Native Floridian and Cocoa resident Capt. Grayson Padrick doesn’t need anyone reminding him of when to apply for alligator hunt permits. He’s been taking part in Florida’s internationally-recognized statewide alligator harvest program for 20 years and knows to apply for Phase I permits in May.
“I love the fast-paced adrenaline rush that I get when hunting alligators,” Padrick said. “And I really enjoy introducing youth and new people to gator hunting, especially those who’ve never been in the marsh or on an airboat.”
Padrick’s largest harvested alligator measured 13 feet, 2 inches, and it was a 16-year-old girl who Padrick guided that is credited as the lucky hunter. Padrick sells his alligator hides or turns them into leather and loves the taste of alligator meat.
May is also when hunters begin applying for fall quota, special-opportunity and national wildlife refuge hunt permits. So mark your calendar, set an alarm, whatever you need to do to remind yourself to apply for alligator and several fall hunting permits in May.
Alligator hunt permits
Since 1988, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has offered hunters the opportunity to take part in its annual statewide recreational alligator harvest that always runs Aug. 15 – Nov. 1. These special night hunts provide a hunting adventure unlike any other. Alligators are a conservation success story in Florida. The state’s alligator population is estimated at 1.3 million and has been stable for many years.
Phase I application period
The application period for the Phase I random drawing begins May 18 at 10 a.m. and runs through May 28. More than 6,000 alligator harvest permits will be available.
Hunters may submit their application for a permit that allows the harvest of two alligators on a designated harvest unit or county. Applicants must be at least 18 years of age by Aug. 15 and have a valid credit or debit card to apply.
Applications may be submitted at any county tax collector’s office, license agent (most retail outlets that sell hunting and fishing supplies) and at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com. Applicants must provide their credit card information when they apply. If you change your mind on where you’d like to hunt, or need to update your credit card information, you are able to make changes up until the application period closes.
The alligator trapping license/harvest permit and two hide validation CITES tags cost $272 for Florida residents, $22 for those with a Florida Resident Persons with Disabilities Hunting and Fishing License, and $1,022 for nonresidents. The cost for applicants who already have an alligator trapping license is $62.
Phase II and III application periods
Any permits remaining after the first phase will be offered during the Phase II random drawing June 1-11. Those who were awarded a permit in Phase I may not apply during Phase II. Remaining permits will be available in Phase III to anyone who did not draw a permit in either of the first two phases, and they may be applied for June 15-25.
Leftover application phase
If any permits remain after Phase III, there will be a fourth-phase issuance period beginning at 10 a.m. on June 28 until all permits are sold. Anyone may apply during Phase IV, even if they were awarded a permit in one of the earlier phases. Customers who get to purchase additional permits will be charged $62, regardless of residency or disability.
What to expect if you get drawn
Within three days of an application period closing, applicants may expect to see an authorization hold on their credit card, verifying there is a sufficient balance to cover the cost of the permit. However, this does not mean they were awarded a permit. Once the credit card authorization process is complete, the lottery drawing will be held. All successful applicants will be charged, while those who were unsuccessful will have the authorization hold lifted from their credit cards.
Successful applicants should expect to receive their alligator trapping license/harvest permit and two CITES alligator tags in the mail within six weeks of payment. Alligator trapping licenses are nontransferable. All sales are final, and no refunds will be made.
For more information on alligator hunting or the application process, see the “Guide to Alligator Hunting in Florida” by going to “MyFWC.com/Hunting” and then “By Species.”
Fall deer and hog quota hunt permits
The FWC offers thousands of quota hunt opportunities each year. Hunters may choose to apply for fall quota hunts for deer and wild hogs. There also are special hunts for families, youth, people with disabilities, bowhunters and those hunting with muzzleloaders.
A quota is the maximum number of hunters allowed on a particular wildlife management area. The FWC’s Quota Hunt Program prevents overcrowding on such areas and provides quality hunts. Quotas also help control game harvests. The FWC sets quotas based on an area’s size, habitat, game populations and regulations.
There are several types of quota permits, most of which are issued by random drawing, and the Phase I application period for these fall quota hunts is May 15–June 15. I’m talking about archery, muzzleloading gun, general gun, wild hog, youth, family, track vehicle, airboat and mobility-impaired quota hunt permits.
You may apply for each of the hunt types, and there is no fee to do so. But unless exempt, you must have an up-to-date $26 management area permit (or a license that includes one) when applying for a quota permit. If you do not have this, the system won’t accept your application.
The FWC offers youth deer hunts on Camp Blanding WMA in Clay County and on Andrews WMA in Levy County. If you have children between the ages of 8 and 15, and you want them to have a chance to experience one of these great hunts, apply for a youth quota hunt permit – 160 kids will get this opportunity. During these hunts only the youngsters may hunt, and they, along with their adult supervisors, are the only people allowed on the area.
There will be family quota hunts on 30 WMAs, and if drawn, the permit requires one adult take one or two youths hunting. The adult may not hunt without taking along a youngster.
Hunters certified by the FWC as mobility-impaired may apply for Mobility-impaired Quota Permits that allow exclusive access to general gun hunts on 10 of the state’s public hunting areas.
If you want to get the jump on one of these hunts, apply May 15–June 15 at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com, or have a license agent or tax collector’s office apply for you. To find out if you’ve been selected, log onto your customer account at that same web address after 10 a.m. on June 19.
If you don’t get drawn for a particular quota hunt, you’ll get a preference point for next year’s drawing, which will improve your chances of being selected. If you’re unable to use your quota permit and you return it at least 10 days prior to your hunt, you’ll get your preference point restored.
Special-opportunity fall hunts
Another great option is applying for special-opportunity fall hunt permits. Since 1997, the FWC has offered these unique fall-season hunts for deer, wild hog and released quail on some well-managed public hunting lands. Maybe it’s time you looked into getting in on the action and experiencing the hunt of a lifetime.
These extraordinary hunts offer large tracts of land with an abundance of game and low hunting pressure. All deer hunts allow you to take only mature bucks with at least one antler having four or more points, 1 inch or longer. Wild hogs also are legal to take during the deer hunts, and there is no size or bag limit on hogs.
These special-opportunity deer and wild hog hunts take place in central Florida on Fort Drum, Lake Panasoffkee, Triple N Ranch and Green Swamp West Unit WMAs. Camping is legal on all areas.
There is one seven-day general gun deer and hog hunt on the 20,858-acre Fort Drum WMA in Indian River County. The hunt costs $50, if you get drawn.
Lake Panasoffkee, in Sumter County, has eight four-day archery hunts for deer and hog on 8,676 acres. The permits are $100 for each hunt.
There are two seven-day general gun deer and hog hunts at Triple N Ranch in Osceola County. The permit costs $175 for each of the two hunt dates.
Pasco County’s Green Swamp West Unit, where the state’s highest-scoring deer on record was taken, has two archery hunts for deer and hogs on its 34,335 acres. There are also three general gun hunts for deer and hogs. All are four-day hunts costing $100.
All special-opportunity permit holders may bring one non-hunting guest during the deer and hog hunts.
The FWC also has released-quail hunts on the Carr Unit of Blackwater WMA in Santa Rosa County. With these hunts, you must bring and release your own pen-raised quail. These are seven-day (Saturday through Friday) hunts that run 16 consecutive weeks.
There’s just one permit available for each week, and if you’re lucky enough to draw one, you and up to three of your friends will have the entire 250 acres to yourselves. The permit costs $100 for each week.
Special-opportunity hunt permits are transferable by simply giving the permit to another person. Permit holders under age 16, or those who are certified mobility-impaired, may have a non-hunting assistant accompany them during all special-opportunity hunts.
If you’d like to take part in one or more of these hunts, you may apply beginning 10 a.m. on May 15 at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com, county tax collectors’ offices or most retail outlets that sell hunting and fishing supplies. The application period runs through midnight of June 15.
You may apply for as many special-opportunity hunts and dates as you like to increase your chances of being selected, but you must include the $5 nonrefundable application fee for each one. Hunters are limited to drawing only one permit per hunt area, though.
Special-opportunity results are available in rounds, and you may pay the cost of the selected hunt at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com or at any license agent or tax collector’s office. If you don’t claim your permit by paying for it in full by the claim deadline for each round, you forfeit it, and it’ll be available to the next customer waiting in line in the next round.
National Wildlife Refuge hunts
There are also several fall hunts on five national wildlife refuges that you may apply for during the same Phase I application period of May 15 – June 15. These National Wildlife Refuge hunts offer yet another unique and limited opportunity to hunt on well-managed habitat with healthy game populations and low hunting pressure. However, no guest permits are available for any of these hunts. And if you get drawn, you must pay for your permit by the claim deadline, or you forfeit it, and it’ll be available during the next application period which is first-come, first-served.
On the 21,574-acre Lake Woodruff in Volusia and Lake counties, you may apply for archery and muzzleloading gun hunts for deer and hog. There is no fee to apply, but if you get drawn, the permit costs $27.50.
You may apply for archery hunts on Brevard County’s 140,000-acre Merritt Island. There is no cost to apply, but if you get drawn, the permit is $27.50.
Just south of Tallahassee, you may apply for archery, general gun and mobility-impaired hunts on the 32,000-acre St. Marks. Each of these hunts cost $5 to apply for and if you get drawn, the permits are $27.50.
On Franklin County’s 11,400-acre St. Vincent Island, you may apply for primitive weapons hunts for the exotic and enormous sambar deer. It’s $5 to apply, and $37.50 to buy the permit should you get drawn.
Lower Suwannee, in Dixie and Levy counties, has a $15 permit you may purchase that allows you to hunt the entire fall and spring season on the 53,000-acre refuge. You may purchase this permit anytime between May 15 and up to the last day of spring turkey season.
Whether it’s a gator permit you want, or a fall quota, special-opportunity or refuge hunt that you’re after – or all of the above – don’t forget to apply in May!