television personality Mehmet Oz spent months in a Pennsylvania Senate race touting a hunting history in Florida. But the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission confirmed that Oz never had a license to hunt legally in the Sunshine State.
The vast majority of property Oz owns in the state of Florida remains unsuitable for hunting.
It is legal to hunt without a license, but the state limits what game can be hunted and where it takes place. The lack of a Florida license for hunting activities indicates that Oz’s sporting activities may have violated legal requirements or were more limited than the Republican candidate claimed during his primary campaign.
Campaign videos showed Oz in a different setting than seen by talk show the viewers. A April announcement began with a close-up of Oz’s hands as he loaded and cocked a double-barreled shotgun, then fired a pistol. He discusses hunting as a child with his father and does the same now with his son.
“When people say I won’t support guns, they’re completely wrong,” he said before firing a shell at a dirt skeet.
That hunting plays a major role in the GOP primary comes as no surprise to political watchers in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Game Commission issued more than 887,000 hunting licenses to state residents in 2020, more than any other state, according to Political PA. In such a sports-dominated culture, Oz and the Republican primary opponent Dave McCormick carried long guns prominently in advertisements showcasing support for the Second Amendment to voters.
During an interview with Newsmax the same month, Oz explained where he hunts these days. A host asked about a hunting ranch in Montana, and Oz corrected the questioner. “Well, the hunting ranch is in Florida, but that’s nice,” he said. “I will invite you.”
But if Oz has ever hunted in Florida, he never got a license to do so. Tammy Sappa spokesperson for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, confirmed that the state has no record of him holding a hunting license in the state.
That doesn’t mean the agency has no knowledge of Oz’s activities. He held a fishing license for three days in 2013. Notably, he listed Princeton, New Jersey as his home at the time, a significant snippet given the media personality was obsessed with state residency since entering the race.
Whether Oz ever needed to get a hunting license largely depends on what he intended to shoot. Florida requires a license for any hunter who intends to take fur-bearing animals or game birds with a gun or bow. This covers hunting turkey, deer, duck, goose, coot, moorhen, rail, snipe, woodcock, mourning dove and dove at white wings. Licenses for such targets are required whether taken on public or private land.
There are a few exceptions. Florida residents over the age of 65 are exempt from the requirements, but at 62 that wouldn’t cover Oz even if he lived in Florida. Members of the armed forces on 30-day furlough can also hunt without a license, but that’s also a category that won’t cover Oz.
Most importantly, Florida will allow people year-round to hunt wild pigs whether or not they hold a license, as long as they use a light with their weapon. The state allows seasonal hog hunting on some state-run land and at any time on private land, provided the owners grant permission.
This raises questions about Oz’s claim to owning a hunting ranch in Florida. The most notable home claimed by Oz in the state is said to be a Palm Beach County mansion. The Palm Beach Daily News in 2018, Oz reported that Oz was behind the purchase of the $18 million Louwana estate, and financial informations filed after Oz began his run for the Senate confirms his ownership through the Louwana Trust.
the wife of Oz, Lisahas long had ties to the region through his family, the newspaper reported.
But this island home is no hunting ground. Located on a key east of West Palm Beach — incidentally on the same island as Mar-a-Lago — the only thing a landlord would likely chase on the estate would be prestige.
Disclosures show that Oz owns other property in the state, although most of it is commercial property and also remains unsuitable for sport hunting. He has a joint stake in Norwich Partners, which owns commercial properties in Sanibel, as well as commercial properties in Aventura, Clearwater and Clearwater Beach.
The only possible clue to the location of this hunting ranch lies in Oz’s property of Emerald Oaks, a cattle farm that was just purchased in December.
Okeechobee County property records show Emerald Oaks owns three properties, all in the unincorporated county, and lists a property address in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania. One of them appears to be a residential lot with a house in a neighborhood. Another has no address and appears to be mostly pasture.
Another property, however, contains substantial, pristine wilderness. A large property on 128th Avenue is zoned as a rural estate and records show a residence and a mobile home on the property.
Bill Royce, Okeechobee County planning director, said the owners had not obtained permission to establish a commercial hunting camp. This would require county site plan approval, and no one has requested such land use.
When asked if the owners of the property could hunt on the land themselves, Royce said it was likely. “I don’t see why not,” he said.
But he stressed that state laws still apply and anyone hunting in the field should only take animals licensed to hunt. Licensing requirements remain in place. Royce noted a prevalence of hog hunting in the area.