Native Floridian and Cocoa resident Capt. Grayson Padrick doesn’t need anyone reminding him of when to apply for alligator hunt permits. He’s been taking part in Florida’s internationally-recognized statewide alligator harvest program for 20 years and knows to apply for Phase I permits in May.
“I love the fast-paced adrenaline rush that I get when hunting alligators,” Padrick said. “And I really enjoy introducing youth and new people to gator hunting, especially those who’ve never been in the marsh or on an airboat.”
Padrick’s largest harvested alligator measured 13 feet, 2 inches, and it was a 16-year-old girl who Padrick guided that is credited as the lucky hunter. Padrick sells his alligator hides or turns them into leather and loves the taste of alligator meat.
May is also when hunters begin applying for fall quota, special-opportunity and national wildlife refuge hunt permits. So mark your calendar, set an alarm, whatever you need to do to remind yourself to apply for alligator and several fall hunting permits in May.
Since 1988, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has offered hunters the opportunity to take part in its annual statewide recreational alligator harvest that always runs Aug. 15 – Nov. 1. These special night hunts provide a hunting adventure unlike any other. Alligators are a conservation success story in Florida. The state’s alligator population is estimated at 1.3 million and has been stable for many years.
The application period for the Phase I random drawing begins Friday, May 18 at 10 a.m. and runs through May 28. More than 6,000 alligator harvest permits will be available.
Hunters may submit their application for a permit that allows the harvest of two alligators on a designated harvest unit or county. Applicants must be at least 18 years old by Aug. 15 and have a valid credit or debit card to apply.
Applications may be submitted at any county tax collector’s office, license agent (most retail outlets that sell hunting and fishing supplies) and at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com. Applicants must provide their credit card information when they apply. If you change your mind on where you’d like to hunt, or need to update your credit card information, you are able to make changes up until the application period closes.
The alligator trapping license/harvest permit and two hide validation CITES tags cost $272 for Florida residents, $22 for those with a Florida Resident Persons with Disabilities Hunting and Fishing License, and $1,022 for nonresidents. The cost for applicants who already have an alligator trapping license is $62.
Any permits remaining after the first phase will be offered during the Phase II random drawing June 1-11. Those awarded a permit in Phase I may not apply during Phase II. Remaining permits will be available in Phase III to anyone who did not draw a permit in either of the first two phases, and they may be applied for June 15-25.
If any permits remain after Phase III, there will be a fourth-phase issuance period beginning at 10 a.m. on June 28 until all permits are sold. Anyone may apply during Phase IV, even if they were awarded a permit in one of the earlier phases. Customers who get to purchase additional permits will be charged $62, regardless of residency or disability.
Within three days of an application period closing, applicants may expect to see an authorization hold on their credit card, verifying there is a sufficient balance to cover the cost of the permit. However, this does not mean they were awarded a permit. Once the credit card authorization process is complete, the lottery drawing will be held. All successful applicants will be charged, while those who were unsuccessful will have the authorization hold lifted from their credit cards.
Successful applicants should expect to receive their alligator trapping license/harvest permit and two CITES alligator tags in the mail within six weeks of payment. Alligator trapping licenses are nontransferable. All sales are final, and no refunds will be made.
For more information on alligator hunting or the application process, see the “Guide to Alligator Hunting in Florida” by going to “MyFWC.com/Hunting” and then “By Species.”
National Wildlife Refuge hunts
There are also several fall hunts on five national wildlife refuges that you may apply for during the same Phase I application period of May 15 – June 15. These National Wildlife Refuge hunts offer yet another unique and limited opportunity to hunt on well-managed habitat with healthy game populations and low hunting pressure. However, no guest permits are available for any of these hunts. And if you get drawn, you must pay for your permit by the claim deadline, or you forfeit it, and it’ll be available during the next application period which is first-come, first-served.
Just south of Tallahassee, you may apply for archery, general gun and mobility-impaired hunts on the 32,000-acre St. Marks. Each of these hunts cost $5 to apply for and if you get drawn, the permits are $27.50.
On Franklin County’s 11,400-acre St. Vincent Island, you may apply for primitive weapons hunts for the exotic and enormous sambar deer. It’s $5 to apply, and $37.50 to buy the permit should you get drawn.
Lower Suwannee, in Dixie and Levy counties, has a $15 permit you may purchase that allows you to hunt the entire fall and spring season on the 53,000-acre refuge. You may purchase this permit anytime between May 15 and up to the last day of spring turkey season.
Fall deer and hog quota hunt permits
The FWC offers thousands of quota hunt opportunities each year. Hunters may choose to apply for fall quota hunts for deer and wild hogs. There also are special hunts for families, youth, people with disabilities, bowhunters and those hunting with muzzleloaders.
A quota is the maximum number of hunters allowed on a particular wildlife management area. The FWC’s Quota Hunt Program prevents overcrowding on such areas and provides quality hunts. Quotas also help control game harvests. The FWC sets quotas based on an area’s size, habitat, game populations and regulations.
There are several types of quota permits, most of which are issued by random drawing, and the Phase I application period for these fall quota hunts is May 15–June 15. I’m talking about archery, muzzleloading gun, general gun, wild hog, youth, family, track vehicle, airboat and mobility-impaired, quota hunt permits.
You may apply for each of the hunt types, and there is no fee to do so. But unless exempt, you must have an up-to-date $26 management area permit (or a license that includes one) when applying for a quota permit. If you do not have this, the system won’t accept your application.
The FWC offers youth deer hunts on Camp Blanding WMA in Clay County and on Andrews WMAin Levy County. If you have children between the ages of 8 and 15, and you want them to have a chance to experience one of these great hunts, apply for a youth quota hunt permit – 160 kids will get this opportunity. During these hunts only the youngsters may hunt, and they, along with their adult supervisors, are the only people allowed on the area.
There will be family quota hunts on 30 WMAs, and if drawn, the permit requires one adult take one or two youths hunting. The adult may not hunt without taking along a youngster.
Hunters certified by the FWC as mobility-impaired may apply for Mobility-impaired Quota Permits that allow exclusive access to general gun hunts on 10 of the state’s public hunting areas.
If you want to get the jump on one of these hunts, apply May 15–June 15 at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com, or have a license agent or tax collector’s office apply for you. To find out if you’ve been selected, log onto your customer account at that same web address after 10 a.m. on June 19.
If you don’t get drawn for a particular quota hunt, you’ll get a preference point for next year’s drawing, which will improve your chances of being selected. If you’re unable to use your quota permit and you return it at least 10 days prior to your hunt, you’ll get your preference point restored.