White-tailed deer are an American sportsmen’s bread and butter. They are what most of us learn to hunt and what we gauge universally as trophy animals. We hunt them nationwide, from running dogs in the southern swamps to snow-tracking bucks in the northern woods. From bows and arrows in tree stands to long-distance shots in bean fields. The white-tailed deer is America’s game animal. 

Florida may not be known for big-bodied deer or massive antler spreads, but we have something unique and, in my mind, better. We can hunt deer in some way for seven months of the year. 

Seven. Months.

The unique shape of the sunshine state that stretches from the northern gulf of Mexico to the Caribbean means that bucks begin to rut as early as July in the subtropical south. A nine-hour drive north and west to the party town of Panama city will have bucks rutting in the more traditional late fall.

If you are willing to double up on thermacell and hunt in shorts, you can start poking around the south Florida swamps with me during archery season. Archery season starts August first for the area. However, some WMAs (wildlife management areas) will have specific dates inside, and sometimes outside, the month-long season. For those of you that are meat hunters, there is no doe season below I75, which crosses the lower quarter of the state.

In the panhandle, your last chance on public land is February twenty-eighth. Odds are it will be significantly colder at the end of the season than when you started, but at least you won’t have the mosquitoes.

There have been quota hunts that extend even longer into the year in every section of the state, but I’m just going with the dates from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Can y’all wrap your heads around that? More than half the year can be spent pursuing deer! Sure we also have dove, turkey, hog, duck, and a host of exciting and exotic animals to hunt during and throughout the year, depending on your locale. But we can hunt deer in all sorts of environments and with all sorts of gear. If you want the best and most opportunities, focus on bow hunting. The season is the first just about everywhere, and Florida is no exception.

Should you focus on a stick and string, there are a number of sought-after quota hunts that are short-ranged only, so your options are bow or buckshot. For example, the limited entry hunt on St. Vincent island in Apalachicola bay offers hunters a low-pressure hunt in which only primitive weapons are allowed. Hunters who draw this tag will be able to camp on the island that is only accessible by boat for the duration of the hunt. St. Vincent Island is also home to the only populations of “wild” Sambar deer, which have their own tag but are impressive to see regardless.

Florida may offer some solace for hunters who can’t wait for deer season, and dread it ending. With seven months of hunting everything from swamps to hardwood hammocks, Florida is the state of (nearly) endless deer season.