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09
Hunting at the T.M. Goodwin Reserve Is Complex & Rewarding

Planning a duck hunting excursion to the T.M. Goodwin Waterfowl Management Area is a complex undertaking that requires patience and a lot of effort.

The first step is calling to reserve a permit, which usually means spending a couple of hours with the telephone on redial.

Then there's the issues of scouting, trying to determine which one of the 30 permitted areas to hunt and figuring out how and where to set up your blind.

Even locating the 12-square-mile marsh on the map is a challenge. The Goodwin area is six miles off the paved road and in the middle of the Upper St. Johns River Basin, about a one-hour, 45-minute drive from Lakeland.

Hunters call in every Wednesday at 9 a.m. to reserve spots for the biweekly hunts on Saturdays and Tuesdays. It is first-come, first-served and only one hunt can be reserved per call, so two calls are necessary to hunt on Saturday and Tuesday.

The phone reservation line number is: 321-953-5033.

There is only one person taking the calls, and the process usually continues past noon if all 30 permits are filled.

Each permit allows up to four hunters, who must be at the area check station by 5 a.m. the morning of the hunt. After 5 a.m., remaining permits are claimed by walk-ins who take the chance that openings will arise.

Scouting is also a quandary, but a must to get your bearings and learn the lay of the land to determine where you want to hunt and what obstacles must be overcome.

For example, we had to ford a canoe with three hunters and our gear over a deep canal to a secondary berm, then across a deep ditch just to reach knee-deep water in the marsh.

But with 16 ducks among the three of us, lacking two for a triple limit because of my lousy shooting, we found it well worth the effort on the opening day of the second phase Dec. 11.

Boats under 30-horsepower can be used in some of the areas, but the vegetation is too thick in many spots even for a Go-Devil. Airboats are not allowed.

A low-boy trailer fitted with a long two-way bench carries hunters to their blinds on the Goodwin unit, but not Broadmoor.

Boat trailer parking is very limited.

With 30 blind locations over 6,000 acres, you have to know exactly where you are going to be the morning of the hunt.

Vehicles can be used for scouting from the dike roads only Mondays and Thursdays on the T.M. Goodwin Unit, and only on Thursdays at Broadmoor. The area is open for walking or bicycles except on Saturdays and Tuesdays. But keep in mind that it is 12 square miles.

To get to T.M. Goodwin from Polk County, drive east on State Road 60, beyond Yeehaw Junction and the Sunshine State Parkway and almost to I-95 at Vero Beach.

County Road 512 finally comes into view once you're halfway across Indian River County. Head north on 512 to Fellsmere, then left on CR 507 at the blinking light and north again about 31/2 miles to the Fellsmere Grade.

From there's, it's left off 507 and 6 miles down the unpaved Fellsmere Grade to T.M. Goodwin.

The Stick Marsh is across the C-54 canal from T.M. Goodwin.

Don't forget your federal waterfowl stamp, Florida waterfowl stamp and appropriate state licenses.

And don't be late.

For a brochure and hunt data on the T.M. Goodwin Waterfowl Management Area, check the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Web site at MyFWC.com.

Del Milligan can be reached at del.milligan@theledger.com or at 863-802-7555.

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