Hunting

Citrus County: Sure-Fire Fun for Every Hunter

The Native Americans who lived in and around what is now Citrus County had a rich and varied diet, thanks to the abundant fish, birds and land animals here. Long-ago Floridians took just enough of each kind to satisfy their hunger while maintaining the balance of nature. Today, a combination of designated hunting areas and an enlightened regulatory climate has succeeded in preserving the abundance of game that has always been a hallmark of Citrus County.

No matter what type of hunting you prefer—from deer and boars, to ducks, turkeys and quail—you will have a memorable adventure in the wilderness and waterways in and around Crystal River, Homosassa and Inverness.

HUNTING SAFETY

The fun of hunting with a gun or any other type of weapon necessarily involves the use of something with the power to kill. Careless or unintentionally ignorant behavior can threaten the life of the hunter and/or those within range of the weapon.

To help protect Florida hunters against such a disaster, the law now states that anyone born on or after June 1, 1975 may not purchase a hunting license without first successfully completing a qualified hunter safety course. But no matter if you are a newcomer to the sport or have been hunting your entire life, the free 16-hour course can be of great benefit. The course not only teaches how to handle firearms, but covers topics such as outdoor ethics, wildlife identification, survival, field first aid, firearm laws and more. (Visit the hunter safety section of www.MyFWC.com for more information.) Children under the age of 16 may hunt with adult supervision, without having to take a hunter safety course.

HUNTING SEASONS

Exciting Hunting All Year Round. As the year progresses, Citrus County gives guests a wide variety of hunting types and quarry. We are part of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Central Zone, which follows the following seasons:

What can a hunter expect to harvest in Citrus County? Chief among the attractions are bobwhite quail, those small upland birds that fly fast and challenge even the best-aimed shotguns. Quail, as well as doves, are among America’s most favored game and can provide a great introduction to the sport.

The Florida whitetail deer is much more abundant in Citrus County than in past years. The animals are quite large, and the challenge is to keep the wild deer population under control. Deer hunting is encouraged in Florida and even with a good number of hunters, there are still more wild deer than habitat resources can comfortably support. Squirrels and rabbits are also classic game animals here and essential ingredients in some of early America’s tastiest stews. Plus, generous bag limits help assure a feast at the end of the day.

Wild turkeys are also popular game in Citrus County, and the “proper way” to go after these elusive gobblers involves a complex ritual of calling that adds an extra level of excitement to each hunt. The subspecies of wild turkeys found in Citrus County—and the rest of Central and South Florida—are the uniquely colored native subspecies called Osceola turkeys. The meat of a wild turkey tastes even better than store-bought birds. A permit may be necessary on some public lands.

Early in the history of America, domestic hogs escaped into the woods and became what the authorities now describe as feral hogs or wild boar. They enjoy life in the wilderness, where their foraging life keeps them lean and mean, and hunting them can be an unexpected adventure. There are no size or bag limits on wild hogs. Other slightly less conventional game includes raccoons, opossum, armadillos, beavers, coyotes, skunks and nutrias. These can be hunted year-round without bag limits.

Migratory waterfowl are here in season, providing great challenges for duck and goose hunters. In addition to state hunting licenses, migratory waterfowl hunters must have a federal “duck stamp” for the current year. The stamp is available at all post offices. Some of the most abundant duck varieties found in the salt marshes are redheads and Florida mottle ducks. In the lakes and ponds, blue bills, mallards and ringnecks are plentiful.

LICENSES AND PERMITS

Every hunter needs a license, and fortunately, it’s never been easier to purchase one. You can order a license from the Florida FWC at 1-888-HUNT FLORIDA (486-8356) or online at www.MyFWC.com/license. Licenses are also sold at numerous retail outlets that sell hunting and fishing supplies and the Citrus County Tax Collector’s office (352-341-6509). Walk-in locations are at the Inverness Courthouse Annex, 210 N. Apopka Ave. Suite 100 Inverness, FL 34450, and the Citrus County Center (Antique Mall) 801 S.E. Hwy 19 Crystal River, FL 34429.

Federal duck stamps, required for waterfowl hunting, can be purchased at any post office while supplies last. Certain other types of hunting may also require special licenses, and all hunting is subject to specific rules, so please check the complete regulations at www.MyFWC.com before heading out to hunt.

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREAS

Citrus County, with a total area of 683 square miles, contains more than 152,000 acres of land set aside for wildlife preservation. The largest tracts are designated as Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) and provide exceptional hunting opportunities. The Citrus WMA alone, which includes land in both Citrus and Hernando Counties, now encompasses 49,042 acres.

  • The Withlacoochee State Forest is another large wildlife resource in our region, presenting 157,000 total acres multi-use land and approximately 40,000 acres in Citrus County alone. For more complete information, go to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services /Forestry Division Web Site.
  • Citrus WMA offers 49,317 acres in Citrus and Hernando Counties a mile west of Inverness. Visitors can enjoy archery, muzzleloading and gun seasons, as well as gun ranges, hiking and horseback trails, fishing and more. Quota permits are required in Citrus during archery, muzzleloading and general gun and spring turkey seasons. Recreational access is also allowed. Download the PDF brochure at the myfwc.com hunting section.
  • Flying Eagle WMA offers 10,247 acres of lakes, marshes and swamps in the southeastern section of Citrus County along five miles of the Withlacoochee River. The area offers archery, muzzleloading and gun seasons, plus spring turkey season, with quota permits required for each. Camping and horseback riding are only allowed in Flying Eagle during nonhunting periods, though recreational access is allowed. Download the PDF brochure at the myfwc.com hunting section.
  • Homosassa WMA is 5,674 acres in the southwest area of Citrus County in between the Chassahowitzka and Homosassa Rivers. There is a general gun season and a special-opportunity permit is required during spring turkey season, as well as a quota permit being required when hog hunting. Recreational access is allowed in Homosassa, except during spring turkey season. Download the PDF brochure at the myfwc.com hunting section.
  • Potts WMA is 7,408 acres located about four miles from Inverness along the Withlacoochee River and the Tsala Apopka Lake Chain in northeast Citrus County. Potts offers archery, muzzleloading and gun seasons, as well as gun ranges, hiking and horseback trails, fishing and more. Quota permits are required during archery, muzzleloading and spring turkey seasons, and for hog hunting. Horseback riding is allowed in Potts, but only during nonhunting periods. Recreational access is allowed as well. Download the PDF brochure at the myfwc.com hunting section.

The interested hunter will find a great deal of information, and useful links to other sites, at the myfwc.com hunting section.