100 Best Public-Land Hunts: Florida

Blue Water Creek Wildlife Management Area
****Location
: northwest Florida
Size: 21,048 acres
ZIP: 32568

A high percentage of bucks taken at Blue Water are 3 1/2 years old or better, according to Cory Morea, a regional public lands biologist for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. This private timber land is opened to public hunting on a first-come, first-served permit system, and Morea says permits usually are available until December. Pine plantation is the dominant habitat type, with some hardwood areas along the many creek bottoms that crisscross the tract. The soil here in northwest Florida (just south and east of Alabama) is the best in the state, and it shows. "Blue Water has plenty of opportunities and a high hunter success rate," Morea notes, "plus a number of deer that came out of here in recent years have been pretty nice bucks." You'll need a deer with a Boone and Crockett score of 100 typical or 125 non-typical to make the Florida Buck Registry, and Blue Water is capable of producing them.

Blackwater Wildlife Management Area
Location
: northwest Florida
Size: 191,148 acres
ZIP: 32531

"Blackwater is old Florida," says Morea, "picture good quail habitat." Indeed, this big WMA (which is located within the Blackwater River State Forest, among the largest state forests in Florida) contains one of the country's last remaining stands of longleaf pine and wiregrass, an ecosystem that used to cover much of the southeast United States. It's good deer habitat, too, as the upward trend in deer numbers here in the past few years attests. A draw permit is required during the first 13 and last 17 days of the still-hunt season, but the four weeks in between are wide open-as are the archery and muzzleloader seasons. "The area gets very little hunting pressure during archery season," Morea says, "so it really stands out as an excellent place to bowhunt."