Overlaying John F. Kennedy Space Center, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge was established in August 1963 to provide a buffer zone for space flight operations. Approximately one-half of the refuge's 140,000 acres consist of brackish estuaries and marshes. Waterfowl hunting is permitted on over 35,000 acres in designated hunt areas from September through January. Concentrations of waterfowl occur in the open waters of Mosquito Lagoon and in the brackish and fresh water wetlands during the fall and winter. Common species include blue-winged teal, lesser scaup, pintail, mottled ducks and American wigeon. The open season for ducks and coots is concurrent with seasons established by the state of Florida. Hunting opportunities in Areas 1 and 4 are issued by quota for the months of November, December and January. An early teal season, veteran hunt and youth hunt are also held; specific regulations apply. See Merritt Island NWR Waterfowl Hunt Brochure 2022-2023 below. Color maps of Waterfowl Hunt Areas can also be found below.
In addition, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge also offers a Big Game archery hunt (white-tail deer and feral hog only) on approximately 5,000 acres of upland habitat. Big Game hunts are generally offered during the months of October, November and December, and are a limited entry/quota hunt. For additional information and how to apply for limited entry/quota permits, see Merritt Island NWR Big Game Hunt Brochure 2022-2023 below.
Check with refuge headquarters for information on specific hunting regulations and for information regarding any area closures due to Kennedy Space Center operations.