October 21, 2011
Usually, I am only lucky enough to do one alligator hunt a year, but this year I was lucky enough to have two. After taking a big 11-foot, 1-inch gator a couple years ago with my bow, and another giant in South Carolina with my rifle earlier this fall, I was headed to Louisiana in hopes of wrapping up the big gator slam. I'm not sure if Grand Slam Club/Ovis recognizes my lizard slam, but my goal was to get a gator on a hook just like the guys of Swamp People on the History Channel.
This was a completely new experience baiting hooks, setting lines, and really felt more like trapping more than anything. It's all about your set and making sure the chicken hangs just the right distance from the water, winding up your line just right, and most importantly, the location of your bait.
A good friend of mine, Alan Wade from Bogalusa, La., offered to take me out for our first gator hunting experience in Louisiana. Neither of us had hunted alligators in this fashion before, but after doing a little research and some scouting, we felt we had the perfect setup. Alan found a big slide where gators were coming through on a constant basis so we decided this would be one of our main setups.
After setting our baits, we decided to set up in a tree stand and watch over the chicken. We figured it would be a perfect birds-eye view to all the action. Unfortunately, after a long sit all day there was very little action, except for one small gator that came in to tangle with the chicken. Apparently he got a little too tired out trying to get the bait and resorted to just looking at it from a distance.
The last morning of my hunt we checked our first baits and had a couple knockdowns, but no gators on the line. The last bait to check was near the slide, and I couldn't wait to check it out. After coming around the corner, we could instantly see the line was down and there was something sticking out of the water that looked like a tail. In all reality, it looked way too big to be a tail, until it splashed into the water as we drove up in our little boat. Both Alan and I looked at each other in amazement, as this gator looked to be as big as our boat. Unfortunately, I didn't have a cameraman on this trip, so it was just Alan and I, and now we were plus-one. I tried filming a bit at the beginning, but realized we had our hands full with this GIANT gator, so I tied the camera to the corner of the boat and hit record. My only goal was making a good shot into this gator and keeping him out of our boat -- this was not a time to worry about footage. It would be an easy lunge for this big gator to hop right into our boat, and there's no telling what could happen after that.
Before doing this hunt, I remember thinking that it can't be as much fun to fight a gator that is already connected to a line, but that is very untrue. This was one of the most intense times I've ever had hunting. I actually felt both Alan and I were both in real danger if this gator decided to get testy and attack our boat. The other difficulty is the actual shot. There is such a small area on a gator where a bullet will penetrate the brain that it can be very difficult. Also, you may make a perfect shot right away but with a gator this size you need to keep shooting every time you have a clear shot on his brain.
After a few shots we finally were able to secure the gator to the boat, and I took tape and wrapped it around his mouth as quick as possible. Even though the gator seemed to be dead, they can still react and snap at you, so it's extremely important to get tape around their mouth instantly. This is another intense time as those first few strips of tape go around the gator. Once we had his mouth secured, we motored back to the shore and had to compensate for the excessive weight on the one side of our boat. On the ride back, we called one of Alan's friends, Chris Penton, who offered to assist us with the gator on shore. When we explained just how big it was, he decided to bring in some real help -- a Bobcat!
It really was a dream come true seeing my big gator being pulled out of the water with the Bobcat and setting him on the dock for pics! I have dreamed of killing a big gator more than anything else in the world, so it should be no surprise that I decided to have a full-body mount done. I have a place in my living room right over my TV that I have always said I wanted a giant gator sitting with his tail hanging down the side of the TV. Well, now my wish will come true, and I can't wait to look at this big lizard every time I walk into my living room. The other great news, I now need to buy an extra freezer just for all my gator meat from this fall. Anyone up for a gator feed at my place?