Today’s youth are the future of Florida’s hunting
The Sunshine State is blessed to have one of the nation’s largest wildlife management area (WMA) systems; it encompasses more than 5.8 million acres of public hunting land. The FWC manages 1.1 million of these acres, and the FWC’s “partners for public hunting” contribute the remaining acreage.
Thanks to our many land-management partners and cooperators, the future of hunting in Florida looks bright. The FWC continues to support and promote the hunting tradition by helping open up new public lands for hunting, expanding hunting opportunities on public and private lands, recruiting new hunters and developing programs to get families more involved in the hunting heritage.
Because of these partnerships and the shared interest of continuing to grow Florida’s WMA system, 34 new public hunting areas have been added since 2005, totaling more than 146,000 acres.
We are always looking to form new partnerships and will continue to foster existing ones with the intent of opening up more public hunting land and further expanding hunting opportunities. We also continue to seek creative ways to recruit and retain hunters, involving more families in the hunting tradition.
In 2005, we launched the Youth Hunting Program of Florida to provide quality hunting experiences for 12- to 17-year-olds and increase the number of youths involved in hunting. The statewide program averages nearly 60 hunts and introduces about 600 youths and parents to the sport each year, giving many of them their first taste of hunting in a positive, safe, educational and mentored setting.
Today’s youth spend half as much time outdoors as kids a decade ago did, so in 2009, the FWC launched the Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network to help reverse this trend. Currently, there are eight centers identified in the network designed to strengthen the connections between youth and their support for wildlife conservation through activities like hunting, archery, fishing, kayaking and wildlife viewing.
Another opportunity to help recruit young hunters and encourage adults to take kids hunting was establishing the new Youth Turkey Hunt Season. The two-day, Saturday-Sunday hunt occurs the weekend prior to the opening of spring turkey season in each hunting zone. Only those under 16 are allowed to harvest a turkey, and they have to be supervised by an adult, 18 years or older.
We encourage everyone to get outdoors and enjoy the benefits of connecting with nature in our wonderfully diverse state. Thanks to the stewardship of generations who lived here before us, opportunities are boundless. Take a kid hunting with you—this is their Florida too, and they will be happier, healthier and even smarter for it.
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