Florida's Juniper Creek WMA Open to Family Hunts in 2011-12

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When the 2011-12 Florida hunting season opens, there will be a new public hunting area in Calhoun County with a focus on families and youth, thanks to the efforts of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and its partnership with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

The Juniper Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is on the small side - just 900 acres - but it will be open to five family hunts for deer and wild hogs and one spring turkey youth hunt. A family hunt is open to two young people ages 8-15 and an adult with a quota permit.

The deer hunts are timed around the holiday periods of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's and the peak of the rut in late January.

The Juniper Creek tract is owned by the USFS and classified as an experimental forest, where its personnel do termite research on a small portion of the area. The area is approximately two miles long and less than a mile wide; it borders State Road 20 west of Clarksville.

Management of the area was recently transferred to the USFS Apalachicola National Forest. Managers saw it as a great opportunity for family hunting.

"The Forest Service is committed to connecting kids with nature, and here's a special opportunity for families to enjoy hunting and the outdoors," said Marcus Beard, district ranger for the USFS. "This is a perfect fit for our goals of encouraging families to have healthy outdoor experiences."

He said the Juniper Creek area is the only federally owned public land in Florida exclusively dedicated to youth hunting.

Beard said both USFS and FWC staff have been at work over the past few weeks preparing eight food plots for planting in wildlife-beneficial grasses and legumes.

In addition, hunters will have elevated hunting blinds accessible to hunters with disabilities, thanks to a generous contribution from the Beau Turner Youth Conservation Center. Beard said work on the blinds will begin soon and should be completed sometime this summer.

Quota permits for the area will be issued out of the Apalachicola Ranger District Office in Bristol. Details and the application timetable are still being worked out.