It’s that time again when those of us not blessed with the opportunity to hunt exclusively on private land, begin submitting quota permit applications to the Florida Wildlife Commission. Those permits if drawn, grant us access to certain public hunting grounds on specified dates within our system of Wildlife Management Areas. Most of us, being creatures of habit, apply for the same areas year after year, but I’d like to encourage you to take advantage of the summertime downtime to seek out some new hotspots on properties you haven’t left any tracks on.
Our state offers us the largest system of public access hunting in the country with over six million acres available for our use. However, in order to ensure that no one property receives too much hunting pressure and to properly manage the harvest, the state game officials use the quota system to best regulate the harvest. Many of our state Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) offer some of the best hunting you could ever ask for, but you have to do your homework.
Nothing beats putting boots on the ground and reading the sign first hand. Not all of the WMAs have open, drive-in access during the off-season, but don’t be dismayed. Lots of my hunting buddies have found some pretty creative ways to access these areas, which might even work for you. Hopefully it will lead you to some great fun whilst gaining you the knowledge you need to find success for the upcoming season.
Bicycles are one way. It’s not uncommon to find dedicated outdoorsmen and women pumping the pedals in the summertime heat to get to where they need to be for keeping tabs on the velvet antlered bucks. A good bicycle can save lots of time and blisters, while affording you a great workout; just don’t forget to hydrate in this heat.
Another great way, I certainly encourage, is to contact the local riding club and consider putting a little time in the saddle. Very few of our WMAs are closed to equestrian activities and if approached kindly, it’s not at all difficult to find a riding partner with a spare horse in need of some exercise. By riding out with these groups, not only can you cover a lot of ground, but also milk the equestrians for some excellent tips on areas they see deer most often. And, scouting on horseback is simply a fantastic way to further enjoy the outdoor experience. Now, you don’t have to be John Wayne or Roy Rogers to fit a saddle, but if you haven’t any riding experience, you might take a lesson or two first. It just might lead you to your next passion.
As for myself, I’ll admit, I’m too old and fat to get very far on a bike and let’s be honest, nobody my size would sit on a horse with good conscience. Therefore, I’m stuck hitting the trails with a stool to sit and rest when needed and blisters at the end of the day. Still … success favors the prepared, right?
If any of you would like to share a picture from your own adventures, or a story of your success on the hunt, feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]. God bless and good hunting!