Two of Central Florida’s hunting enthusiasts reveal their hunting preferences and experience
FALL IS PRIME hunting season in Central Florida, and no one knows the lay of the land better nor reads the tracks as well as the men and women at home in tree stands and ground blinds all over the Sunshine State. Even better, when they’re not waiting for a big buck or an old Tom turkey, Florida hunters are more than happy to share their knowledge and skills (if you ask real nice!). Central Florida Ag News (CFAN) spoke with two of Central Florida’s finest:
CHAD MEADOWS, an accomplished hunter whose hunting success led his wife, Caitlin Meadows, to found the Wild Game Food Bank (http://wildgamefoodbank.com/), which coordinates the donation of wild game harvests for donation to food banks, and has donated nearly 4,000 pounds of meat to date.
IAN NANCE, an avid hunter, fisherman and Mossy Oak ProStaffer for Florida, whose 30 years of experience in the woods and waters of Florida have brought his stories and skills to the hunting website Good Hunt (http://goodhunt.blogs.theledger.com/).
CFAN: What does September and the fall season mean for the Central Florida hunter?
MEADOWS: It means that days start getting cooler and it’s time to get moving and set up the tree stand!
NANCE: It means it’s go-time! Deer season is starting and, depending where you are in the state, that could mean you’re hunting the productive pre-rut or the actual rut. For Central Florida hunters, there’s no better three-month stretch in the year than September through November.
CFAN: Would you recommend hunting with a bow, crossbow, or muzzleloader to hunters who have only ever used traditional firearms like rifles and shotguns? Why?
MEADOWS: Personally, yes, I would rather bow hunt than anything else for the simple reason that the animals have to be a lot closer to you, and you get to see a lot more than you normally would get to see if they’re farther away from you.
NANCE: I would definitely suggest folks look into primitive weapons. For one, it extends your season, oftentimes into when the deer are cranked up rutting. In many Central Florida locations, if you’re waiting for rifles, you’re missing the show. Also, access to better public lands is available to those with bows or blackpowder rigs.
CFAN: Tree stand, ground blind or other, and why?
MEADOWS: I feel more comfortable in a tree stand just because I feel I can see better out of it, and I feel like birds or animals can’t see me. In this state, I like to hunt from a tree stand if I can.
NANCE: All of the above. With Florida’s diverse terrain, there’s a spot for each kind of stand.
CFAN: What options have you found to make use of extra meat?
MEADOWS: The majority of the meat that we harvest is donated, whether it be in Florida — I hunt a lot out of state also — and everything that we harvest out of state is donated to a local food bank. It’s kind of our inspiration behind starting the Wild Game Food Bank.
NANCE: What I don’t use may go to friends. If we’re maxed out or have plenty to spare, donating to Wild Game Food Bank is my next option. I delivered a hog to them last year and hope to donate a couple more this fall. It’s a great cause, and they work hard on it. Hunters would be proud to support that organization. I do and I am.
CFAN: What’s your favorite tip to share with new Central Florida hunters?
MEADOWS: The one that I would tell someone is “hunt the wind.” In Florida, it’s hot, so the wind is key; the animals can smell you, so hunt the wind the best you can, and be patient — don’t get frustrated. It doesn’t happen every time all the time, so just enjoy it while you are out there. Just be patient and pay attention to the wind.
NANCE: Do your research. Private lands in the neighborhood are expensive and hard to come by, but Florida is blessed with a ton of public land. Some of it gets a bad rep, and for good reason, but if you get out there, explore, and take advantage of the Limited Entry hunts offered by FWC, you can experience excellent hunting.
CFAN: Are there any changes or recommendations you would like to see the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission make for hunting in Florida?
MEADOWS: The one thing that I can say — and this is strictly my opinion (there’s a lot of folks who don’t feel this way) — but I’d like to see them limit the doe harvest like they have been doing. I think we take way too many does in Florida, and I think antler restrictions are key. Myself, I enjoy taking mature, big bucks, and I think if more people hunted that way, then there’d be more of them to hunt.
NANCE: The new Deer Management Units are in their infancy, so I’ll wait and see how those play out before forming an opinion. Plenty of hunters are riled up about the antler restrictions, but it’s too early to comment. Also, I would like to see the Limited Entry Dove Hunts allow guest hunters — can’t imagine dove hunting without a buddy tagging along. And the issuance process for alligators still needs refinement.
staff report by CENTRAL FLORIDA AG NEWS