TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida hunters can now muffle their shots when hunting deer, gray squirrels, rabbits, wild turkeys, quail and crows.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on Friday agreed, with little comment, to issue an order that immediately removes a prohibition on the use of noise-suppressors, or silencers, with rifles and pistols.
Florida becomes the 33rd state to allow the noise-suppressors for game hunting.
Florida had been the only state in the Southeast to have such a ban, which was lifted at the request of hunters, said Diane Eggeman, director of the agency's Division of Hunting and Game Management.
Eggeman said silencers cut noise by about 30 decibels, and it's a common misconception that such noise-suppressers eliminate sound from the weapon.
"You can hear it from a long way away," Eggeman said. "It's a significant noise."
Florida already allows the use of suppressors on shotguns for game hunting. A suppressor can also be placed on a rifle or pistol when hunting on private lands for non-game wildlife, including hogs and armadillos.
During the commission meeting, held in Key Largo, Fish and Wildlife staff and a couple of hunters defended the proposal as a means to protect hunters' hearing, lessen the impact of hunting on others and help while introducing people to the sport.
Buck Holly, an owner of C&H Precision Weapons in LaBelle, told the commission that silencers also improve communications among hunters in the field, and he noted his 17-year-old daughter prefers using a silencer on a rifle as it reduces the recoil and sound.
"None of my kids are afraid to hunt with rifles because there is no longer the loud bang," Holly said. "There is not a lot of recoil, they all think it's fun."
Holly added there has been an uptick in silencer sales in Hendry County in anticipation of the prohibition being lifted.
Concerns have been expressed to the commission that lifting the ban would reduce safety and increase opportunities for illegal activities. But Eggeman said wildlife officials from other states haven't reported an increase in illegal activities as few hunters use suppressors because they are expensive and highly regulated.
To purchase a silencer, a hunter must pay a $200 registration fee with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and pass an FBI background check.
The cost of a rifle suppressor has been estimated between $450 and $2,000.