Hunter Safety Course Requirement
All individuals born on or after June 1, 1975, must complete a hunter safety course to buy a hunting license for unsupervised hunting. Minors under 16 years old can hunt under an adult's watchful eye without passing a hunter safety course. For those 16 years or older without hunter safety certification, a one-time deferral can be obtained when they purchase their hunting license. This deferral allows them to hunt under the guidance of a mentor at least 21 years old. Proof of hunter safety course completion can be established by printing a duplicate certification card from MyFWC.com/HunterSafety.
Mandatory Hunter Safety Course for Florida Hunters
Individuals born on or after June 1, 1975, are mandated to complete and pass an approved hunter safety course before obtaining a Florida hunting license for independent hunting without the necessity for adult supervision. For details on the hunter safety course and other related programs, resources are available at MyFWC.com/HunterSafety.
Hunter Safety Certification Deferral Option
Individuals aged 16 or older born post-May 31, 1975, have the option to defer the state's hunter safety certification. By checking the deferral request box when buying their hunting license, they can legally hunt while supervised by a licensed adult hunter above the age of 21 who has met the hunter safety requirements. It is recommended, however, that both novice and seasoned hunters undertake a hunter safety course to gain invaluable insights into conservation and the principles of safe, ethical hunting. For unsupervised hunting, those aged 16 and over must first complete a hunter safety course.
Hunting Regulations for Minors Under 16 in Florida
In Florida, individuals under the age of 16 are permitted to hunt using an air gun (air or gas-operated) or firearm solely under the condition of adult supervision. The supervising adult must either be the minor's parent or an individual who has received explicit consent from the minor's parent or guardian to oversee the activity.
For further information, refer to Section 790.22 of the Florida Statutes.
Acceptable Hunting Equipment and Methods for Game Mammals and Resident Game Birds
Definition of 'Take'
The action of 'taking' in hunting terms encompasses the entire spectrum of engaging with wildlife, which includes actively capturing, pursuing, or even attempting such actions on any wildlife or freshwater fish, along with their nests or eggs. The definition holds irrespective of the success in gaining possession.
Equipment for Hunting Resident Game Birds and Game Mammals
For lawful hunting of resident game birds and game mammals in Florida, hunters can use:
- Firearms: This includes rifles, shotguns, and pistols of legal calibers and specifications.
- Air Guns: Legally designated air guns include longbows, compound bows, recurve bows, crossbows, and pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) air guns.
- Bows: Archery equipment such as longbows, compound bows, and recurve bows, with hand-held releases permitted.
- Birds of Prey: Licensed falconry using falcons, hawks, and great horned owls.
- Arrow Requirements: For deer and wild turkeys, arrows or bolts must be equipped with broadheads with a minimum of two sharpened edges and widths not less than 7/8 inch.
- PCP Air Guns: When it comes to hunting deer and turkey, only PCP air guns that shoot arrows or single bullets may be used, with a required .30-caliber for deer and .20-caliber for turkey.
Muzzleloader Specifications for Hunting Deer
Muzzleloading guns used for deer hunting must meet these criteria:
- Caliber: For those firing single bullets, a minimum of .30-caliber is demanded; for guns shooting multiple balls, they must be 20-gauge or larger.
- Breech Loading: Muzzleloaders designed to be loaded with accelerant (gunpowder) from the breech are permissible during designated muzzleloading seasons.
Prohibited Hunting Methods and Equipment for Game Mammals and Birds
This document doesn't cover local regulations on firearm discharge but outlines state-level prohibitions on certain hunting methods and equipment:
- Centerfire semi-automatic rifles with magazine capacities exceeding five rounds.
- Use of nonexpanding full metal case (military ball) ammunition for deer.
- Firearms with rimfire cartridges are not permitted for deer hunting.
- Fully automatic firearms are strictly prohibited.
Air Gun Restrictions:
- Air guns other than pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) models are not allowed when hunting deer or wild turkey.
- PCP air guns must fire single bullets of at least .30-caliber for deer and .20-caliber for turkey.
Arrow and Hunting Devices:
- Explosive or drug-injecting arrows.
Unethical Hunting Practices:
- Use of live decoys, recorded calls, set guns, artificial lights, nets, traps, snares, drugs, or poisons.
- Herding or driving games with vehicles, boats, or aircraft, including drones.
- Hunting wild turkeys with dogs or taking them while on the roost.
- Hunting within 100 yards of a game-feeding station when feed is present.
Hunting from Vehicles or Boats:
- Shooting from moving vehicles, powerboats, or sailboats. Engines must be off, and any forward motion from motors or sails halted before taking the game.
Hunting with Dogs:
- Taking spotted fawn deer or swimming deer.
- Using dogs without owner identification collars.
- Hunting on private lands with dogs without written landowner permission.
- Using dogs not under physical restraint for pursuing certain wildlife without GPS or telemetry collars for tracking and behavior correction.
Chemical and Drug Usage:
- Placing, exposing, or distributing substances that might intoxicate or incapacitate game birds or mammals.
- Shooting or harassment of wildlife from aircraft (including drones), except under specific license or permit authorization.
Hunting Restrictions in Designated Areas
Prohibited Areas and Practices:
Rights-of-Way: It's unlawful to take or attempt to take wildlife from the rights-of-way of federal, state, or county roads, regardless of surface material. Exceptions include reptiles and amphibians (non-firearm methods), and raptors as per Rule 68A-9.005, F.A.C. Using rights-of-way to cast dogs for hunting is also a violation.
Discharge of Firearms: It is illegal to fire any firearm over paved public roads, rights-of-way, highways, streets, or near occupied buildings.
Private Property: Propelling potentially deadly projectiles across private property without consent constitutes criminal trespass and a felony.
Specific Regional Prohibitions:
- In the Florida Keys, all methods of taking deer are banned.
- In Collier County, certain boundaries define an area where deer hunting is not permitted: south of S.R. 84 (I-75), west of S.R. 29, north of U.S. 41, and east of Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve's western boundary.
Sanctuaries and Parks:
- Hunting is generally forbidden in most sanctuaries and parks, areas dedicated to wildlife preservation and public enjoyment.
Trespassing Laws for Hunters
Private Land Entry
Hunters must be aware that merely holding a hunting license does not grant the right to enter private property. Prior consent from the landowner is essential before moving onto their land for hunting or any other purpose.
Legal Consequences of Trespassing with Weapons
Possessing a firearm or other considered dangerous weapon while trespassing on private lands is a serious offense, classified as a felony. Violators face the possibility of imprisonment for a term reaching five years, a fine up to $5,000, or both.
Firearm Possession Restrictions for Convicted Felons in Florida
Convicted felons in Florida are prohibited from possessing firearms, including muzzleloading guns, with two exceptions:
- Restoration of civil rights by the state's Clemency Board.
- The firearm is classified as an "antique firearm" according to Florida Statute 790.001(1).
Legal Hunting Equipment for Felons
Convicted felons with restored rights can legally hunt with:
- Air guns
- Antique firearms, as defined by the statute
These tools can only be used during seasons when such devices are lawful for game hunting.
Definition of 'Antique Firearm'
Florida Statute 790.001(1) characterizes an "Antique firearm" as:
- Any firearm made on or before 1918, including early ignition systems like matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap, or their replicas, irrespective of the actual year of manufacture.
- Any firearm using fixed ammunition made on or before 1918, where the ammunition is no longer made in the U.S. or not readily available commercially.
Constructive Possession Risks for Felons
Felons should take precautions as being in a location with a firearm may be considered "constructive possession." This term applies when the person:
- Is aware of a firearm's presence.
- Can control the firearm or has hidden it.
- Shares control of the firearm with others, which constitutes "joint possession."
Each sharing control is deemed to be in possession and may face legal consequences.
Antlerless Deer Permit Eligibility and Application Process
Eligibility for antlerless deer permits is granted to individuals or entities in control of land parcels meeting specific size criteria. Specifically, the eligibility extends to those who possess ownership rights, leasing rights, or written authorization to hunt deer on properties that are at least 640 contiguous acres. However, an exception is made for properties with a size of 150 contiguous acres, provided they are adjacent to land that currently holds either an Antlerless Deer or Private Lands Deer Management permit.
To apply for antlerless deer permits and the associated tags—which grant permission to hunt a designated number of antlerless deer on the property during the official deer hunting season—individuals or groups with adjoining lands can submit a collective application. This joint application is contingent upon the sum of their contiguous acreage meeting the above-specified size requirements.
The detailed application process, permit issuance, and all other pertinent information regarding the antlerless deer permit program are accessible through the official MyFWC website at MyFWC.com/Deer. Here, prospective applicants can find comprehensive guidelines and submission portals to facilitate their participation in the program.
Wild Hog Hunting Regulations on Private Property and WMAs
Individuals are authorized to hunt wild hogs on private property throughout the year without temporal restrictions, explicitly allowing both day and night hunting activities. This permission is contingent on obtaining direct consent from the landowner. When hunting on private grounds, hunters face no legal constraints regarding the use of methods, no imposed bag or possession limits, no restrictions on the size of the hogs, and no requirements to hold specific hunting licenses or permits.
In contrast, the capture of wild hogs is also permitted, albeit with a notable constraint: live hogs must not be transported without having secured a Feral Swine Dealer Permit. This requisite permit is issued by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Prospective and existing trappers may obtain this permit by contacting the department directly at the phone number 850-410-0900.
Regarding hunting in Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), the rules are more regulated. Wild hogs may only be hunted during predetermined seasons, which are subject to additional regulations. These regulations encompass permits, mandates on the methods of take, as well as specific bag limits. For in-depth hunting guidelines and the necessary permits for WMAs, hunters should consult the respective WMA brochure, which details rules and regulations applicable to the area intended for hunting. These brochures are vital resources for hunters to ensure adherence to the localized hunting protocols within WMAs.
Shooting Hours for Game Hunting
The designated shooting hours for resident game birds, crows, and game mammals are set at one-half hour before sunrise until one-half hour after sunset. This is the general rule of thumb for hunters to follow, with an important exception being the regulated period for hunting wild turkeys during the spring turkey season.
During spring turkey season, on private lands and the majority of Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), expanded shooting hours are in place. Hunters are permitted to start hunting one-half hour before sunrise and can continue until sunset. This extension provides additional hunting time throughout the day and aligns with the behavior patterns of wild turkeys during the season.
Some WMAs have distinctively tailored hours specifically for spring turkey hunting. In these areas, shooting hours commence one-half hour before sunrise but conclude earlier, at 1 p.m. Hunters planning to target wild turkeys during the spring season on WMAs should make a careful note of the applicable shooting hours, as they vary by location.
For effective planning and to ensure compliance with established regulations, hunters should confirm the precise shooting hours for their chosen hunting area, especially when those areas fall within the jurisdiction of specific WMAs with unique guidelines.
Hunter Orange Safety Regulations
The requirement for hunter orange is a critical safety regulation intended to prevent hunting accidents. Specifically, when hunting deer or when accompanying another person hunting deer on public lands, each individual must wear at least 500 square inches of daylight fluorescent-orange material. This high-visibility material must be worn as an outer garment and should be visible, and positioned above the waist. The regulation also allows the inclusion of a head covering made of the same fluorescent material to increase visibility and safety further.
It is important to note that this rule has exemptions. During an archery-only season, the hunter-orange requirement is waived. Additionally, when hunting on private lands, this regulation does not apply at any time, giving private land hunters greater flexibility regarding their attire.
However, for all who hunt on public lands during seasons when firearms may be used, adhering to the daylight fluorescent orange attire requirement is non-negotiable and is strictly enforced to ensure the safety of all individuals in the area. This requirement is a standard precaution to distinguish hunters from the environment, thereby minimizing the risk of misidentification and potential accidents.
Hunting Dogs: Usage, Regulations, and Training
General Use of Hunting Dogs
Dogs are recognized as valuable aids in hunting game mammals, birds, wild hogs, and furbearers, except where prohibited. Owners and handlers must prevent their dogs from disturbing wildlife during off-seasons. Deer may not be taken with the aid of dogs when using archery equipment or muzzleloaders during respective archery, crossbow, and muzzleloading gun seasons. However, dogs on leashes are allowed to trail wounded game mammals in any season.
Regarding wild turkeys, it is illegal to use dogs to aid in the hunt at any time. Hunters utilizing dogs must have them wear collars with the owner’s contact details. Additionally, written permission is mandatory for those using dogs to hunt on private property.
Free Running Dogs on Private Land
On private property, dogs can chase allowed species such as rabbits, raccoons, opossums, skunks, nutria, beavers, coyotes, wild hogs, foxes, and bobcats year-round.
Technological Requirements for Hunting Dogs
Dogs pursuing deer, wild hog, fox, or coyote that are not physically restrained must wear devices that enable remote tracking and behavior correction. Interfering with a hunting dog's collar or tag is strictly prohibited.
Outside of the hunting season, deer dogs may be trained on leash. Free running is allowed only during the deer-dog training season. No wildlife may be taken with guns during training.
Statewide Deer-Dog Registration
Deer-dog hunters in Florida must register at no cost with the FWC. Regulations are in effect during the deer-dog training season and open deer hunting seasons with dog use. Registration details include identifying numbers on dogs' collars, carrying registration copies, and keeping dogs on registered land. Register via MyFWC.com/Deer.
Training of bird dogs on private lands with blank pistols or balls is permitted during closed seasons. Shotguns may be used only for training with pen-raised, banded quail.
Foxes may be chased by dogs throughout the year but not killed (consult Furbearer Regulations).
For detailed information on regulations and further guidance, contact an FWC regional office.
Game Feeding Regulations and Restrictions
Prohibition of Hunting on Baited Lands and Waters
It is unlawful to hunt game on any lands or waters where bait has been placed, which includes corn, wheat, grains, or any similar foods, through means not related to standard agricultural practices of harvesting or planting. These regulations are critical in maintaining fair chase principles and preventing the manipulation of animal behaviors through artificial feeding which can lead to unsporting advantages.
Private Land Exceptions for Non-Migratory Game
An exception to the baiting rule exists for hunting non-migratory game around year-round game-feeding stations on private property. The stipulation requires that the feeding station must have been continuously active with feed for at least six months before hunting commences. This provision acknowledges the established patterns of wild game on private lands where continuous feed stations contribute to their natural movements.
Wild Turkey Hunting Proximity Restrictions
Strict regulations apply to wild turkey hunting concerning feeding stations. Specifically, hunters are not permitted to take wild turkeys if they are within 100 yards of a game-feeding station that currently has fed. This policy reinforces fair chase and ethical hunting standards, especially considering the habits and feeding patterns of wild turkeys.
Bear Feeding Prohibitions
Feeding bears, whether directly or indirectly through the placement of feed or garbage that attracts them, is strictly illegal, particularly when such actions result in or have the potential to result in public nuisance situations. Should individuals receive a written notice from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) regarding such nuisance situations, compliance is mandatory. The deliberate provisioning of food to bears is also unlawful, aimed at preventing the habituation of bears to human presence and food sources, thereby reducing the risk of human-wildlife conflicts.
For further information or clarifications on game feeding laws, hunters and landowners are advised to reach out directly to their local FWC regional office.
Regulations on the Commerce of Game
Prohibition of Game Trading
The buying or selling of game is generally prohibited, ensuring that wild game populations are conserved and that hunting practices do not commercialize wildlife resources. This measure is in place to prevent overexploitation of wildlife and maintain the integrity of the hunting tradition as a regulated sport and management tool rather than a commercial enterprise.
Exceptions for Licensed Game Farms and Preserves
Exceptions to the trade prohibition are made for licensed game farms and hunting preserves, which are regulated environments where game can be legally raised and hunted. These facilities must adhere to specific requirements as outlined in Rule 68A-12.011 of the Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.) for game farms and Rule 68A-12.010 for hunting preserves. These operations are subject to strict guidelines to ensure proper management and conservation efforts.
Sale of By-Products from Lawfully Taken Game
The sale of certain by-products from lawfully taken game is permitted. Specifically, the feathers or skins of resident game birds and the skins of deer, squirrels, or rabbits may be sold after they have been legally harvested. This allows for limited use of natural resources, provided it stems from legal hunting activities and does not contribute to illegal practices or threaten wildlife populations.
For those interested in the nuances of wildlife trade regulations, or individuals seeking to engage in the legal commercial activities of game farms and hunting preserves, it is recommended to review the detailed provisions under the cited rules or contact the FWC for in-depth guidance and licensing information.
Deer and Wild Turkey Harvest Reporting Protocol
Immediate Harvest Log Entry
Upon harvesting a deer or wild turkey, hunters are mandated to log the harvest immediately. This entry must occur before moving the animal from the point of harvest. Maintaining an accurate and up-to-date harvest log is a crucial step in responsible wildlife management and conservation tracking.
Reporting to FWC's System
After noting the harvest in the log, hunters must report the harvest to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's (FWC) reporting system within 24 hours. This timeline is essential, and the report must be made before:
- The deer or wild turkey undergoes final processing.
- Any parts of the harvested game are transferred to another party, including meat processors and taxidermists.
- The deer or wild turkey is transported out of the state.
Methods and Tools for Harvest Reporting
To facilitate the reporting process, hunters can:
- Utilize printable harvest logs and access detailed information at MyFWC.com/HarvestReport.
- Report their harvest online via GoOutdoorsFlorida.com.
- Use the convenient Fish|Hunt FL mobile app.
- Place a phone call to 888-HUNT-FLORIDA (486-8356), available 24/7.
Confirmation and Customer ID Requirement
Completion of the reporting is only recognized upon receipt of a confirmation number, which must also be recorded. For identity verification and to facilitate the reporting process, an FWC Customer ID number is required. Hunters can find this ID by logging into their existing account or creating a new one at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com.
Strict adherence to the harvest reporting system is a critical element of game management, allowing for the monitoring of populations and the evaluation of harvesting impacts. Compliance with these reporting requirements is mandatory and serves the broader goal of sustainable wildlife management.
Harvest Regulations for Non-native Deer
Harvesting Free-ranging Non-native Deer
Hunters are allowed to harvest free-ranging, unprotected non-native deer without gender restrictions. These deer can be taken only within the officially established seasons set for harvesting native deer species, ensuring a regulated framework for hunting activities.
Exemptions from Standard Deer Regulations
Non-native deer are not bound by the typical regulations that apply to native deer populations, such as:
- Antler size or point requirements.
- Daily or seasonal bag limits.
- Possession limits.
No Harvest Reporting for Non-native Deer
Unlike native deer species, hunters are not required to report the harvest of non-native deer to the FWC's reporting system. This exemption reflects the less stringent management requirements for non-native species, which are often not subject to the same conservation and population control measures as native game animals.
While non-native deer are given fewer protections and regulations, hunters should still exercise responsible hunting practices and adhere to all other hunting laws and regulations, such as landowner permissions and safety requirements. These relaxed regulations intend to control and manage the populations of non-native species, which may impact native ecosystems if left unregulated.
Field Dismemberment Guidelines for Deer and Wild Turkey
Hunters are allowed to dismember deer and wild turkeys in the field or at their campsites. This practice enables easier transportation and handling of the game post-harvest.
After dismemberment, each portion of the game must be tagged with specific information, which includes:
- The full name of the hunter.
- The address of the hunter.
- The hunter's FWC-issued customer number.
Additionally, the tag must indicate the date and the exact location where the game was harvested.
Traceability to Sex Identification
For regulatory compliance and verification purposes, the tagged portions must be directly traceable to the part of the animal that verifies its sex. In the case of deer, traceability to the head is required. For wild turkeys, the part bearing sex identification and, when applicable, the beard must be identifiable.
These tagging and traceability measures are strictly enforced. They are designed to maintain legal accountability and ensure that the harvested game is linked to the licensed hunter responsible for the take. Adherence to these requirements is crucial for the ethical management of wildlife and for upholding hunting integrity and conservation laws.
Positive Sex Identification for Harvested Deer and Wild Turkey
Retention of Sex Identification Evidence
To comply with identification requirements, hunters must retain evidence that positively identifies the sex of the deer and wild turkeys harvested. This evidence is essential for ensuring hunters adhere to species and gender-specific regulations.
Deer Sex Identification
For deer, the head, including any antlers, must remain with the carcass. This retention is mandatory while the deer is in the field, at a camp, in transit to the hunter's home, and until the deer is either cooked or properly stored at the hunter's residence.
Wild Turkey Sex Identification
Regarding wild turkeys, the head and, when relevant, the beard must stay attached during any hunting season that prohibits taking unbearded hens. The same rules of retention apply to wild turkeys as they do to deer in terms of transportation and storage.
Purpose of Sex Identification
Maintaining positive evidence of sex with the game ensures ethical hunting practices are followed and facilitates enforcement of game laws, particularly when gender-specific rules are in effect. Hunters must understand and comply with these requirements to support wildlife management objectives and legal compliance.
Game Transportation Regulations
Transporting Harvest Limits
Individuals are permitted to transport the legal possession limit of the game they have lawfully harvested. This regulation facilitates the movement of game from the site of harvest to a hunter’s residence or other destinations while ensuring that possession limits, which are in place to prevent over-harvesting, are not exceeded.
Possession of Mounted Specimens
Hunters and collectors are allowed to possess mounted specimens of legally taken game at any time. This includes but is not limited to the head, antlers hides, skins, feathers, or feet of game animals. These items can be kept as trophies or for educational and commemorative purposes, recognizing the tradition of hunting and the respect for wildlife.
Lawfully taken games can be shipped by the hunter who harvested the animals. When shipping the game, it is required that each package is marked on the exterior. Necessary marking details include:
- The name and address of the shipper (individual who took the game).
- The name and address of the recipient (addressee).
- The number of game animals and the species contained within the package.
These detailed shipping requirements are designed to provide traceability of the game during transport and ensure the shipment contains only legally harvested games, thereby supporting wildlife management enforcement and compliance with state laws.
Titling Requirements for ATVs and OHMs
Mandatory Titling Post-Purchase
All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and off-highway motorcycles (OHMs) acquired after July 1, 2002, are mandated to be titled. This requirement is implemented by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and applies to owners across the state.
Recreational Use on Public Lands
Titling is specifically required for ATVs and OHMs used recreationally on public lands in Florida. These lands include areas open to public usage that are maintained by various levels of government such as federal, state, county, or municipal entities.
Owners of ATVs and OHMs must proceed with the titling by applying to the offices of county tax collectors. This process is essential for the lawful recreational operation of these vehicles on publicly accessible lands.
By titling these motorized vehicles, the Department ensures a record of ownership, which aids in theft prevention and facilitates the management of the use of motor vehicles on public lands, ensuring the safety and enjoyment of all visitors.
Restrictions on Importing Certain Carcasses
Prohibition on Importing Carcasses from Out-of-State
The state of Florida enforces a strict ban on the importation and possession of whole carcasses or specific parts of carcasses from cervid species—such as deer, elk, moose, and caribou—that originate from regions beyond Florida's borders. This measure is enacted to prevent the introduction and spread of diseases within Florida's local wildlife populations.
Information and Disease Prevention
For hunters and individuals seeking to stay informed regarding the safe handling and regulation of cervids, further details on these import restrictions can be found on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's website at MyFWC.com/Deer. Additionally, information on chronic wasting disease (CWD), a significant concern for cervid populations, and the impetus for the import restrictions are available at MyFWC.com/CWD.
Adherence to these regulatory measures is crucial for protecting Florida's cervid populations from the threat of CWD and other transmissible diseases, ensuring the conservation and longevity of wildlife resources in the state.
Obtaining a Duplicate Hunter Safety Card
Online Duplicate Card Acquisition
To secure a duplicate of your hunter safety card, you may visit the online resource at MyFWC.com/HunterSafety. This platform provides a straightforward, digital method for obtaining a replacement card.
Alternative Methods for Individuals Without Internet Access
For those without access to the Internet or the ability to print the duplicate card themselves, assistance is available through direct contact with an FWC regional hunter safety office. Information on locating and reaching out to these offices can be found in the introductory section where regional contact details are provided.
Replacement of hunter safety cards is essential for maintaining legal proof of having completed the necessary education requirements for hunting in the state, ensuring that all hunters are equipped with the knowledge to hunt safely and responsibly.