Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida
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Hunting’s Role in Conservation

By: Kyle Grammatica

Florida is fortunate to have a rich outdoor heritage. We have amazing fishing locations and one of the most diverse populations of game species and wildlife areas. Our heritage is truly something worth preserving, and by complying with changing hunting and fishing policies we can ensure that animal populations are kept at healthy levels and will exist for future generations.

New Deer Harvesting Rules

The upcoming 2019-2020 deer hunting season is bringing in some new rules. The new annual deer bag limit is five deer per hunter, with no more than two antlerless deer or deer whose antlers are less than five inches. Antlerless deer are still only allowed to be hunted during legal seasons, such as archery season, or on specific designated days. Spotted fawns are prohibited from being hunted. The possession limit is four. This rule is applied statewide and applies to hunters regardless of age, military status, or disability.

The only exceptions to this rule are:

  • Deer harvested on licensed game farms and hunting preserves.
  • Deer harvested under a Private Lands Deer Management Program permit.
  • Deer harvested under the Antlerless Deer Program permit.

Another new rule relates to reporting of deer harvests. All hunters must log and report any deer harvested in the new season. To complete this process, you can use the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Deer Harvest App on your smartphone. The app will allow you to both log your harvest and report it to FWC all in one place. You also have the option of logging your harvest by using the Paper Deer Harvest Log and then reporting the harvest to FWC by phone using the number 844-392-DEER(3337). Once you have successfully reported your deer, you should receive a confirmation number through the app or by phone call. When you receive the confirmation number, click “Send Now” in the app, or add it to your paper log to complete the process. Logging must take place before the deer is moved from its harvest location, and final reporting needs to be done within 24 hours.

Click here for instructions on downloading and using the FWC Deer Harvest App or printing paper logs.

History of Deer Management in Florida

Florida’s native white-tailed deer were plentiful in the early days of the state’s colonization. Taking advantage of the situation, settlers established a widespread deer-hide trade in the 1700’s, starting the decline of the deer population. With the implementation of railroad systems, Florida’s population boomed and led to a reduction in wildlife habitat. The new residents hunted deer for food and trade, further reducing their population. The white-tailed deer hit its lowest point in the late 1930’s, both in Florida and many other states. People tried to address the animals dwindling numbers by creating wildlife refuges, but game laws were almost impossible to enforce outside of these limited areas. At least 10,000 deer were also killed in an effort to eradicate cattle-fever ticks.

Luckily, things began to change in the 1940’s. Several acts of legislation allowed for the creation and funding of the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission. The Commission had the authority and reach to properly enforce hunting and fishing laws. The new Commission purchased land to ensure the restoration of Florida’s wildlife. By the end of the 1940’s, the Commission had purchased 2.5 million acres. With habitat secured and game laws enforced, deer populations grew 10 times larger and annual deer harvests totaled over 40,000 deer. Over time, more research allowed for better conservation practices to ensure that the deer population, hunters, and farmland owners could  better coexist. Hunters help keep deer populations in check, preventing them from damaging their own habitat through overpopulation. They also help reduce the problem of deer herds harming farmer’s land and crops. Policymakers in turn make sure that the animals are not over-hunted like in the past. It is a challenging balance to achieve, but one that is worth the effort. Donate here to preserve our hunting grounds and the game animals that live there.

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