Whenever there are people out in the wilderness carrying guns (or bows) with the intent of killing something, it’s best to pay attention. That said, with a little education hunting season shouldn’t stop you from getting out there to enjoy hiking, mountain biking, paddling or other outdoor activities of your choosing.
First up, where and when is hunting season? Well, there are 167 Public Hunting Areas scattered throughout the state with hunting in one area starting as early as July 30th, while another runs as late as April 23rd. Oh…and there’s year-round hunting for raccoon, beaver, coyote, opossum, skunk and nutria. In other words, it’s always hunting season in Florida.
Fortunately, not all public lands are open to hunting and not all game seasons bring out lots of hunters. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (MyFWC.com) breaks the state up into 5 administrative regions. Each region has its own Hunt Schedule. You can easily check to see if your desired location is a Public Hunting Area and if it is, whether or not it’s a major hunting season. When in doubt, simply shoot* FWC an Email and ask. (*pun intended — couldn’t resist)
As a rule of thumb, if the name Wildlife Management Area, State Forest, National Forest, Preserve or Reserve appear in the name of the area, there’s a good chance hunting is permitted. Generally, Florida State Parks don’t allow hunting, though that may change. Even now there are exceptions, like Rock Springs Run State Reserve — Notice “Reserve” in the name. Feel free to contact Florida State Parks at (850) 245-2157 if you have questions about one of their properties.
The reality is that there are very few hunting accidents and most, if not all, happen to hunters. Hunting Incident Reports show that your chances of getting shot are extremely low. Still, it’s best to avoid the heavy hunts, like deer, bear and turkey seasons at the very least. If you still feel compelled to play in an active hunt area, at least wear as much hunter orange gear as possible (at least a full vest) and make plenty of noise, like whistling or singing…maybe wear a bell around your neck. 😉
So don’t let hunting season keep you out of the woods. Be smart. A little due diligence goes a long way. Looking for places to play? Check out our Bucket List and Where-to-Go. Now get out there…and don’t get shot!