Updates about 2020-2021 waterfowl hunting

by Tony Young 

Duck hunters at T.M. Goodwin Waterfowl Management Area, southern Brevard County, Florida; March 14, 2017. FWC photo by Tim Donovan

Florida is offering veterans and active duty service members a special opportunity to hunt waterfowl Feb. 6-7, 2021. 

Change in how STA morning waterfowl no-show opportunities are distributed

This year, waterfowl hunting opportunities created by permit holders who don’t show up for morning stormwater treatment area hunts will be distributed differently. Almost half the hunters who draw STA morning-hunt waterfowl permits don’t show up for the hunt. Because of this, large crowds of hunters gather at STA check stations at 5 a.m. – hoping to be drawn during the early morning onsite lotteries.

Based on input from hunters; FWC staff; and the land management partner, the South Florida Water Management District; we will be using an online random draw system beginning this year instead of onsite lotteries to distribute morning no-show waterfowl hunting opportunities. This change is expected to minimize safety hazards due to overcrowding, improve hunter check-in management and more fairly distribute the no-show hunting opportunities.

Those who want a chance to replace a no-show hunter at a morning STA hunt can apply at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com. A management area permit is needed to apply.  Hunters may select up to 10 hunt choices on their standby opportunity application, which will be available for four waterfowl application periods: September Special Early Duck, and Regular Season A, B and C. Only one application may be submitted per period. It’s possible applicants could be awarded as many opportunities as they apply for in Phase I. However, applicants may not be awarded more than one standby opportunity per day. Any standby opportunities not issued in the Phase 1 drawing will be available first come, first served during Phase 2 until all opportunities are issued.

The online drawings for morning standby opportunities will be held about two weeks prior to the first day of the hunt for each of the four waterfowl application periods. The random drawings will produce a standby list of selected applicants in numerical order. Hunters awarded a standby opportunity will receive an email that explains the standby process and directs them to MyFWC.com/Duck to see what number they were awarded on the standby list. This numbered standby list for each morning STA waterfowl hunt also will be posted at the area check station and provided to local FWC law enforcement officers.

It’s important to note there is no guarantee a person on a standby list for a given morning hunt will get the opportunity to enter the area to hunt. The number of standby STA opportunities will be the same as the total number of permits for each hunt, with the “next in line” standby hunter replacing each no-show until the original quota is met.

Only those hunters on the standby list are eligible to replace no-show hunters. Those on the list who do not initially get to hunt may wait at the check station in hope of taking the place of any hunters who leave early but there are no guarantees of getting to enter the area to hunt.

The new no-show issuance process is only for the morning STA waterfowl hunts. The afternoon hunts will continue to issue no-show STA waterfowl opportunities by on-site lotteries, which in many cases aren’t required.

New bag limit on scaup

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reducing the bag limit on scaup due to a 10% population decline between 2018 and 2019. States were allowed to choose from the following options to meet this new bag limit requirement for scaup:

  • One bird daily for the entire 60-day waterfowl season, or
  • One bird for 40 days of the season and two birds for 20 days.

The FWC chose the second option and placed the two-bird bag limit on the last 20 days of the duck season to give Florida hunters the most opportunity. Scaup numbers in Florida are at their highest toward the end of the season.    

During the 2020-2021 waterfowl season, the bag limit on scaup will be:

  • One scaup per day from Nov. 21-29 and Dec. 12-Jan. 11.
  • Two scaup per day from Jan. 12-31; during the Youth Waterfowl Days (Nov. 14 and Feb. 13); and during the new Veteran’s/Military Waterfowl Hunting Days on Feb. 6-7.

Find 2020-2021 Florida migratory bird hunting season dates and bag limits at MyFWC.com/Hunting.

New waterfowl hunting weekend for military and veterans

Veterans and active duty service members are getting a special weekend to hunt waterfowl beginning this coming hunting season. The new Veteran’s and Military Waterfowl Hunting Days will occur Feb. 6-7, the weekend after the regular duck season closes.

This opportunity allows only veterans and members of the Armed Forces on active duty, including members of the National Guard and Reserves, to hunt ducks, geese, mergansers, coots and common gallinules (moorhens). During Veteran’s and Military Waterfowl Hunting Days, bag and possession limits for each species are the same as the regular season.

Learn more about waterfowl hunting opportunities at MyFWC.com/Duck.

Duck hunters at T.M. Goodwin Waterfowl Management Area, southern Brevard County, Florida; March 14, 2017. FWC photo by Tim Donovan