An Adventure You Will Never Forget
article by Dan Chason
I have hunted about every creature you can hunt in the South. From wild hogs to deer to turkey to squirrels to ducks, none can compare to the thrill of hunting the elusive alligator. We get used to seeing these reptiles while fishing, and few alarms go off as they are just part of the scenery. But I assure you when you grab hold of one on a line, you will never forget it.
One of my first alligator hunts was memorable, as we were filming it. I was with my good friend, who was the land owner. This gator had wrapped around a stump and would not budge. I volunteered to go and unwind him, so he could be harvested. That was mistake number one. Mistake number two was misjudging the strength of a 11 foot alligator when cornered. After getting slapped with its tail and almost getting a hand ripped off, we successfully dispatched him. Not to be outdone, we continued to run our sets. I was a wiser and more cautious hunter from that point forward. I gained a newfound respect for this prehistoric looking creature.
Another hunt was down in Tensas Parish, where we quickly rolled up to a set where the line was down. It was hot. I mean hot enough to fry an egg on the deck of the boat. The landowner was following us in another boat, so we decided to dispatch the gator and leave it on the line so it would stay cool. The landowner decided to assist us by putting the gator in their boat. Mistake number two. He wasn’t dead. I have never seen grown men move so fast. That alligator ran one over the back of the boat and turned to do the same with the front passenger. I would have helped, if I hadn’t been laughing so hard. Luckily, the gator went back into the water, and we returned to take care of him. These were hard lessons that could have ended in tragedy.
Alligator hunting is highly regulated. If you intend on hunting alligators, I will give you a few tips, but make for sure that you have the correct licenses and tags. It is important to regulate the sport and the amount of alligators taken and the only way to prevent overharvest is to regulate it. The first thing to remember is that alligators are primarily nocturnal when feeding. But, alligators cannot be hunted at night. You want to slip into an area to scout as quietly as possible. Look for the tell-tale signs of alligator presence, such as muddy slides into the water edges, paths cut through grass patches and my favorite, bubbles. A good bubble trail will turn me onto a big alligator quicker than anything. I like to sit on the bank and just watch my hunting area with binoculars. Sooner or later, that alligator will come up for air for me to judge his size. The second thing you need is a strong stomach. Alligator bait can range from nutria parts, fish or stinking, rotten chicken. The worse it smells, the better. Remember to set your line/hook high. The lower you set your bait, the more likely you are to snare a smaller gator. Big gators will rise and take the bait, engulfing the hook into their belly. All you have to do then is return the next morning and find where he is hiding.
Caution is an understatement when dealing with an alligator. They have enough strength in their mouths to break a two by four when biting. This is the reason, whether you are sure that the alligator has been dispatched, to always….and I mean always, tape their mouths shut. Problem number two is the tail. Their tails are where the majority of their strength and movements lie. Again, grabbing an alligator by the tail can result in a broken bone for you, if he isn’t dead. They are an exceptional animal with an extended life even after shot. I have seen gators come off of trailers and out of pickup truck beds when the hunter believes they are done, so be very careful.
Alligator season in Louisiana runs during the month of September. The hardest part of it all is keeping the meat and hide from spoiling. Make sure to carry burlap sacks, ice and a tarp to keep the hide and meat cool. There are various alligator operations in our area who will process the hide and meat for you. Remember that the tag must remain with the alligator and all paperwork has to remain with it even if it goes to a taxidermist.
Some residents find it cute or fun to feed resident alligators. Nothing is more dangerous or irresponsible. Feeding an alligator makes it lose its fear of humans. Their fear of us is one thing that keeps them away. Not only is it not smart to feed them, it is illegal.
If you live on a waterway and have a nuisance alligator, contact your local LDWF office who will dispatch a licensed hunter to remove the alligator. Don’t approach, taunt or mess with the alligator as it will only make its removal that much more difficult. If you are looking to experience a good alligator hunt, I recommend Allen Butler (318) 282-7362 or at www.LBBAINC.com
Don’t forget your heart medicine, and be prepared for an adventure that you will never forge!