Rut Reporter Eric Bruce has been writing about hunting and fishing for newspapers and magazines for 25 years and hunts deer all over the South, including near his Georgia home. States covered: AR, LA, MS, AL, GA, SC, FL.
The Sunshine State is known for a lot of things, but trophy deer hunting is not at the top of the list. It does, however, have a huntable deer population, and a few trophies are bagged each season. Florida has four zones– A,B,C, and D– each with its own seasons. Zone A is the extreme southern part of the state and the season started there on July 30.
“The rut takes place in most of south Florida in July and August,” says Florida Biologist Corey Morea. “With the tropical environment and year-round food, the water levels are the driving factor in the rut. In an everglades and cypress habitat, fawns need to be born before February so they’re mobile by the summer rains.”
In this unique environment, the rut is already on even though it is hot as blue blazes. Most of the hunting in south Florida is by spot-and-stalk. There are very few tall trees to hang a stand in. The ample ground brush, and palmettos allow for sneaking around and trying to get in range of deer. While most of the country imagines cool weather and colorful falling leaves with the whitetail rut, in south Florida the deer action and the weather is hot.
Trevor Fitzgerald of Southern Arrowhead Outfitters has some hunting buddies in south Florida. “I talked to a friend of mine that lives in West Palm and he hunts South Florida. He says the rut is in full swing down there right now and they have killed a few does. They have not had any luck on bucks yet. They have seen bucks chasing does, but no shot opportunities.”
Biologist Morea reports that in 2009, the total statewide deer harvest was 151,679 (2010 stats are not available yet). Of those, approximately 90,000 were bucks and 61,000 were antlerless. Archery hunters arrowed 13,528 bucks and 19,626 does with the balance and bulk of the harvest coming from gun hunters.
The best counties for a chance to harvest a Florida whitetail include Escambia, Jackson, Leon, Madison, and Jefferson, according to Morea. He assesses the statewide herd as stable to increasing. Zone C opens for hunting on September 17, while hunters in Zone B and D will have to wait till October.