Hunting ethically and obeying the laws set in place should go hand in hand. But I have found a lot of people see the FWC as bad guys that are out to ruin a good time. The fact is that they have a job to do, but their job is to protect wildlife, which as hunters that should be our goal as well. Good people do make mistakes , mostly because of not fully understanding the laws. So if you enjoy a clear conscious while feeding your family this turkey season, then this interview is for you.
Q&A with FWC Officer Eric Meade by A.J. Neste
Hey Eric, I appreciate you taking the time to answer these questions. My goal is to enjoy our spring season and harvest a turkey with complete understanding of our laws.
Q) So right off the bat, can you explain to me why we have seasons for game, and how those dates and bag limits are decided?
A) Yeah A.J. , Seasons and limits are done by scientific study and by FWC Biologist. Game laws, seasons and bag limits are put in place in order to keep and sustain a healthy population of game, let it be non migratory or migratory, so a species does not get over harvested. As to maintain the species for future generations and for the future of Florida.
Q) When talking about Turkey Hunting in Florida, what is the most common broken law that you run into while patrolling?
A) The most common laws violated that I encounter are no hunting license, no turkey permit or stamp and hunting turkey within 100 yards of bait. Other Violations encountered are shooting turkey’s before the season starts, using electronic turkey calls, Illegal taking of hen turkey and shooting turkey’s off the roost.
Q) What is the exact law on using bait for turkey, can I shoot a turkey that is within 100 yards from corn if I am physically outside of 100 yards? And what is considered bait?
A) Yes, You can shoot a turkey if the hunter is 100 Yards away from bait. The Hunter has to be 100 yards away from bait. Not the turkey. We consider bait to be corn, wheat, grain or any other food substance deposited besides normal agricultural harvesting or planting. So any kind of food that lures or attracts an animal for the purpose of harvesting it. But ultimately whole corn, cracked corn and bird seed are what I find the most.
Q) How many turkeys can we shoot in a Spring Turkey Season this year and has anything changed on our limits?
A) A hunter is allowed two Gobblers or bearded turkey’s per season. Also, now you can harvest two Gobblers or bearded turkey’s in one day. Once you harvest your two birds for that season, whether you do it on the opening day or throughout the season, you are limited out. Some Wildlife Management Area Regulations differ from private land, so check the bag limit regulations for each Wildlife Management Area that you are hunting as well.
Q) Do you have to report when you killed a turkey or is your personal limit on an honor system?
A) There is no tagging or reporting requirement for Turkey’s in the state of Florida.
Q) What are the legal means of shooting a turkey, and is there a maximum round and a minimum?
A) Shotguns, Centerfire, Rimfire Rifles, Bows and crossbows are allowed to hunt Turkey’s on private lands. No maximum or minimum round on private lands. However, most Turkey Hunters consider it unethical to hunt turkey with anything but a shotgun
Q) Can you use thermal vision to locate turkey’s roosting at night to set up on them in the morning?
A) You can use thermal vision to locate a roosting turkey at night. But be prepare to be questioned by a Wildlife Officer if you have a gun with you while doing so.
Q) What is a legal sized gobbler you can shoot?
A) There is no Size Limit on turkey’s. The law states that only gobbler’s or bearded turkey may be taken.
Q) What are the shooting times for Turkey?
A) Legal shooting hours are ½ hour before sunrise to Sunset. On some Wildlife Management Area’s the legal shooting hours are ½ hour before sunrise to 1:00 P.M. So check the specific Wildlife Management Area before hunting.
Q)Do you have any advise for someone that makes a true mistake and breaks the law?
A)Turning yourself in is always the most honest and ethical thing to do. It makes our job a lot easier and sometimes different approaches to the situation can be taken. It is a lot better to do than not to do, than if a Wildlife Officer finds out about it. Everyone makes mistakes, but please make sure you identify your target before pulling the trigger.
Q) What do you feel is a common misconception about the FWC ?
A) The biggest misconception is that we are out to give everybody a ticket and that we are there to ruin a hunting or fishing trip. We like to educate and talk to people to see how they are doing and if there is anything we can help them with. I want to stress that we are approachable, talk to us, we can help.
Q) Any last advise for someone that is going Turkey Hunting this spring?
A) Have fun! Enjoy your time in the woods and take a kid hunting. Let’s try to get more people in the outdoors and Turkey hunting is great way to do it because it's so exciting. Be careful with your firearms and identify your Target and what’s beyond it. Best of Luck!
For more info on Hunting in Florida visit : www.myfwc.com
Wildlife Alert Hotline 1-888-404-3922