Hunting

Prior to public ownership, private hunting leases were sold for deer, turkey, quail and hog.

Deer on Babcock Ranch Preserve

Hunting continues today on 16,612 acres of the Preserve, administered by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The area has opportunities for deer, turkey, wild hog and small game. From September to March, high quality quota hunts take place on limited days. They include seasons for archery, muzzleloading gun, general gun mobility-impaired, family hunt, general gun and spring turkey. Fishing, frogging and trapping are prohibited. Check the Babcock Ranch Preserve Hunt Brochure for the license and permit requirements for each season.

Note: This area is a working ranch with ongoing cattle, timber and farming operations. Please be respectful of ranch staff, be aware of and cautious of cattle, and leave all gates in the same position you find them.

 

Hunting Regulations and Maps 

 

 

cypress swamp

Hiking

Currently, hikers will find two areas open to exploration. Adjacent to Wilderness Adventures, try the EcoTour Trail PDF, which provides a 1.5-mile hike through pine flatwoods. Park at the Babcock Wilderness Adventures parking area.

The Footprints Trail PDF opened in June 2008. Over five miles of trails in several different loops traverse pasture, cypress swamps, pine flatwoods and hammocks in the northwest corner of the property. Access the trailhead from a parking area located on SR 74, adjacent to the Florida Forest Service tower.

Note: This area is a working ranch with ongoing cattle, timber and farming operations. Please be respectful of ranch staff, be aware of and cautious of cattle, and leave all gates in the same position you find them.

 

Wildlife Viewing

The diverse habitats at the Preserve attract an abundance of wildlife. For an overview of the area, start with an excursion with Wilderness Adventures. Since 1993, Wilderness Adventures, Inc. has offered a 90-minute swamp buggy tour which gives visitors an opportunity to see the operations of a traditional Florida cattle ranch and the variety of habitats at the Preserve, including the extensive freshwater wetlands of Telegraph Swamp.

Sandhill Cranes on Babcock Ranch Preserve

After the Wilderness Adventures Tour, set off on your own along the hiking trails, which traverse many of the Preserve's habitats and offer solitude and productive wildlife viewing.

A full suite of wading birds are found in the Preserve's wetlands, including wood storks and roseate spoonbills. Check pastures and prairies for sandhill cranes, crested caracaras and, occasionally, burrowing owls.

Hardwood hammocks and mixed pine and hardwood forests attract migratory warblers in the spring and fall. Sherman's fox squirrels have been spotted in these areas as well. Mature slash pine flatwoods on the Preserve are home to red-cockaded woodpeckers, gopher tortoises and indigo snakes.

Watch for future expansion of public access and recreational activities and the additional viewing opportunities they will provide.

Rules Regarding Dogs

  • For purposes other than hunting, dogs are allowed, but must be kept under physical restraint at all times. Dogs are prohibited in areas posted as "Closed to Public Access" by FWC administrative action. No person shall allow any dog to pursue or molest any wildlife during any period in which the taking of wildlife by the use of dogs is prohibited.
  • Hunting dogs may be taken onto the area anytime access is allowed and shall be removed by 1 1/2 hours after sunset on the last day of each hunt. Hunting with dogs is prohibited, except bird dogs are allowed during the small game season. Dogs are prohibited in areas posted as "Closed to Public Access" by FWC administrative action. No person shall allow any dog to pursue or molest any wildlife during any period in which the taking of wildlife by the use of dogs is prohibited. Dogs on leashes may be used for trailing wounded game.


FWC Facts:
Whooping cranes eat aquatic invertebrates (insects, crustaceans and mollusks), small vertebrates (fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals), roots, acorns and berries.

Learn More at AskFWC