Hunting in Florida is one of the most popular recreational activities, thanks to the natural richness and biodiversity of the state. Enthusiasts can choose from a variety of private and public hunting lands, each with its own rules for hunters to follow.
Choosing the right hunting ground can be challenging, but you can’t go wrong with any of the options below. Let’s take a look at these public hunting grounds in Florida and the most common species they are famous for.
The table below shows a brief overview of the thirteen best public hunting lands in Florida:
|Name||Location||Most common species|
|Apalachicola WMA||Northwest (Leon, Liberty, Franklin, Wakulla)||Osprey, turkey, alligators, bears, foxes|
|Eglin Air Force Base||Northwest (Okaloosa, Walton, Santa Rosa)||Deer, turkey, feral hog|
|Econfina Creek WMA||Northwest (Washington, Bay)||Turkey, deer, wild hog, gray squirrel, quail|
|Tate’s Hell WMA||Northwest||Turkey, deer, squirrel, rabbit, bobcat|
|Osceola WMA||North (very close to Jacksonville)||Deer, hog, quail, rabbit, beaver|
|Big Cypress WMA||South (bordering Everglades)||Deer, wild hog, squirrel, rabbit, iguanas and pythons|
|Southern Glades WMA||South (bordering Everglades)||Iguanas, pythons and other reptiles, deer, hogs and rabbits|
|Fisheating Creek WMA||South||Deer, hogs, alligators, turkey|
|Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve||Southwest (very close to Tampa)||Turkey, deer, wild hog, coyote, bobcat|
|Avon Park Air Force Range||Central Florida||Rabbit, raccoon, white-tailed deer, wild hog, turkey|
|Green Swamp WMA||Central Florida (between Tampa and Orlando)||Deer, turkey, quail, squirrel, wild hog, alligator|
|Ocala WMA||Central Florida||Hunting and trapping – racoon, opossum, armadillo, coyote, otter, bobcat
Hunting only – waterfowl, deer, wild hog, rabbit
|Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge||Central Florida – East Coast||Blue-winged teal, lesser scaup, pintail, mottled ducks, American wigeon, white-tailed deer and feral hogs|
1. Apalachicola Wildlife Management Area
This hunting ground, spread over more than 580,000 acres and four counties (Leon, Liberty, Franklin, and Wakulla), is home to many species.
Most notably, you’ll find ospreys, turkeys, alligators and bears, but Apalachicola is also a great spot for fox hunting.
Hunting is allowed in the fall and winter, while it’s also a great camping spot with many predetermined camping grounds in the area.
Website: Apalachicola Wildlife Management Area
2. Eglin Air Force Base
Another large area in the Northwest, this base covers 464,000 acres of land in three counties (Okaloosa, Walton, and Santa Rosa).
It is co-managed with the U.S. Air Force, and is one of the best spots for deer hunting in Florida.
This hunting ground is also filled with turkey and feral hogs, as well as plenty of fishing spots.
It’s even more impressive as a reserve, as Eglin hosts 63 globally rare animal and plant species!
Visitors and hunters (16 years or older) must hold an Eglin permit and photo ID. The hunting season generally runs from September to May.
Website: Eglin Air Force Base
3. Econfina Creek Wildlife Management Area
Even though it’s not nearly as large as our previous two entries, Econfina Creek stretches across Washington and Bay counties, and it’s a sight to behold.
It’s not only popular as a hunting spot, but also as a hiker’s paradise and a fishing location, with everything controlled by the hunting and fishing regulations.
When it comes to hunting, you’ll find raccoons, turkey, deer, wild hog, gray squirrel, quail, rabbit, beaver, coyote, bobcat, otter and non-protected birds.
This area also has designated campsites where you can set up camp for up to 14 days.
The hunting season for general game goes from November to March. The only exceptions are the duck open season in September and the wild hog season in summer (July to September).
Website: Econfina Creek Wildlife Management Area
4. Tate’s Hell Wildlife Management Area
Our last entry from the northwest, Tate’s Hell, is encompassed by Apalachicola National Forest and Highway 98, creating an area of almost 200,000 acres. It’s known as a great spot for turkey hunting in Florida.
However, in Tate’s Hell, you also get to hunt deer, wild hog, gray squirrel, quail, rabbit, coyote, skunk, bobcat and non-protected bird species.
Fox hunting is also allowed, but only in certain areas.
Website: Tate’s Hell Wildlife Management Area
5. Osceola Wildlife Management Area
Moving closer to the seaboard, this public hunting land near Jacksonville is one of the most visited public lands in North Florida.
Deer, wild hog, quail, rabbit, beaver, coyote, opossum, fox and bobcat are all very common in this area.
Turkey and non-migratory birds are also fair game. Except for hunting, Osceola is very popular for bird watching, as well as hiking down the National Scenic Trail.
Website: Osceola Wildlife Management Area
6. Big Cypress Wildlife Management Area
Big Cypress is the largest wildlife management area in the south, with over 700,000 acres of land and bordering Everglades National Park. Except for hunting, Big Cypress offers fishing, paddling, biking and hiking tours.
Here, you can hunt deer, wild hog, squirrel, rabbits, raccoons, as well as the Argentine black and white tegu, the green iguana and the Burmese python.
Some of these species are only available in the south, which is great if you’re interested in python hunting in Florida.
An important note is that you have to be careful when hunting around these parts.
Alligators are very common, especially near bodies of water, and it’s best to avoid them if possible. The open season varies based on the species, so check beforehand based on the type of game you want to hunt.
Website: Big Cypress Wildlife Management Area
7. Southern Glades Wildlife and Environmental Area
This area in the Miami-Dade County is adjacent to the Everglades National Park, making it a popular bird watching spot.
At the same time, it is a great spot for iguana hunting in Florida. In fact, this area encourages the hunting of invasive reptile species.
Aside from reptiles, you can also hunt wild hogs, deer, rabbits, raccoons, coyotes, beaver and non-protected birds.
However, hunting isn’t that very well developed in this area because of how wet it is. On the other hand, it makes for a great fishing spot!
Website: Southern Glades Wildlife and Environmental Area
8. Fisheating Creek Wildlife Management Area
Fisheating Creek is a popular location for deer and feral hog hunting, especially in the fall when the water levels are down. Turkey and other bird species are more popular in the spring.
There are also ‘special-opportunity spring turkey season’ hunts organized in this area, as well as a ‘special spring turkey season’. Because the water channels are so well-organized, a lot of hunters like to paddle through instead of walking.
Thanks to the morphology of the land, Fisheating Creek is also a great spot for alligator hunting in Florida.
You should know, though, that you need a special permit – alligator hunting here isn’t allowed with the general permit you can use to hunt all other species.
Website: Fisheating Creek Wildlife Management Area
9. Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve
This public hunting land near Tampa is a hot spot for families, as up to two children (aged between 8 and 16 years) can hunt under the supervision of an adult.
This preserve isn’t large, but it’s very popular because it’s so close to Tampa.
The most common game here includes turkey, deer, wild hog, gray squirrel, coyote, otter, bobcat and beaver.
Lower Hillsborough is also very popular as a paddling destination, with a very diverse water system.
The woods are also a popular hiking destination, as there are more than 60 miles of forest trails.
Website: Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve
10. Avon Park Air Force Range
This military training facility expands over more than 100,000 acres and cooperates with the Outdoor Recreation Program to allow hunting on the grounds.
This makes Avon Park a popular hunting and camping spot, as well as fishing, hiking, and bird watching location.
Avon Park is popular for white-tailed deer, wild hog and turkey, but also for rabbits and raccoons.
Except for individual hunting trips, Avon Park also has a youth program and organized hunting events.
Website: Avon Park Air Force Range
11. Green Swamp Wildlife Management Area
With over 50,000 acres of land, this area is full of pine flatwoods and cypress domes.
These woods are filled with fishermen and paddlers as they’re overflowing with streams.
But the area is also very popular for deer, turkey, quail, squirrel, and wild hog hunting.
However, the area is very dependent on tides (water rises very quickly here) and Florida hunting regulations. This is a plus when it comes to hunting alligators, though!
Website: Green Swamp Wildlife Management Area
12. Ocala Wildlife Management Area
If you’re interested in hunting in a national forest, you’re in luck, as this area is actually part of the Ocala National Forest. This means that it’s managed in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service.
It’s also one of the few hunting areas where trapping is allowed, at least for raccoon, opossum, armadillo, coyote, otter, and bobcat.
Aside from trapping, you can hunt all those species, as well as waterfowl, deer, wild hog, and rabbit.
Website: Ocala Wildlife Management Area
13. Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
This area is the best waterfowl hunting spot in Florida, although it does offer big game hunting and big game archery hunt.
Waterfowl populations are usually concentrated around open waters.
The most common species are the blue-winged teal, lesser scaup, pintail, mottled ducks and the American wigeon.
The most common big game are white-tail deer and feral hogs, but keep in mind that there’s a limited quota.
Ideal for families and groups, the hunting ground allows each permitted hunter to go on a hunt with another adult, which can be accompanied by a youth.
The hunting season here goes from September to November.