The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), at its meeting at the Florida Public Safety Institute near Tallahassee last week, passed changes that divide the state’s Hunting Zone D (from Pensacola to Tallahassee) into two deer management units (DMUs), each with a unique set of antler-point requirements and antlerless deer harvest days.
These changes take effect during the 2014-15 hunting season and are part of a larger, statewide project aimed at managing deer on a more local level and providing stakeholders with a greater say in deer management.
The FWC conducted a public outreach and input process in northwest Florida beginning in early 2013. Since then, the Commission has received substantial input and comments from hunters, farmers and the general public regarding how they would like to see deer managed in the newly proposed DMUs.
As a result of this outreach process, the FWC passed rules for both public and private lands in both of the DMUs in Zone D, with Interstate 10 being the dividing line between the two DMUs. South of I-10 will be called DMU-D1, and north of I-10 is DMU-D2.
Now bucks harvested south of I-10 in DMU-D1 must have antlers with at least 2 points (each point having to be at least 1 inch long) on one side and at least one antler 5 inches or more in length.
North of I-10 in DMU-D2, the minimum antler requirement is now 3 points (each point having to be at least 1 inch long) on one side and have at least one antler 5 inches or more in length, or have an antler with a main beam length of 10 inches or more.
The rule includes an exception for youth to the increased antler requirements in both DMUs whereby hunters 15 years old and younger may continue to harvest bucks that have at least one antler 5 inches or more in length.
The Commission’s action also changes the antlerless deer season (“doe days”) on private lands within Zone D. During antlerless deer season, does may be harvested as well as bucks with less than 5-inch antlers. But it is illegal to take spotted fawns.
In DMU-D1 (south of I-10), the antlerless season was reduced to four days consisting of two popular holiday weekends (the weekends after Thanksgiving and Christmas).
In DMU-D2 (north of I-10), antlerless deer season was lengthened to eight days distributed across four weekends (Saturday-Sunday after Thanksgiving, first weekend of muzzleloading gun season, third weekend of general gun season and the weekend after Christmas).
The purpose of modifying the antlerless deer season was to spread out the hunting opportunity, so that more hunters could participate without reducing deer populations. These changes will be monitored to measure any impacts they may have on deer harvest and hunter satisfaction within each DMU.
For more information on Hunting Zone D’s newly established DMUs and their respective modifications to deer hunting regulations, click MyFWC.com/Deer.