Simon Ellis Hunts Early Season Deer in Florida
Simon Ellis of Plant City, Florida, has been on the Mossy Oak ProStaff for two years and has been deer hunting for 28 years in the State of Florida.
Florida has three different deer seasons. South Florida, south of Highway 70, is our first season that usually starts the last week in July and is archery only. Our rut here in Florida is really mixed-up and starts at various times in the three different areas. So, this first season allows bowhunters to hunt the rut that often begins the last week of July in that section of the state.
Florida’s next deer season opener begins in central Florida, where I live, the last week in September, lasts for a month and closes that last week of October for bowhunting. Florida has weekends of muzzleloader season, December 2-8, 2017, and February 19-25, 2018. Bowhunting for deer starts in the Panhandle and runs October 21 through November 22.
I am both a bowhunter and a gun hunter. However, I don’t get an opportunity to bowhunt very much. I own my own landscaping business, so when bow season is in, I’m usually still working a lot of days. I do try and get out at least twice a year during bow season.
Most of my hunting is in central Florida where I live, but where we hunt is really hot with plenty of mosquitos, red bugs and ticks. So, most of the time I am wearing a Mossy Oak leafy suit, because it helps me stay fairly cool. Under that I wear a ScentLok base layer that is extremely thin and designed for hot-weather hunting. I pack plenty of water to drink in my backpack, and make sure I’ve got several fresh scent pads for my Thermacell. I also spray down and/or dip my suit in Permethrin, a tick repellent, that also prevents red bugs and mosquitos from eating me up. Usually I only hunt from daylight until about 9 a.m. due to the very hot weather and thunderstorms often rolling in around that time. Then I return to the woods at about 5 p.m. and sit for 1-1/2 to 2 hours until dark. The weather’s just too hot to stay in your stand all day.
The secret to finding Florida deer is to pinpoint their food sources. Where I live, water oaks are often the deer’s primary food source. If you can locate wild persimmons that still have fruit on their trees or planted persimmon trees, that’s a soft mast crop that the deer prefer. To learn more about persimmon production and scouting, read Understanding the American Persimmon.
I hunt primarily on wildlife management units, and we’re not allowed to bait those public hunting areas. Now on private lands in Florida, you can hunt over feeders. During August, I’m usually putting boots on the ground to find the places where deer are feeding and watering. The hot weather causes deer to live close to water.
Another factor that you need to consider to hunt Florida’s early season is that we don’t have monster bucks down here like you’ll find further north. If you’re hunting public lands, a buck that will score 120 inches is considered a really good buck. That 120-inch buck may only weigh 120-150 pounds, with average bucks weighing about 110 pounds live weight.
If you’re hunting the Panhandle of Florida, you can take bigger deer because that region’s soils are much more fertile than the soils in south-central Florida and south Florida. In those two areas, we have a lot of sandy soils, but in the Panhandle, you often will find that red clay type soil like you do in south Alabama and south Georgia, and the deer grow bigger the further north you go.