Every year, I get asked about how to hike safely in the woods during hunting season, so every year, it bears repeating. As hunting is a well-established traditional use of our forests in Florida – thinning the deer population and putting dinner in people’s freezers – it’s up to us as hikers to respect our fellow venturers in the outdoors and how they practice their craft. Remember, hunters who walk through the woods to follow their targets – or to get to a remote deer stand – are hikers, too.
- Wear a bright orange vest, as hunters do (you can get them cheap at Wal-Mart)
- Use courtesy when walking past deer stands or hunt camps
- Walk softly but if you’re with folks, talk so hunters know where you are.
- Don’t intentionally spook wildlife when you’re around hunters
- Be friendly in your interactions
Show respect, and you’ll receive respect in return.
If you’re uncomfortable with hunting as a sport, or uncomfortable about sharing the woods with hunters, there are plenty of other places you can play in Florida’s forests during hunting season. With rare exceptions, Florida State Parks and county parks with trails do not allow any hunting at any time of year. Neither does the Cross Florida Greenway or the Florida Trail around Lake Okeechobee.
General gun season along the Florida Trail in the Ocala National Forest continues through January 8.
Keep in mind that on some public lands, like the Ocala National Forest, your camping options and / or access are restricted during general gun season. For information on specific hunt dates and other hunting seasons throughout the year, see the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission website.