Expanded WMA system providing more hunting opportunity

Expanded WMA system providing more hunting opportunity

At the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) March 2022 meeting, Commissioners approved rule changes related to 2022-23 hunting seasons including ones that established a new wildlife management area in northwest Florida. This new area, Tate’s Hell – St. James Island, is an 8,182-acre area in Franklin County. It will offer hunting opportunities during the 2022-23 season for deer, wild turkey, wild hog, migratory birds and small game. The FWC, in cooperation with the area’s lead land manager, the Florida Forest Service, already established Tate’s Hell – St. James Island Public Small Game Hunting Area to allow hunting for dove, duck, geese, snipe, woodcock and coots during the 2021-22 season, which ends March 6.
This latest public hunting opportunity is another example of the FWC and its cooperators working to establish new WMAs and increase the number of acres at existing areas throughout the state. Including St. James Island, Florida’s WMA system has grown by nearly 100,000 acres in the past six years. Our WMA system – at over 6 million acres – is one of the largest in the country. Much of this system is managed or owned by government agencies other than the FWC or private landowners the FWC is partnering with. WMAs are managed for wildlife conservation and provide a diversity of habitats. They also offer a variety of recreational opportunities with hunting being one of the most popular activities.
A range of hunting opportunities are offered at new and existing WMAs, including quota hunts, special-opportunity hunts and public hunting areas where a quota permit is not required to hunt. Depending on the area and time of year, hunters may pursue deer, turkey, waterfowl, wild hogs, dove, quail, gray squirrels and more.
New WMAs
During the past 5 years, the FWC has worked with cooperators to establish the following eight FWC-managed areas, which provide nearly 44,000 acres of additional hunting opportunity:

  • A-1 FEB

    • 16,908 acres in Palm Beach County/South Region.
    • Established in 2017.
    • Cooperator: South Florida Water Management District.
  • Everglades Headwaters – Arbuckle Unit*

    • 395 acres in Polk County/Southwest Region.
    • Established in 2018.
    • Cooperator: Florida Forest Service.
  • Everglades Headwaters – Hatchineha Unit*

    • 1,460 acres in Polk County/Southwest Region.
    • Established in 2018.
    • Cooperator: US Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • Everglades Headwaters – Kissimmee Bend Unit*

    • 5,305 acres in Okeechobee County/South Region.
    • Established in 2021.
    • Cooperator: US Fish and Wildlife Service and Florida Forest Service.
  • Orange Hammock

    • 5,777 acres in Sarasota County/Southwest Region.
    • Established in 2021.
    • FWC is lead manager.
  • Pine Meadows

    • 769 acres in Lake County/Northeast Region.
    • Established in 2019.
    • Cooperator: Lake County.
  • Plank Road

    • 8,096 acres in Leon and Jefferson counties/Northwest Region.
    • Established in 2018.
    • Cooperator: Florida Forest Service.
  • Silver Springs Forest

    • 4,900 acres in Marion County/Northeast Region.
    • Established in 2020.
    • Cooperator: St. Johns River Water Management District.

*The Everglades Headwaters WMAs are part of an ongoing effort with the US Fish and Wildlife Service/Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge. The FWC expects to continue working with the USFWS to add new units.
Acres Added to Existing WMAs
In addition, the FWC added over 45,000 acres to existing WMAs throughout Florida in the past five years that provide additional hunting opportunity. Following is a list of WMAs with the most significant increases:

  • Okaloacoochee Slough

    • Added 16,802 acres in 2020-2021.
    • Collier and Hendry counties/South Region.
    • Cooperator: Florida Forest Service/FWC is lead manager on new acreage.
  • Apalachicola River

    • 13,967 acres added in 2020.
    • Franklin and Gulf counties/Northwest Region.
    • FWC is lead manager.
  • Box-R

    • 7,238 acres added from 2018 to 2020.
    • Gulf and Franklin counties/Northwest Region.
    • FWC is lead manager.
  • Stormwater Treatment Area 1 West

    • 4,609 acres added in 2020.
    • Palm Beach County/South Region.
    • Cooperator: South Florida Water Management District.
  • Twin Rivers

    • 1,734 acres added in 2019.
    • Madison, Hamilton and Suwannee counties/North Central Region.
    • Cooperator: Florida Forest Service.
  • Cedar Key Scrub

    • 1,492 acres added in 2019.
    • Levy County/North Central Region.
    • Cooperator: Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Tips for Hunting a WMA
Get started finding public hunting opportunities on Florida’s WMA system at MyFWC.com/WMABrochures. If you’re looking for a WMA you can turkey hunt this spring without a quota permit, visit MyFWC.com/Turkey and click on the “2022 Spring Turkey Hunt Guide” button. Before heading afield, we recommend carefully reviewing the WMA regulations brochure for the area you want to hunt because season dates and other rules may vary from statewide seasons and other WMAs.
Also, before visiting a WMA, always check the area’s open/closed status to determine its availability to public access and if there are any road closures or updates about check stations or entrances. You can find the link to WMA closures and updates at MyFWC.com/WMABrochures.
Avenza Maps Mobile App
Turkey hunting this spring at a WMA? You might want to download the Avenza Maps mobile app. This free app will help you track your location in real time on FWC-managed lands. You also can drop a pin to mark a particular area for future reference. Please note WMA maps in the Avenza App are provided for informational purposes and should not be considered authoritative for navigational, engineering, legal or other uses. Learn more about Avenza Maps at MyFWC.com/WMABrochures.


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