For better or worse, most local hunters know the Green Swamp, Three Lakes and Richloam Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) as large tracts of publicly owned property easily accessible throughout deer season. . These lands offer many hunting opportunities, but little privacy.
Enter Florida’s Limited Access Hunting Program. From May 15 through June 15, people will be able to request quota hunts on properties across the state. Many of them are on smaller properties and limit the number of hunters putting pressure on the game.
As you consider your application options for the 2022-23 season, here are some profiled areas in Polk County that hunters should take a closer look at this summer. Note that some of these places are not easy to draw; it can take years of preference points to get licensed. And even if you succeed, that doesn’t mean the deer will make it to your truck bed – they all require hard work to get the meat home.
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• Arbuckle WMA is located 5 miles south of Frostproof in the Lake Wales Ridge State Forest. Covering 13,925 acres of lowland brush and hardwood, this property hosts archery and muzzleloader hunts. What’s unique here is the availability of daily hunting quotas for weekdays and quotas for certain weekends, meaning you don’t have to give up and go home if your license weekend expires without having taken any money.
• Amid ever-increasing development and traffic along US 27 and I-4, Hilochee WMA’s Osprey unit is loosely framed by these busy thoroughfares. Getting a permit here is more difficult than driving to Orlando at peak times, however, with 10 permits available each for archery hunting, muzzleloader hunting, and general rifle hunting. The property is thick in places, part of the Green Swamp area of Critical State Concern.
• KICCO WMA spans over 7,000 acres west of the Kissimmee River and south of SR 60 near Westgate River Ranch Resort. This property is essential central Florida land, a mix of oak hammocks, scrubs, and cypress trees. 25 archery licenses are available for five bow hunts with an additional 30 licenses split over two black powder hunts.
• Of those listed here, the Marion Creek Lake WMA might be one of the hardest places to hunt due to the widespread hardwood swamps. These 8,620 acres were purchased by Polk County and the Southwest Florida Water Management District to protect water resources. Access is strictly regulated, but there are 70 archery licenses, 35 muzzleloading licenses and 70 general gun hunts available from October to February.
• Deer and hogs are abundant on Walk-in-Water WMA, but this location is ill-suited for the novice hunter. The property is 6,034 acres of scrub and dune communities. Vehicle access is prohibited, so access is only on foot or by bike from Walk-in-the-Water Road or CR 630 through miles of sugary sand – not much fun on its own, let alone when of packing a deer, so plan ahead. 40 archery licenses are available for each of the five hunts, and 25 muzzleloader hunts will be awarded for two hunts.
No matter where you apply to hunt, be sure to remember a few things in case your number is called.
First, read the brochures carefully. Bag limits on WMAs are generally different from those published for private land and also vary from place to place. When and where you can access the site are also critically important considerations, not only for hunting, but also for scouting. WMA brochures are available at myfwc.com/hunting/wma-brochures
Second, if you draw one of these quotas and fail to hunt when the time comes, please return it through the GoOutdoors website. FWC re-issues unwanted permits on a weekly basis, and hunters left behind in the first rounds of applications are quick to gobble them up.
Good luck in this year’s drawings!