For many, Thanksgiving Day traditions will begin in the pre-dawn beauty of Florida’s fields and forests. Across the state, deer seasons will be open, an opportunity many will take to unplug from the demands of daily life to experience the outdoors and spend precious time with friends and family. And when knowledge, skill and luck come together for a successful hunt, there’s also a healthy and delicious wild game meal to enjoy.
Hunting is a pathway to clean eating for many Floridians. Wild game meat is unprocessed and contains no preservatives, hormones or antibiotics. Plus, it’s a lean source of healthy protein that’s lower in calories and saturated fat than other red meat. When properly field dressed and prepared, venison and other wild game meat is tender and delicious. Making and sharing a wild game feast with friends and family underscores another important part of hunting: socialization. The telling and retelling of outdoor adventure stories and experiences with loved ones is considered by many to be the most important part of hunting.
There are other benefits to hunting. It provides that much desired living-in-the-moment experience because hunters must focus 100 percent on what they are hearing and seeing for any chance of success. There’s little room to worry about work or bills when straining to discern between the sounds of rustling leaves made by squirrels or the snap of twigs when deer move through the woods. So, while hunting can be relaxing, it’s also filled with suspense!
Hunting keeps the mind sharp as well. It provides constant learning opportunities whether you have days or decades worth of experience. It’s not uncommon to see deer in a field when driving down the road. However, when hunters enter deer habitat, it’s a whole different story. To even see deer, hunters must first understand when deer are active, what types of food they prefer, and what travel routes they commonly use. And because deer have such keen senses of sight and smell, hunters must take extra precautions to mask their scent and remain invisible. The most important lesson for hunters is how to be safe and responsible. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) hunter safety requirement and year-round hunter safety course offerings are designed to ensure hunting remains a safe activity.
Another outcome of hunting is a strong conservation ethic. Hunting provides a uniquely focused sensory experience that connects hunters to their natural world. Those who have witnessed a sunrise in the forest – when the dawn chorus of songbirds is in full swing and sunlight filters through the trees – are inspired to give back. Florida’s healthy game populations, along with a wide variety of wildlife species, are proof of this commitment to conservation by Florida hunters and the FWC. The agency’s wildlife professionals use scientific data to conserve game populations and provide sustainable hunting opportunities. Hunters are important partners in this conservation effort. They provide wildlife management funding through the purchase of hunting licenses that bring more dollars back to Florida in the form of Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration funding.
To take part in the general gun season for deer, hunters need a Florida hunting license and a deer permit. Zone B hunters participating in the muzzleloading season will also need a muzzleloading gun permit. In addition, those planning to hunt one of Florida’s many wildlife management areas will need a management area permit. Get more information about Florida hunting licenses and permits, hunting season dates and information about deer management units.
FWC offers several programs for those interested in learning about hunting: