Dixie Sportsman’s Hunting Preserve, a hunting and wildlife preserve in Dixie County, is now available for purchase.
Bought in 2008 by Bruce Jonas, owner of Masters Construction and Development, LLC, in Tampa, the farm is a 320-acre area with terrain varying from swamplands to thick woods to vast plains.
Jonas recently put the property up for sale without an asking price and said the amount depends on the economy. He has relied only on word of mouth to advertise the land.
The farm is host to a range of wild animals that have either been imported or were born on the land. Visitors can pile up in massive swamp buggies, all-terrain vehicles set atop wheels as large as hay bales, and get up close and personal with American bison, whitetail and axis deer, wild boars, elk and more.
Mike Frazier, a 67-year-old retiree, maintains the land and animals for Jonas year-round. He and his wife Mary live in a double-wide trailer on the edge of the property.
“I like to come out here, turn this thing off, bring an umbrella and a book and take a nice power nap,” Frazier said, referencing the swamp buggy. “Nobody gonna bother you.”
Mary Frazier often cooks for hunters who stay in the fully furnished hunting lodge on the property. Mike Frazier skins and harvests game after it has been shot. Whatever the hunters do not use, the Fraziers do for meat or utility.
When Jonas, 52, bought the property, he intended to discontinue the hunting and use the land privately.
“I’m really more of an outdoorsman than a hunter,” he said.
The previous owner, who had wild animals such as water buffalo and zebras imported for trophy game, insisted that Jonas maintain the hunting activity.
Jonas said Dixie Sportsman’s Hunting Preserve was a hunting destination for about 20 groups last year, not including charity, personal and company trips. Hunts for animals such as Florida hogs, Ankole-Watusi and American bison range from $500 to almost $3,000.
The animals are wild and not trained or fed, except during hunting season when automatic metal feeders around the property sound a dinner bell once in the morning and once at night. Hunters sit in blinds with their weapons while the feeders go off, attracting animals to the area.
Though some find an ethical issue in baiting the animals in an enclosed space, Jonas said it is not as easy as point-and-shoot. More often, he sees hunters shoot with a crossbow, which is more difficult and requires the animal to be in a specific stance before shooting.
Applied behavior analysis therapist and avid hunter Katelyn Humphrey said she sees no problem in paying to hunt, depending on the method.
“I just disagree with shooting an animal that isn’t really free,” the 23-year-old said. “It takes the sport out of it.”
Frazier said high-profile football and basketball players have flown in on private jets to stay at the lodge and hunt a specific game animal.
“You’ll see them get off their jets sipping champagne,” he said. “They wanna shoot a deer, and they’ve never shot a gun before.”
Jonas and his registered guides spend time with all of the hunters regardless of experience level, ensuring they understand their weapons and the anatomy of the animals. Jonas sits on several Florida boards with missions to establish standards that would help the agricultural industry and promote the healthy treatment of animals.
“I wouldn’t want someone to come here and think it’s unethical and easy,” he said. “Some hunters will get frustrated at how hard hunting can be, and good hunters will have to return two or three times to get the animal they want.”
Though Jonas does not plan on aggressively pushing the sale of the land, he hopes the future owner will respect and enjoy it. He will not urge the future owner to continue the hunting business, which he does not advertise now.
Jonas said he doesn’t have time to enjoy the land anymore.
“My whole world is centered around my kids now,” he said.