As hunters we are all concerned and want to understand what is going on with Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). With the cool in the air, hunting season is defiantly on everyone’s mind. With that there has been a lot of information that has come out recently to clarify and update the public on new regulations and to provide guidance for the hunting season regarding Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) including Executive Order EO 23-30. As a hunter myself, I have attended the meetings and read the executive orders but that doesn’t always make it super clear. So here is a breakdown of the information I have gained from visiting with law enforcement officers and officials from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
No baiting (feeding) is allowed within the CWD management Zone, including baiting with corn or other grains/feed and the placement of salt/mineral products. This includes feeders or feeding on the ground, but this does not include food plots. If you are illegally baiting deer, it will be considered a 2nd degree misdemeanor, punishable up to a $500 fine and 6 months in jail. There are no current or future plans to charge a fee for a baiting permit. According to the comments at the public meeting on 9/19/23, baiting is something we can control. Deer are social animals that will naturally interact in the wild, and hunters cannot control that natural interaction. Yes, deer are still interacting at food plots, but the interaction is less concentrated than at a feeder for example. Not baiting is a useful tool for the early stages of CWD management. Food plots are not perfect, but it is a reduced risk and a compromise. This baiting rules only applies to the Management Zone above, not to the expanded monitoring zone seen below.
There were no changes made to total bag limits. Each hunter is still allowed 5 total deer, two of which can be antlerless. Deer that test positive do not count toward an individual’s bag limit. If you harvest a deer, decide to get it tested, and it comes back positive, you can surrender the positive deer the harvest to FWC, and that deer will not count toward your bag limits.
Movement of Harvested Deer
Deer that were harvested in Florida outside the CWD management zone can be brought into the zone without being deboned/processed. They can also come in and go back out of the zone after harvest (example: I kill a deer outside the zone, then I travel into the zone. I can then take the whole, harvested deer back out of the zone). Deer harvested within the CWD management zone CAN NOT leave the zone without being deboned and all soft tissue removed from the hide and skull. If you harvest a deer in the management zone and it comes back negative for CWD, you still can not move the deer out of the zone. Only deboned meat, cleaned hides, or skulls/skull caps with soft tissue removed can leave the CWD management zone.
Currently the only mandatory deer harvest check is planned for December 9-10, 2023 in Holmes, Washington and Jackson Counties. This is during the added antlerless deer weekend for those counties. If you harvest a deer during this weekend, you will need to take it to one of the multiple check stations. For testing you will bring the whole deer (maybe field dressed) to the check station. They will collect additional information about the deer (age, etc.), as well as the needed sample for CWD testing. FWC will be posting the locations of those check stations later. Currently, testing time is expected to be approximately 30 days. FWC understands that 30 days is a long time to hold meat before processing and are working on ways to shorten that turnaround. There will be voluntary testing opportunities available within the CWD management zone throughout the entire hunting season. Current sampling goals call for an estimated 1000+ samples from the CWD Management Zone to determine an approximate prevalence of the disease in the area.
Changes to Antlerless Deer Harvest
Doe harvest has been extended to encompass the entire hunting general gun season. Meaning you may harvest a doe or antlerless deer during the dates where antlerless harvest was previously allowed in archery season (Oct. 21 – Nov. 22) and in muzzleloader season (Dec. 2-3) as well as during the entirety of the general gun season (Nov. 23-26, Dec. 9 – Feb. 18) However, THIS DOES NOT CHANGE BAG LIMIT. Each hunter is still only allowed to harvest two antlerless deer this season. Antlerless deer season dates have not changed for Wildlife Management Areas (public land) because those have their own regulations. DMU-D2 is the western and northern boundary is the Florida/Alabama line. The eastern boundary is U.S. 27. The southern boundary is Interstate 10.
The only change to antlerless deer or does during the season for D1 is that they can be harvested during the check station weekend on Dec. 9-10, but only in Holmes, Washington and Jackson Counties. This does not include Wildlife Management Areas. DMU-D1 is the western boundary is the Florida/Alabama line. The northern boundary is Interstate 10. The eastern boundary is Hwy 61 south to U.S. 319 to U.S Hwy 98, east along U.S. 98 to the Wakulla River, south along the river to St. Marks River and on to the Gulf of Mexico. The southern boundary is the Gulf of Mexico.
Deer harvested within the CWD management zone cannot be taken out of the management zone without proper cleaning. Deer should be caped out with a clean cape and the head or skull cap must be free of soft tissue before leaving the CWD management zone. Deer harvested outside the CWD management zone do not have to be handled differently from past seasons.
Deer harvested within the CWD management zone cannot be taken to a processor outside the management zone without being fully cleaned and deboned. Deer harvested outside the CWD management zone can be brought into the zone for processing without being cleaned or deboned.
The FWC is asking anyone who sees a sick, abnormally thin deer or finds a deer dead from unknown causes to call the CWD hotline, 866-CWD-WATCH (866-293-9282) and report the animal’s location. If you need any clarification for the rule changes, bag limit updates or other matters related to the upcoming hunting season please feel free to reach out.
Hunting and fishing is an important part of natural recourse conservation. In the state of Florida, once you reach the age of 16, anyone born on or after June 1, 1975 must have passed a hunter safety course to purchase hunting licenses.
In collaboration with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, UF/IFAS Extension Holmes County will be hosting a Hunters Safety Field Day on May 6, 2023 in Bonifay Florida.
Participants must complete an online training prior to attending the in-person field day.
This class is designed for participants 12 years and older. The classroom portion is followed by a range field event. Please dress accordingly for weather and being outdoors.
Important information from the FWC website:
If your child is under 18 years of age, they must present a Parental Release Form signed by the child’s parent or guardian to the instructor at all courses. This will allow your child to participate in the live fire exercises. Download the Parental Release Form. Forms will be available the day of the event to be filled out.
Parents or legal guardians are required to accompany children under the age of 16 to all classes.
This course is designed for students 12 years old and up.
The FWC wants to ensure individuals with special needs have access to hunter safety programs. If a student needs special accommodations, please notify the FWC regional coordinator for your county a minimum of two weeks prior to the first day of class.
In the southeast it marks the beginning of Fall. The American Robin (Turdus migratorius) is found throughout North America. They spend their spring and summer months in the northern states but as the winter temperatures approach, they migrate to the southern gulf states. This allows them to escape the summer heat which is extremely stressful to them.
Robins migrate due to the freezing temperatures which harden the ground making it difficult for them to access their main food source, the earthworm. As they migrate, they travel at about 30 to 36 m.p.h. covering anywhere from 100 to 200 miles per day. To navigate their way during migration robins use the angle of the sun in relations to the time of day, this is why they travel during the day.
While robins are excellent migrators, only about 25% of all fledglings will survive the migration, and several adults will fall victim as well.
The head and tail feathers of the male robin are very dark with brighter orange when compared to the females. In the spring the males will migrate back to cooler climates before the females. This has to due with the roles they play in raising their young. The male’s job is to find the best territory and defend it. While the females build the nest, lay, and incubate the eggs. The female has no rush to return so she will wait until the thaw has come. If she returns to early to start building, a frost can damage the strength of her nest, which is built from mud.
While robins typically nest in the exact same location every spring in the north, they typically wander in the winter months to different locations from year to year. As our fall temperatures continue to bring a chill, be on the look out for the American Robins as we welcome them to the south this fall. And while they are likely not the same birds we had last fall, they have made their 1000 + mile journey to enjoy our mild winter.
The Bad Cat Classic will be hosted on August 27, 2022 by the Holmes County by UF/IFAS Extension Holmes County. The Bad Cat Classic is a bream and catfishing tournament with the mission to get youth on the water, spending time with positive adult mentors, while learning about the natural resources in our county. Fishing will take place in the Choctawhatchee River, with the team meetings/headquarters being at the Caryville Boat Landing.
All kids 16 years of age or younger who fish in the tournament will be entered in a drawing for a Florida Lifetime Fishing License. This is sponsored by Holmes County Sherriff John Tate, Sam Bailey- Holmes County Clerk of Courts and First Federal Bank of Bonifay. The lifetime hunting license giveaway is a part of the Conservation for Generations Program that works teach kids about natural resource conservation through recreationally actives and gifts lifetime hunting/fishing licenses in memory of Randy Adams. To learn how you can contribute to this effort reach out to Kalyn Waters at 850-547-1108.
This years tournament will add a bream fishing tournament that will start on Saturday morning. Following will be the overnight catfishing tournament.
All the details for the tournament details and rules go to: Bad Cat Classic
This event is a part of a program that offers a series of outdoor recreation events with the dual purpose of getting youth involved natural resource management and encouraging adults to spend time with youth in the outdoors. Revenue enhancement that is generated from these events is used to purchase lifetime hunting license for youth in the county as a scholarship program that promotes natural resources conversation and involvement.
For information call Kalyn Waters at 850-547-1108 and follow Panhandle Outdoor Connection for details on the Bad Cat Classic and other programs coming up.
Box Turtle. Photo Credit J.D. Willson, University of Georgia
Growing up, or even as an adult there is something exciting about seeing a turtle on the road! We always want to stop and check it out or even help it across. Box Turtles are common in all parts of the southeastern United States. There are four subspecies of box turtles that can be found east of the Mississippi River. Here are three interesting topics about our common box turtles:
With spring in the air and the temperatures rising, they are on the move. There movement is in part due to spring being the beginning of their mating season. In the southeast males and females will mate from spring into the fall. Males will mate with one or multiple females. Amazingly females can lay fertile eggs up to four years following one successful mating! Normal incubation of the eggs typically takes three months.
Box turtles are well developed at birth. As soon as the hatch the start to mature and will grow at a rate of about ½ an inch per year for the first five years. While growth slows dramatically after that, they will continue to grow until they are about 20 years old. It is believed that some box turtles will live to be over 100 years old.
While our box turtle friends live a long time, they are homebodies! Their entire home range is typically 250 yards in diameter or less. It is normal to see an overlap of home ranges for box turtles, regardless of sex or age. Keeping in mind the small home range of turtles and their limited ability to travel long distances, you should never pick them up and take them to a new area. If they are crossing a road, only set them to the other side, do not relocate them. In addition, turtles found crossing the roads in June and July are likely pregnant females. These females are likely searching for a nesting site when they are found.
As we move into spring and summer, turtles will become more active. Keep in mind that we should always leave turtles in the wild. They live longer healthier lives and can contribute to their breeding population. Likewise, you should never release a captive turtle into the wild as it will likely not survive and may introduce diseases.