Saturday, January 12, 2013

Hiking during Florida's hunting season

Hunting season and Hiking season are held at about the same time during Florida's best season to be outdoors.  That means wearing a blaze orange vest or an orange hat and making noise while hoping for the best when hiking or backpacking.   Alas, if you are considering hiking in a water management area, wildlife management area, state preserve, state forest or national forest (like the Ocala National Forest), hunting is permitted and there will be people shooting firearms.  That is unless you are hiking in a place where there is no hunting allowed.
Wear your blaze orange vest when hiking during hunting season.
You may remember I brought this up last year when hiking the Kratzert Tract along Lake Monroe, I had left my orange vest at home and ended up borrowing one from some very friendly hunters.  You also may remember my wife was not too happy with me about hiking in hunting season.
Florida hunting season dates for 2013 vary by zone with General Gun Season (AKA: Deer Season) running through January 20 in zone C and through February 17th in Zones B & D.  Central Florida lies in zones C and B.  Quail hunting runs through March 3.  Then there is turkey and gray squirrel hunting and all those other animals like Coyote that people are allowed to shoot almost year-round.  You must look at the State Hunting Date site here to get an accurate picture.
The good news for hikers is that hunting is not allowed in State parks, State recreation areas, county parks or county-owned land like the Lyonia Preserve in Deltona.  The other good news is a lot of the state parks hiking trails were built and are maintained by the Florida Trail Association volunteers.  I had a little experience with them last fall, and I am impressed with the quality of the trail work.  You have to understand the Florida year-round growing season, with almost continuous plant growth because there is no winter weather here and few freezes.  This results in almost constant trail maintenance.  Otherwise, the trails here would just disappear in six months.
So here's a list of hunt-free State parks with hiking trails, many also with primitive campsites along those trails.  While none in the state have very long trails except for Mayakka River State Park, you can still backpack out and enjoy a night of camping with a good bit of walking to and from the trailhead.  These parks are listed on the Florida Trail Association web site.  All overnight camping will require reservations.
Torreya State Park
Suwannee State Park
Wasington Oaks Gardens State Park
Bulow Creek State Park
DeLeon Springs State Park
Hillsborough River State Park
Little Manatee River State Park
Wekiva Springs State Park
Rock Springs Run State Reserve
Lake Kissimmee State Park
Mayakka River State Park
Seabranch Preserve State Park
Collier Seminole State Park
Get out and enjoy!

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