visiting GoOutdoorsFlorida.com and clicking “Create Customer Account.”
When must hunters log and report harvested deer?
Hunters must log their harvested deer prior to moving it from the point of harvest, which is that spot on the ground where the hunter located the harvested deer.
Hunters must report harvested deer: 1) within 24 hours of harvest, or 2) prior to final processing of the deer, or 3) prior to the deer or any parts of the deer being transferred to a meat processor or taxidermist, or 4) prior to the deer leaving the state, whichever occurs first.
How do you log and report harvested deer?
Hunters have the following user-friendly options for logging and reporting their harvested deer:
• Option A – Log and Report (Steps 1 and 2) on a mobile device with the FWC Fish/Hunt Florida App or at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com prior to moving the deer.
• Option B – Log (Step 1) on a paper deer harvest log prior to moving the deer and then report (Step 2) at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com or Fish/Hunt Florida App or calling 888-HUNT-FLORIDA (888-486-8356) within 24 hours
If you’re not sure of log and report requirements regarding field dressing your deer while afield or at camp or transferring a harvested deer and portions and parts thereof to a taxidermist, meat processor or other party after reporting it, find that information and more at MyFWC.com/HarvestReport.
Buy licenses and permits
Buy your hunting licenses and permits now so you can cross that off your to-do list. Here’s what you’ll need, unless you’re exempt from these requirements:
Archery season – Only bows may be used
• Hunting license
• Archery season permit
• Deer permit (if hunting deer)
• Management area permit (if hunting on a WMA)
Crossbow season – Only crossbows and bows may be used
• Hunting license
• Crossbow season permit
• Deer permit (if hunting deer)
• On most WMAs, only those with a Persons With Disabilities Crossbow Permit are allowed to use crossbows during archery season and a management area permit also is required.
It’s critical that you review the WMA regulations brochure for the area you want to hunt to make sure you’re up to speed on season dates, bag limits, methods of take, and license and permit requirements because they can vary from statewide regulations and other WMAs.
You can buy hunting licenses and permits at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com, county tax collector’s offices, retail outlets that sell hunting and fishing supplies, or by calling 888-HUNT-FLORIDA.
Brush up on the rules
Lay the groundwork for more stress-free archery and crossbow hunting seasons by reviewing the regulations now. You can find:
• Links to FAQs about deer hunting rules, log and report requirements, and more at MyFWC.com/Deer.
• Regulations by deer management unit, season dates, what is legal to take, bag limits, shooting hours and more by reviewing the 2021-2022 Florida Hunting Regulations. Find this hunting regs summary at MyFWC.com/Hunt by clicking on Hunting Handbook.
• Wild hog hunting information is available at MyFWC.com by scrolling to “Wild Hog” under the “Hunting” dropdown menu.
• WMA regulations are available at MyFWC.com/WMABrochures. Be aware that season dates and other rules can vary from statewide seasons and other WMAs.
• Beginning this year, a rule change related to archery removed the minimum draw weight requirement for bows when taking game. You can see that update and other major changes at MyFWC.com/Hunting by clicking on Hunting Handbook and then on “Major Changes.”