Within the past century, Florida’s white-tailed deer herd has gone through many changes. In the late 1930s, there were only about 20,000 deer in the state and they were nearly extirpated in south Florida during an effort to eradicate tick-borne diseases. The Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission (GFC) responded to this by purchasing deer from various sources– including a game farm in Wisconsin–and transplanting them to unoccupied areas in Florida. Also, killing adult females (does) was prohibited during the early restocking period, to further ensure success.
The white-tailed deer is the most economically important big game mammal in North America and Florida. In 2011, over $50 billion was spent on deer hunting in the United States. Florida deer are also a major prey species for the endangered Florida panther. Consequently, deer have been the object of much management, research, and controversy. In Levy County, and much of rural North Central Florida, white-tailed deer are abundant. .They provide recreational opportunities for hunters and can supplement family diets as a great protein source.
Hunter safety is a major concern and educational efforts have greatly improved the safety of deer hunting through the years. Food safety is not as well publicized but can equally cause problems. With some good sanitation and meat handling methods in place, venison from locally harvested deer can be a healthy, tasty and nutritious food source. The biggest challenge to meat quality safety is the high temperatures we experience in Florida compared to our northern state neighbors during the fall and winter hunting seasons.
By following good meat handling techniques, your deer hunting can provide great outdoor recreation and a tasty change of pace as your entrée.
If you are looking to sell wild game please see this information.
Submitted by Ed Jennings,
County Extension Director