The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) today approved Species Conservation Measures and Permitting Guidelines for eight of the more than 50 species in the agency’s Imperiled Species Management Plan.

Based on thorough scientific review, FWC staff determined that the eastern chipmunk, harlequin darter, Homosassa shrew, southern fox squirrel and the Monroe County osprey population no longer warrant listing. The Suwannee alligator snapping turtle will now be listed as State Threatened, while two other species of alligator snapping turtle will no longer be listed.

“Delisting of a species is positive news,” said Kipp Frohlich, director of the FWC’s Division of Habitat and Species Conservation. “It means the species is doing well and no longer needs critical action for its survival.”

The species guidelines are designed to be a tool for landowners, consultants, agency partners and other interested parties on how to conserve these species. Additionally, rule changes were made to further ensure protection of these species.

The guidelines offer options for avoidance, and minimization and mitigation of take for listed species. For species being delisted, guidelines outline recommended conservation practices that will maintain the status of the species. They provide species-specific information on key issues relevant to real-world conservation, including:

  • Essential behavioral patterns.
  • Survey methods.
  • Recommended conservation practices.
  • Exemptions or authorizations for take.
  • Coordination with other regulatory programs.
  • Permitting options.

Over the past several months, FWC staff worked with stakeholders on several occasions to discuss and get input on the development of the species guidelines.

For an overview of how Florida conserves imperiled species, go to

At its September meeting in Tallahassee, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) announced the winners of the 2018 Lionfish Challenge.

A total of 28,260 lionfish were removed from Florida waters as part of this year’s challenge, which included recreational and commercial categories as well as a new tagged-lionfish component, rewarding participants with prizes up to $5,000 for removal of FWC-tagged lionfish.

“This is another commendable effort by Florida’s recreational and commercial divers to help control lionfish populations and remove the invasive species from our waters,” said FWC chairman Bo Rivard.

Recreational winner and Lionfish King John McCain of Gilchrist County removed 1,137 of the lionfish. Although he was unable to attend the meeting, this is McCain’s third year participating in the challenge, in which he won third place the first year and second place the second year. McCain works for Dive Rite.

Ron Surrency of Duval County is the Commercial Champion for his removal of 5,017 pounds of lionfish (which equates to about 5,531 fish). Surrency targets lionfish and other reef fish species commercially with partners Jason Whetmore and Mark Irwin on the vessel Joyce Marie.

Both winners will receive a Lionfish Challenge Trophy for their efforts, as well as a feature article in our Saltwater Regulations Publication, a $500 gift card for dive tank refills and a customized Engel 65-quart cooler.

The Lionfish Challenge and the 2018 tagged-lionfish component could not have been possible without the support of sponsors including the American Sportfishing Association, Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County, Boat Owners Association of The United States, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, Yamaha Motor Corporation, the Coastal Conservation Association Florida, Dive Rite, Lionator Pole Spears, Narked Scuba, Florida Underwater Sports in Sarasota, Customatic Optics LLC and Toothless Life Spearfishing Safety System.

To learn more about the challenge and its winners, including our second and third place winners, visit

Media statement: FWC Commission trap fisheries update


 At its September meeting near Tallahassee, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved several changes to recreational and commercial trap fisheries rules. These changes are part of a long-term project to evaluate and improve the management of Florida’s saltwater trap fisheries.


Approved changes include:

  • Creating mandatory, no-cost annual recreational blue crab and stone crab trap registrations for trap fishers age 16 and older, and requiring FWC-designated trap identification numbers to be placed on recreational traps (trap registration and marking requirements for recreational stone crab effective Oct. 1, 2019, and similar blue crab requirements effective Jan. 1, 2020).
  • Requiring commercial stone crab fishers to maintain an active saltwater products license, restricted species endorsement, and stone crab endorsement to retain their stone crab trap allotment (effective July 1, 2019).
  • Starting the commercial spiny lobster trap soak period each year on the Saturday following the recreational mini-season (effective Nov. 1, 2018).
  • Increasing the time allowed for commercial lobster fishers to remove spiny lobster traps from the water after the season ends from five days to 10 days (effective Nov. 1, 2018).

Staff will work with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) Fisheries to implement changes to the spiny lobster trap soak period and trap removal period in federal waters beginning with the 2019-2020 season.

Florida’s native fish and wildlife are facing a serious threat posed by a variety of invasive species found throughout the state. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is taking steps to combat the introduction and spread of these nonnative animals. Today, the Commission voted to approve a reorganization of rules related to nonnative species.

In addition, the Commission requested FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton and Vice Chairman Robert Spottswood to work on a temporary executive order to limit importation of potentially high-risk injurious species. This will act as a stopgap measure while staff develop proposed rules.

“As we are in the process of rule development, we need an Executive Order in place to take the pressure off until we are ready to take the final action,” said Spottswood.

Invasive species are animals not native to Florida that cause economic or environmental harm or pose a threat to human safety. More than 500 nonnative species have been reported in Florida. Eighty percent of these have been introduced via the live animal trade with over 120 established in Florida, meaning they are reproducing in the wild.

“It costs much less to prevent a species from becoming established than it does to control them once they are here,” said Commissioner Joshua Kellam. “What we need to do as a Commission is focus on prevention early on to stop the next wave of invasive species.”

Although invasive species are not a problem unique to Florida, the state’s subtropical climate allows a variety of species, such as pythons, Argentine black and white tegus, green iguanas, monitor lizards, and many invasive freshwater fish species, to thrive.

Most nonnative fish and wildlife find their way into Florida’s habitats through escape or release from the live animal trade. Therefore, regulation is an essential component to prevent nonnative species from taking hold in Florida’s environment.

“We are taking proactive steps through regulation to address those species that pose the highest risk to Florida of becoming tomorrow’s invasive species problem,” said Kipp Frohlich, Director of the FWC’s Division of Habitat and Species Conservation. “Actions we take today can prevent other species from becoming established and help avoid problems similar to the ones caused by Burmese python.”

The public can help the FWC control nonnative invasive wildlife by reporting sightings to the FWC’s Exotic Species Hotline at 888-IveGot1 (888-483-4681), online at or by using the free smartphone app IVEGOT1.

The FWC also encourages the public to safely remove nonnative invasive species from the wild when possible. Nonnative species are not protected, except by anti-cruelty law, and can be humanely killed on private lands at any time with landowner permission ­no permit required. People may also lethally remove nonnative reptiles from 22 FWC-managed public lands without a license or permit. For more information about nonnative species in Florida, visit

DATE:     September 24, 2018
TO:         USF & NRA Member and Friends
FROM:   Marion P. Hammer
               USF Executive Director
               NRA Past President
You Should OPPOSE AMENDMENT 13 in the General Election
Amendment 13 to the Florida Constitution is being characterized as an amendment to end wagering (betting) on greyhound races in Florida, but it goes way much further than that. 
If Amendment 13 is passed, extreme animal rights organizations will have a new constitutional standard to challenge any and all activities they find objectionable.  In short, many suspect their first action will be to immediately begin work to ban all hunting andfishing. 
Amendment 13 includes the phrase:
“The humane treatment of animals is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida.”  That language will not appear on the ballot BUT IT IS IN THE AMENDMENT.
Since reasonable people don’t want animals treated inhumanely, at first blush many Floridians would agree with that statement in general terms.  However, there is a vast difference between what the public believes is “inhumane” and what animal rights extremists groups and their supporters would call “inhumane.” 
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), is the lead organization pushing for Amendment 13’s passage.   HSUS opposes hundreds of common and traditional activities involving animals because they claim they are “inhumane.” 
In fact, the list of activities HSUS and other animal extremist organizations find objectionable is huge and includes hunting, fishing, farming, animal husbandry, marine parks and moreThat’s what this is really about.
Those groups even claim that animals shouldn’t be owned as pets because it’s inhumane.  
In short, Amendment 13 is not really about greyhound racing, it’s a front for much more.
Clearly the intent is to establish a legal foothold in the Florida Constitution that they can use to go after legitimate activities, like hunting, that they don’t like. 
Whether you are voting Absentee, Early Voting or at the Polls on Tuesday, November 6, 2018,  PLEASE OPPOSE AMENDMENT 13.

by Tony Young

Holmes County hunters in northwest Florida will enjoy their first full-length spring turkey season after 20 years – a result of a successful wild turkey restoration project and partnership between the FWC, National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) and local landowners.

“In the mid-1990s, residents and landowners of Holmes County brought it to our attention that their county’s wild turkey population had virtually disappeared,” said Roger Shields, FWC’s wild turkey program coordinator. “Our biologists and law enforcement then set up bait stations throughout the county and monitored them. Those reports were confirmed, and turkey hunting was closed in Holmes County in 1998.”

A turkey trapping and restocking program was initiated during back-to-back winters of 1998-99 and 1999-2000. A total of 121 wild turkeys (43 gobblers and 78 hens) were released at eight different locations within Holmes County over those two years. Local landowners spent their own money on habitat improvements, such as prescribed burns, timber thinning and planting food plots, which helped speed up the restoration process. Additionally, the NWTF formed a local chapter and assisted in turkey trapping efforts.

The restoration goal of re-establishing a huntable population of wild turkeys was attained in 2006 when turkey hunting was opened back up in Holmes County with a limited three-day spring season and a one-bird bag limit. Over the past decade, the spring turkey season in Holmes County has been extended incrementally, and based on harvest data, hunting success in Holmes County is now as good or better than that in surrounding counties. So beginning this spring, the season there will be a full 37 days as it is statewide.

Youth Turkey Hunt Weekend

Youth hunters can take part in the two-day youth spring turkey hunt, which occurs on private lands and on 81 WMAs the weekend prior to the opening of spring turkey season. South of State Road 70, that youth weekend was Feb. 24-25. Above S.R. 70 in the rest of the state, that weekend falls on March 10-11. Only those 15 years old and younger are allowed to harvest a turkey while supervised by an adult, 18 years or older.

Walk-in youth turkey hunt areas

These 26 WMAs do not require a youth spring turkey quota permit: Apalachicola, Aucilla, Big Bend – Snipe Island Unit, Big Bend – Spring Creek Unit, Big Bend – Tide Swamp Unit, Blackwater, Choctawhatchee River (only the southern portion of the area), Escambia River, Herky Huffman/Bull Creek, J.W. Corbett, Joe Budd, Jumper Creek, Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, Kissimmee River, Lake Monroe, Lochloosa, Log Landing, Lower Econfina River, Middle Aucilla, Osceola, Richloam, Steinhatchee Springs, St. Marks NWR (Newport Hunt Area only), Three Lakes, Upper St. Johns River Marsh and Yellow River.

Spring turkey season

Spring turkey season south of S.R. 70 always begins the first Saturday in March. This year it is March 3, running through April 8. In the rest of the state, it always opens the third Saturday of March, with this year being March 17 through April 22.

Walk-in public hunting areas

These 43 WMAs don’t require a quota to hunt some or all of the spring turkey season:

Osceola turkeys inhabit these areas

• Big Bend WMA – Jena Unit – 11,651 acres in Dixie County.

• Big Cypress WMA – 728,274 acres in Collier, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. Quota permit required to hunt in the Addition Unit only.  Season runs March 3 – April 8.  Camping allowed.

• Devil’s Hammock WMA – 7,600 acres in Levy County. Season runs March 17-25.  There are 15 no-cost, daily quota permits available at the check station on a first-come, first-served basis.

• Green Swamp WMA – 50,692 acres in Polk, Sumter and Lake counties. Hunters must have a quota permit to hunt the first weekend, but there are 200 no-cost, daily quota permits available at the check station on a first-come, first-served basis for the remainder of season. Camping allowed only by special permit from the FWC.

• Herky Huffman/Bull Creek WMA – 23,646 acres in Osceola County. Camping allowed.

• J.W. Corbett WMA – 60,288 acres in Palm Beach County. Season runs March 3 – April 8, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays only. Allowed to hunt until sunset. Camping allowed.

• Jumper Creek WMA – 10,552 acres in Sumter County. Camping allowed but only accessible by boat.

• Kissimmee Chain of Lakes Area – 21,028 acres in Polk and Osceola counties. Allowed to hunt until sunset. Camping allowed first-come, first-served only at designated campsites. Management area permit not required.

• Kissimmee River Public Use Area – 30,864 acres in Glades, Highlands, Okeechobee, Osceola and Polk counties. Area is split between turkey hunting zones. When hunting south of S.R. 70, the season runs March 3 – April 8. For camping information only, call the South Florida Water Management District at 866-433-6312, option 2. Management area permit not required.

• Lake Monroe WMA – 3,098 acres in Volusia and Seminole counties.

• Lochloosa WMA – 11,149 acres in Alachua County.

• Log Landing WMA – 5,015 acres in Dixie, Gilchrist and Lafayette counties.  Season runs March 17-18 and 23-25, March 30 – April 1, and April 6-8, 13-15 and 20-22.

• Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge – 55,000 acres in Dixie and Levy counties. Season runs March 17 – April 8. Management area permit not required, but hunters 16 and older must purchase Lower Suwannee NWR Hunting Permit.

• Raiford WMA – 9,141 acres in Bradford and Union counties. Quota permit not required April 5-8. Only bows and muzzleloaders (including muzzleloading rifles) are allowed.

• Richloam WMA – 58,146 acres in Hernando, Pasco, Sumter and Lake counties. Hunters must have a quota permit to hunt the first nine days, but those without one may hunt the remainder of the season. Camping allowed only by permit from the Florida Forest Service by calling 352-797-4140.

• Rolling Meadows Unit – Kissimmee Chain of Lakes Area – 1,800 acres in Polk County. Allowed to hunt until sunset. Management area permit not required.

• Santa Fe Swamp Wildlife and Environmental Area – 7,326 acres in Alachua and Bradford counties. Only bows and muzzleloaders (including muzzleloading rifles) are allowed.

• Three Lakes WMA – 63,470 acres in Osceola County. There are 625 no-cost, daily quota permits available first-come, first-served at the following check stations: U.S. 44 – 375, Canoe Creek – 50, S.R. 60 – 200. Camping allowed.

Upper Hillsborough WMA – 5,178 acres in Polk and Pasco counties.  Wednesdays and Thursdays only. There are 75 no-cost, daily quota permits available at the check station on a first-come, first-served basis. Camping allowed.

• Upper St. Johns River Marsh WMA – 120,386 acres in Brevard and Indian River counties. Camping allowed.

Eastern turkeys inhabit these areas

• Apalachicola WMA – 581,290 acres in Franklin, Leon, Liberty and Wakulla counties. Camping allowed. A camping permit issued by Northwest Florida Water Management District is required when camping on that portion of the area.   

• Apalachicola River Wildlife and Environmental Area – 82,975 acres in Franklin and Gulf counties. Camping allowed, but camping permit required if camping in designated campground. Management area permit not required.

• Aucilla WMA – 50,471 acres in Jefferson and Taylor counties. Camping allowed.

• Big Bend WMA:

– Hickory Mound Unit – 14,427 acres in Taylor County.

– Snipe Island Unit – 11,687 acres in Taylor County. Hunters must have a quota permit to hunt the first 16 days, but those without one may hunt April 2-8. Allowed to hunt until sunset.

– Spring Creek Unit – 14,600 acres in Taylor County.

– Tide Swamp Unit – 19,538 acres in Taylor County.

• Blackwater WMA – 191,651 acres in Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties. May not turkey hunt in Field Trial Area. Camping allowed at designated campsites.

• Chipola River WMA – 9,094 acres in Jackson and Calhoun counties. Quota permit required to hunt Altha Tract only. Camping allowed only at designated campsites by permit from Northwest Florida Water Management District.

• Choctawhatchee River WMA – 57,998 acres in Bay, Holmes, Walton and Washington counties. Southern (non-spring turkey quota area) portion of the area may be hunted without quota permit. Camping allowed. A camping permit issued by Northwest Florida Water Management District is required when camping in designated campgrounds.

• Econfina Creek WMA – 41,193 acres in Washington, Bay and Jackson counties. Quota permit not required to hunt after the first nine days, except in the Cat Creek and Fitzhugh Carter areas (where quota permit is needed). Camping allowed only at designated campsites by permit from Northwest Florida Water Management District.

• Eglin Air Force Base – 250,000 acres in Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton counties. Hunting and camping allowed only by permit from Jackson Guard Natural Resource Office by calling 850-882-4164.

• Escambia River WMA – 35,413 acres in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. Camping allowed. A camping permit issued by Northwest Florida Water Management District is required when camping in designated campgrounds.

• Lower Econfina River WMA – 3,004 acres in Taylor County. Season runs March 17-25.

• Mallory Swamp WMA – 31,225 acres in Lafayette County. Season runs March 17 – April 1.

• Ochlockonee River WMA – 2,790 acres in Leon County. Saturdays and Sundays only.

• Osceola WMA – 266,270 acres in Baker and Columbia counties. For camping information on Osceola National Forest, call 386-752-2577; on John M. Bethea State Forest, call 904-259-2157 or click on area link and see “Camping.”

• Pine Log WMA – 6,911 acres in Bay and Washington counties. Season runs March 17 – April 8. Camping allowed by reservation from Florida Forest Service by calling 850-373-1801.

• Point Washington WMA – 15,355 acres in Walton County. Camping allowed at Eastern Lake campsite by reservation from Florida Forest Service by calling 850-373-1801.

• Steinhatchee Springs WMA – 24,442 acres in Lafayette, Taylor and Dixie counties. Hunters must have a quota permit to hunt the first nine days, but those without one may hunt March 26 – April 8.  The Dixie County portion of the area is inhabited by Osceola turkeys.

• St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge – 32,000 acres in Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties. Permit required on majority of the area, but not required for Newport Hunt Area. Management area permit not required but must have signed refuge hunting brochure in your possession.

• Talquin WMA – 3,053 acres in Leon County.  Saturdays and Sundays only.

• Yellow River WMA – 27,208 acres in Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties.  Camping allowed.

Bag limits and regulations

Hunters may take bearded turkeys and gobblers only, and the daily bag limit is two on private lands. On WMAs, you may only take one bird a day. The season and possession limit on turkeys is two, except in Holmes County, where it is one.

On private property, any legal rifle, shotgun, muzzleloader, crossbow, bow or pistol can be used to take turkeys. However, the allowed methods of take during spring turkey season are more restrictive on WMAs. Rifles and pistols are generally not allowed, and shotguns must use shot no larger than No. 2. Check the WMA brochure on the area you wish to hunt to be sure.

Shooting hours on private lands and some WMAs are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset, but on most WMAs, you must quit hunting by 1 p.m.

You can use decoys, but you’re not permitted to hunt turkeys with dogs, use recorded turkey calls or sounds, or shoot them while they’re on the roost, over bait or when you’re within 100 yards of a game-feeding station when feed is present.

License and permit requirements

(Additional license and permit details available at

Licenses and permits can be purchased in Florida at county tax collectors’ offices and at most retail outlets that sell hunting/fishing supplies, and with a credit card by calling 888-HUNT-FLORIDA (486-8356) or at

Good luck!

Here’s wishing all of you a safe, successful spring turkey season!

by Toby Benoit

Every year when spring rolls around, turkey hunters return to their favorite turkey fields and forests, dressed head-to-toe in their favorite camo. We can’t help but grow as excited as children on Christmas Eve as turkey hunting is just plain addicting, and it’s time to get our fix. But what makes it so addicting?

Turkey hunting is so darned unpredictable. There are times that it seems easy, calling in those hard-gobbling two-year-old toms, and you’ll begin to believe that as a turkey hunter, you can do no wrong. But, that only lasts until you run into a wise old gobbler who’s seen a thing or two, and he forces you to pull out all the stops to put him in your vest. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, but every time, I’m betting that you’ll enjoy the challenge!

But no matter how smart those old toms may get, your success in the spring is still largely dependent upon your own preparedness. Communicating with and luring an old he-devil of a gobbler to the gun is extremely satisfying and will put your skills to the test, both as a turkey hunter and an all-around outdoorsman. Do you have what it takes to kill an ornery old long beard this turkey season? Here are a few tips for turkey hunting I don’t mind sharing with you.

Pre-Season Scouting

February, for most of us, is when that turkey hunting itch really begins. And the best way to scratch that itch is with pre-season scouting. Now, by the time you read this, you should have been long ago in the woods looking for the flock. Scout food sources such as mast bearing hardwood flats, cut grain fields, and pastures for tracks, droppings, and scratching. Locating the flock with this tactic gives you the general area, but later in the month, you will focus more on locating gobblers to hunt.

Any time that you can get free, make your way out to the woods. The more you learn about the flock’s movements, the better off you’ll be. And get out to scout, especially if it’s raining. When you’re hunting Osceola turkeys, rainy days means they like to come out to open areas like power lines, clear cuts and fields. That’s a good time to take a cruise around if you’ve got some open fields and put your binoculars to work checking out the gobblers. Osceola experts like Scott Ellis, Chuck Echinique and Jimmy Jones don’t just wait until opening day and just wing it in the woods. You can bet that a majority of their success, and mine too, comes from all the work that’s done ahead of the season.

And if you really want a dress rehearsal for the big show, take a kid hunting! Florida’s Youth Season, dependent upon which zone you’re located in, allows the kids to take to the woods with a licensed adult to try and bag themselves a bird. That is the perfect time to be in the woods wiping the dust off of your calling skills and letting those youngsters bag a bird and a whole lot of great memories. It’ll give you a real idea of what to expect the following weekend when it’s time to invite your own turkey for a ride in the back of your vest.


Arguably, the preferred time to hunt a turkey is right off of the roost. And the easiest way to hunt a gobbler in the spring is finding his roost the night before. Now, turkeys won’t use the same tree night after night, so go to the roost area well before dark and without spooking the birds, get within earshot, and listen for wings flapping and light calling as the turkeys fly up on their roosts for the night. You might even employ a locator call, like an owl or crow call to get a tom to gobble on the roost as its just turning dark. By getting in close and listening to a tom on the roost, you will know exactly where to be for the next morning’s hunt.

Wake up early and walk in under the cover of darkness, preferably without using a light, and set up close to the tree. Call to the tom lightly after he begins to talk on the roost. If you let him know there is a hen below in your direction he may come and investigate.

Just know that if he doesn’t fly down to join your decoys for breakfast, the hunt is far from over. Many times when I’ve hunted the roost trees, I’ve had a big gobbler overlook my calling and head off to join his flock of hens. However, very often later in the morning, Mister Tom, having bred any hen that would stand for him, will leave the flock and double back, looking for one last piece of tail-feather from the sultry hen he’d heard that morning. That hen being your calling, of course. Many seasons I’ve taken my birds by staying in that roosting area and catching my gobbler late in the morning as he doubled back, so it really pays to stay put.


This is one tip I can’t possibly place enough stress upon. Just because a turkey doesn’t charge in chasing after your decoys, doesn’t mean he’s not going to saunter in and try to give one a smooch. Old gobblers, like us old men, tend to take our time about such things.

Last year I guided three hunters from Kansas. Each of these three gents had years of turkey hunting experience behind them, but none of them had ever hunted an Osceola. They started out calling to roosted birds and before that tom even had time to leave his limb, they were up running and gunning, chasing gobbles all over the place trying to get in close to a hard-gobbling tom. But they would stay put only a half an hour to 45 minutes before giving up on that bird and hoofing it out in search of another. I could only shake my head. They went home empty-handed…

Sometimes, you have to just sit tight. Assume that gobbler is minutes away at any given time, and when you’ve sat as long as you think you can and that the turkey has left the area, wait another 10 minutes!

Often the bird hasn’t lost interest. He’s actually just working his way in, but only taking his time about it. Can’t tell you the number of times back in the early 80s, when I would get up and head on back to the truck only to hear a frustrated gobbler sounding off from the spot I’d just left.

And this, while not entirely a tip, is just sound advice, “Don’t give up!” As the old saying goes, “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.” The more you hunt them, the more they’ll teach you. And there is no better teacher for turkey hunters than the turkeys themselves!

If you have any questions or other input, feel free to contact me at

by Florida Fish and Wildlife
Conservation Commission

Summary: At its February meeting, the commission approved rule changes related to hunting and FWC-managed areas around the state. Most of the rule changes expand or enhance hunting opportunities based on hunter preference and sound science to ensure sustainability, officials said. Other rules promote safety or address declining deer populations at a couple WMAs. Final rules take effect July 1, 2018.

(See Final Hunting Rules Presentation for more details:

Statewide rule proposals

Rule changes related to doves

Modifies the dove season dates to better accommodate hunter preference.  An expected expansion of dove season dates by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides an opportunity for FWC to redistribute days to allow dove hunting later in the year, which most hunters indicated they preferred. The total season length of 90 days combined over all 3 phases would remain the same.

Expands shooting hours during Phase I of the dove season from 1/2 hour before sunrise to sunset. Currently Phase I shooting hours are from noon to sunset.

Modifies the $35 special-opportunity daily dove hunt permit to allow for a host hunter and youth hunter to each take a daily bag limit of doves. Currently, a host and youth must share a bag limit unless a $10 youth permit option is purchased.  This change was proposed to encourage youth participation in hunting as a part of the FWC’s R3 efforts to recruit, retain and reactivate hunters.

Rule changes related to
pre-charged pneumatic air guns

Allows the use of pre-charged pneumatic air guns for hunting deer and turkey on public and private lands.

Creates a definition of what a pre-charged pneumatic air gun is – a powerful air gun charged from an external source such as a SCUBA tank – and specifies what caliber and projectile types may be used to take deer and turkey.

Limits hunting seasons when air guns may be used to avoid conflicting with current methods of take allowed during a given season. For example, proposal would allow air guns during existing general gun hunting seasons but not during archery seasons.

Background: The design and capabilities of air guns have evolved significantly. Today, pre-charged pneumatic air guns have the range and power to take big game. In addition, in the last decade they have become more affordable and commercially available. As a result, more hunters have requested using them to take big game. Currently, eight states allow air guns to be used to take deer and four states allow them to take turkey.

Rule changes to expand
hunting opportunities and
establish public hunting areas

Rule changes for 61 WMAs include:

a) Adding new hunts.

b) Increasing the number of days of hunting.

c) Adding methods of take or species legal to take to existing hunts.

d) Removing the need for quota permits.

Rule changes to establish the
following three public hunting areas (which add about 11,260 acres):

Everglades Headwaters WMA, Hatchineha Unit (1,460 acres), a new WMA located in Polk County. This area will be the second tract of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge to be included in Florida’s WMA system.

Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, Rolling Meadows Unit (~1,800 acres) in Polk County, which is managed by the South Florida Water Management District.

Plank Road WMA (8,000 acres), a new WMA in Leon and Jefferson counties managed by the Florida Forest Service.

Additional specific area
rule change proposals

Changing regulations on 27 areas related to roads, vehicles, access, hunting equipment, scouting, check stations or camping.

Changing regulations on nine areas related to unit designations, dates, bag limits or use of dogs.

Prohibiting the take of antlerless deer on two WMAs to address population declines and ensure the sustainability of hunting opportunities.

Addressing unsafe target shooting on the Everglades Complex of WMAs, which includes Everglades and Francis S. Taylor, Holey Land and Rotenberger WMAs.

Removing restrictions related to stoves when camping on J.W. Corbett WMA.

Rules process details

The process for developing rules started in April 2017 with the review of 205 requests for changes received from the public, staff and cooperators. Of these, staff recommended 141 rule change proposals.

Summaries of all rules were available to the public for commenting online. Public comment opportunities were solicited through:

• FWC’s HuntFlorida Facebook page.

• @MyFWC Twitter account.

• Hunting Hot Sheet e-newsletter.

• GovDelivery (FWC’s email news group service) e-blast to over 152,000 unique email addresses.

Input was received via phone, email, online and other channels. Staff evaluated this public input and made appropriate changes to rule proposals when necessary. The majority of rule proposals were well supported.

(Media contact: Tammy Sapp, 850-228-1353)

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is hosting a Women’s Saltwater Fishing Clinic in Jacksonville on Sept. 16 and an Adult Saltwater Fishing Clinic on Sept. 17.

The free, day-long clinics are from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. at Jacksonville University, 2800 University Blvd. N., Jacksonville.

Advance registration is required. To register or get more information, email Heather Sneed at or call 850-487-0554.

The Adult Saltwater Fishing Clinic is for women and men 18 years of age or older and no prior saltwater fishing experience is required.

Participants will take home a lifelong hobby and leave with a new appreciation for the marine environment. They will learn the basics of conservation stewardship, fishing ethics, angling skills, safety and the vulnerability of Florida’s marine ecosystems in a fun, laid-back atmosphere.

Lessons include knot tying, rod and reel rigging, how to be a responsible marine resource steward, marine fish and habitat identification, catch-and-release techniques and more.

If conditions allow, participants will have the opportunity to practice their newly learned skills by fishing from shore or a pier. This event is a catch-and-release activity. All participants must have a valid recreational saltwater fishing license unless exempt. Saltwater fishing licenses can be purchased at your local tackle shop or online. Learn more by visiting

Fishing equipment and bait are provided during the clinic but participants are encouraged to bring their own gear.

There’s still time to remove lionfish and win prizes by participating in the 2017 Lionfish Challenge. The statewide lionfish removal incentive program will come to a close Sept. 4. The winners, also known as the Lionfish King/Queen (recreational category) and the Commercial Champion, will be crowned at the Lionfish Safari in St. Petersburg at 4 p.m. Sept. 9. Join Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) staff along with Lionfish Safari organizer Reef Monitoring, as we celebrate these amazing lionfish hunters at the North Straub Park, 400 Bay Shore Drive NE.

Competition is fierce. The 100 recreational and commercial participants have removed more than 12,300 lionfish so far (just over 6,000 recreationally and just under 6,000 commercially) and have received prizes ranging from T-shirts, tumblers and heat packs to ZombieStickz Lionfish Eliminator and Neritic pole spears, Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium gift bags and ZooKeeper Lionfish Containment Units. Lionfish Challenge winners will be given a custom-made FishBone Design trophy and a No Shoes Reefs limited edition Engel 85 cooler.

The FWC’s Lionfish Challenge started on Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day, May 20.

To enter, participants register online at and submit their harvest of 25 lionfish (or 25 pounds commercially).

The more lionfish you enter, the more prizes you will receive.

Think you have what it takes to be crowned the next Lionfish King/Queen or Commercial Champion? Sign up and learn more today at

Learn more about the Lionfish Safari at by scrolling over “Event Page” and clicking on “Lionfish Safari.”

Also, be sure to check out the new and improved Reef Rangers website at, which will be launched Sept. 5.