Fall is that time of year when hikers in Florida are eager to hit the trail for the new hiking season. Fall is also when hunters take to the woods for their biggest season of the year: deer hunting season.
You’ll find deer hunting starting in October with special opportunity hunts and challenging weaponry such as archery and muzzleloading.
November is when general gun season for deer hunting begins in earnest. Using the Ocala National Forest – a popular deer hunting destination – as an example, it tends to start in early November and run through early January.
It’s immediately followed by small game season through early March. Spring turkey season begins around the same time.
So while hiking weather is in its prime, it’s also time for hunting. What’s a hiker to do?
Before you head out to your favorite trail, check ahead: is hunting permitted there? If so, what are the dates?
You’ll find this information by digging through the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission web page on Florida’s Wildlife Management Areas, linked below.
Look and see if the public land you’re headed to is on this page. If so, click on that land and download the PDF brochure.
Read it. Hunting dates and regulations are included in each brochure and are different for every WMA.
We’ve directly linked to many of these resources throughout our website. Look for a “Hunt Dates” button at the bottom of our destination pages.
Once you know for certain that the public land you’re headed to is also a wildlife management area, follow up by checking the land manager websites – national forests, water management districts, etc.
Know their regulations. Some public lands limit camping for backpackers while general gun season is in full swing, for your personal safety.
Keep a bright orange vest or t-shirt and hat in the car for those times you arrive at a trailhead and discover hunting season is in full swing. Don’t venture into the woods without them if you are hiking in a hunting area.
Hunters are being quiet for a reason. Don’t make a lot of noise, but do make your presence known. You’re both enjoying the outdoors in different ways.
The primary public lands where hunting is allowed include state forests, national forests, water management district lands, military reservations, and some of the National Wildlife Refuges, plus the specifically-established WMAs, or wildlife management areas.
The Florida Trail also runs through private hunting leases where you may encounter hunters any time of year. In these, you should wear orange for your safety.
If you prefer hiking where you won’t run into hunters in the woods, stick to public lands where hunting isn’t permitted.
The public lands in the categories listed below do not allow hunting. Of these, we highly recommend the Florida Trail on the Cross Florida Greenway and the loop trails in Florida State Parks for backpacking during hunting season.
For more information, see Hiker safety during deer hunting season