One of the largest, most populated states in the country, Florida is well-known for its beautiful but unique natural environment. One of the easiest ways to take advantage of this beauty is by hunting since the state has an active and well-organized wildlife management program that boasts a herd of whitetail deer numbering around 750,000. To harvest one, make sure you know the dates of the Florida hunting season and other important regulations.
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Florida Deer Hunting Season Dates for 2023-2024
The Florida whitetail season is a bit unique compared to other states in that there are entirely separate seasons for antlered and antlerless deer. Antlered deer are defined as those with antlers five inches long or longer, meaning that button and spike bucks will fall into the antlerless season. You cannot take spotted fawns.
Additionally, the seasons vary by the state’s four hunting zones, A-D. There they may also be differences and specific regulations based on the Deer Management Unit. Each zone is divided into DMUs, giving them designations like DMU A3. Zone A has three zones, B has one, C has six, and D has two.
Antlered Season Dates
|Season||Zone A||Zone B||Zone C||Zone D|
|Archery||July 29-Aug. 27||Oct. 14-Nov. 12||Sept. 16-Oct. 15||Oct. 21-Nov. 22|
|Crossbow||July 29-Sept. 1||Oct. 14-Nov. 17||Sept. 16-Oct. 20||Oct. 21-Nov. 22;|
Nov. 27-Dec. 1
|Muzzleloading||Sept. 2-15||Nov. 18-Dec. 1||Oct. 21-Nov. 3||Dec. 2-8;|
|Youth* weekend||Sept. 9-10||Nov. 25-26||Oct. 28-29||Dec. 2-3|
|General gun||Sept. 16-Oct. 15;|
Nov. 18-Jan. 7
|Dec. 2-Feb. 18||Nov. 4-Jan. 21||Nov. 23-26;|
Dec. 9-Feb. 18
Antlerless Season Dates
The antlerless season depends not only on the zone, but also the specific DMU. Some DMUs lack certain seasons altogether.
|Season||DMU A1||DMU A2||DMU A3|
|Archery||N/A||July 29-Aug. 6||July 29-Aug. 13|
|Crossbow||N/A||July 29-Aug. 6||July 29-Aug. 13|
|Youth weekend||N/A||Sept. 9-10||Sept. 9-10|
|General gun||N/A||Nov. 18-19||Nov. 18-21|
|Archery||Oct. 14-Nov. 12|
|Crossbow||Oct. 14-Nov. 12|
|Youth weekend||Nov. 25-26|
|General gun||Dec. 29-31|
|Season||DMU C1||DMU C2||DMU C3||DMU C4||DMU C5||DMU C6|
|Archery||Sept. 16-Oct. 15||Sept. 16-Oct. 15||Sept. 16-Oct. 15||Sept. 16-Oct. 15||Sept. 16-Oct. 15||Sept. 16-Oct. 15|
|Crossbow||Sept. 16-Oct. 15||Sept. 16-Oct. 15||Sept. 16-Oct. 15||Sept. 16-Oct. 15||Sept. 16-Oct. 15||Sept. 16-Oct. 15|
|Youth weekend||Oct. 28-29||Oct. 28-29||Oct. 28-29||Oct. 28-29||Oct. 28-29||Oct. 28-29|
|General gun||Nov. 17-20||Nov. 17-19||Nov. 17-19||Nov. 17-20||Nov. 4-5;|
|Season||DMU D1||DMU D2|
|Archery||Oct. 21-Nov. 22||Oct. 21-Nov. 22|
|Crossbow||Oct. 21-Nov. 22||Oct. 21-Nov. 22|
|Youth weekend||Dec. 2-3||Dec. 2-3|
|General gun||Nov. 25-26;|
Florida Bag Limits
Florida has a statewide bag limit of five deer per season, only two of which may be antlerless.
There is also a daily bag limit of two deer. However, during the antlerless deer seasons, only one of these two deer may be antlerless.
Further restrictions may apply to your specific DMU.
Florida Deer Hunting License Requirements and Costs
In Florida, a general hunting license is required for anyone who wants to hunt any game animal, including whitetail deer. They can be purchased for a single year, five years or a lifetime.
Normally, you also have to purchase specific permits depending on your activities, but a lifetime license grants the same privileges as the permits. There are also special licenses that cover them.
The Sportsman’s License includes:
- Hunting license
- Freshwater fishing license
- Deer permit
- Management area permit
- Archery permit
- Muzzleloading permit
- Crossbow permit
- Turkey permit
- Waterfowl permit
- Snook permit
- Lobster permit
The Gold Sportsman’s License includes the same as well as a saltwater fishing license.
Resident License Costs
|License||1-Year Cost||5-Year Cost||Lifetime* Cost|
|Youth General Hunting||$17.00||N/A||N/A|
|Senior (65+) General Hunting License||Free||N/A||N/A|
|Senior (64+) Sportsman’s License||$13.50||$61.50||N/A|
|Gold Sportsman’s License||$100.00||$494.00||$1,001.50|
|Military Gold Sportsman’s License (active duty or retired)||$20.00||N/A||N/A|
|Youth Gold Sportsman’s License||$100.00||N/A||N/A|
Nonresident License Costs
Nonresidents can purchase an annual hunting license for $151.50 or a 10-day hunting license for $46.50. They must then purchase any relevant permits as well.
In addition to your license, you’ll need to purchase a permit for the game animal you plan to hunt as well as the method of take. For example, if you’re hunting whitetail deer on public land with a recurve bow, you’ll need a deer permit, an archery permit and a management area permit.
Just remember that the lifetime license as well as the sportsman’s and gold sportsman’s licenses cover these permits, so you don’t have to obtain them separately.
With the exception of the turkey permit, permits cost the same for residents and nonresidents alike, but only residents may purchase the five-year option.
|Permit||1-Year Cost||5-Year Cost|
|Management Area Permit||$26.50||$126.50|
|Resident Turkey Permit||$10.00||$50.00|
|Nonresident Turkey Permit||$125.00||N/A|
|Migratory Bird Permit||Free||N/A|
|Federal Duck Stamp||$28.50||N/A|
Hunter Safety License Requirement
If you were born on or after June 1, 1975, you must show proof of having committed a hunter safety course to obtain a Florida hunting license.
If you do not have a hunter safety certification card, you may still purchase a license using the “hunter safety mentoring deferral.” In this case, you must hunt while supervised by a licensed hunter aged 21 or older, which will be printed on your license.
What Weapons Can You Hunt With in Florida?
Because Florida has a separate crossbow season, only vertical bows may be used during archery season. This includes longbows, recurve bows and compound bows. Since 2021, there has been no minimum draw weight for vertical bows, but there is a minimum cutting diameter for broadheads of ⅞ inches.
Crossbows may only be used during crossbow seasons, but there is no minimum draw weight. Broadheads must have a cutting diameter of at least ⅞ inches.
Vertical bows may also be used during crossbow seasons.
The main requirement for a firearm to be eligible for muzzleloading season is that the projectile be loaded through the muzzle. Additionally, it must be fired by wheel lock, flintlock, percussion cap or centerfire primer, including 209 primers. Muzzleloaders that allow for the powder to be loaded at the breech are permitted.
Vertical bows and crossbows may also be used during muzzleloading seasons.
Firearms not meeting the muzzleloading gun definition may only be used in the general gun season. Florida allows for centerfire rifles and pistols, shotguns and precharged pneumatic (PCP) air guns. Muzzleloading guns, crossbows and vertical bows may also be used during the general gun seasons.
The following firearms and ammunition are restricted for taking deer in Florida:
- Centerfire semi-automatic rifles with magazine capacities of more than five rounds
- Non-expanding full metal case ammunition
- Rimfire ammunition
- Fully automatic firearms
- Air guns that are not pre-charged pneumatic
- PCP air guns firing less than .30 caliber
Can You Hunt With an AR-15 in Florida?
You can hunt with an AR-15 in Florida as long as it’s not equipped with a magazine that holds more than five rounds. A standard AR-15 and most AR-15-style rifles shoot .223 Remington ammunition, which is centerfire and therefore permitted for hunting deer in Florida. However, make sure that your rifle has not been modified to be fully automatic, shoot rimfire ammunition, or meet any other restricted definition under Florida hunting regulations.
What Types of Deer Are Popular in Florida?
Although there have been efforts to reintroduce elk to the state, the only species of deer available for hunting in Florida is the whitetail deer. Nevertheless, they represent by far the most popular game animal in the state just like the country at large.
There is another species present in the state: key deer. However, with fewer than 1,000 individuals, it isn’t legal to hunt them.
What Else Is Popular to Hunt in Florida?
Whitetail deer aren’t the only game animal that you can hunt in Florida, though. There are also publicly managed seasons for:
- Gray squirrel
- Wild hogs