John's Journal...

The Beginning Of The Hunt

Click to enlarge Editor's Note: I can’t think of anything more exciting than hunting big bull aggressive alligators with a bow. This week I’ll take you with me on a thrilling alligator hunt. Alligator hunting is primarily a southern sport since gators don’t do well in snow. Because regulations vary from state to state on seasons, bag limits and equipment you can use, always check the laws in the state where you plan to hunt.

In the inky-black darkness, we could hear only the hum of the trolling motor above the roar of the mosquitoes as we hunted for a cannibal that weighed more than 500 pounds. Any animal that would eat its own kind had to be vicious and despicable. The tremendous-sized cannibal we hunted on this sweltering summer's evening had claimed numbers of victims of his species and others for many years. We already had encountered an 8-foot Click to enlargeand a 9-foot alligator earlier in the evening and decided not to take them. But an hour later when the white light from our Q-Beam spotlight reflected on two, very wide-set, quarter-sized eyes, John Tadlock, a professional alligator hunter and guide from Panama City, Florida, whispered, "There's a good 'un." Then Tadlock began to call to the gator just as someone would call ducks or turkeys.

"The calling makes the alligator think another gator has moved into its territory," Tadlock explained." Since gators are very territorial and cannibalistic, if that's a big gator on the bank, it'll come out to fight when it hears me call." In the still blackness of the night, I heard a loud splash. I saw a 6-inch size limb on a tree laying in the water pushed below the surface." When a gator can push down a limb the size of a man's arm on a green tree, you know you've got a big lizard coming after you," Tadlock commented.

As Tadlock held the spotlight on the gator's eyes and continued to call the reptile with aggressive, challenging calls, I wondered about the size of this gator. Even though the current came swiftly through the oxbow lake, the gator moved at a steady pace straight for our small, 12-foot aluminum boat. "I guarantee youClick to enlarge as wide as that gator's eyes are apart, it's at least 10-feet long," Tadlock observed. I certainly never anticipated the immense size of the prehistoric monster now on a collision course with our skiff that felt smaller with each passing minute. Ronnie Groom, a long-time hunting buddy of mine, a master bowhunter and owner of C & G Sporting Goods in Panama City, invited me to go with him on an alligator hunt. He told me that John Tadlock, "is a really good gator-hunter. John will scout before the hunt to try and find us some 10-foot gators. I've never seen or heard anybody call alligators as successfully as John does." I'd hunted turkeys and ducks all my life and was fascinated at the idea of talking to wildlife to bring them to me. I understood how I could call ducks into decoys because of the social nature of waterfowl. I knew I could lure in a male turkey with the seductive calling of a hen. But I realized most reptiles never uttered a sound except for bull gators that bellowed during spring nesting season. I wanted to know what would trigger an alligator to come to a call in the late summer.

Click to enlargeWhen I asked Groom to explain, he replied, "Reptiles are animal-eaters. An alligator responds to calling because it wants to kill and eat the intruder it thinks is coming into its territory. The alligator anticipates a fight to the death and expects a victim dinner as a reward. If we hunt a gator, understand when it comes to the boat that it is leaving the bank and coming to kill something." Then and there I decided this trip might take the award as my top adventure of a lifetime. I learned that when a big bull gator moved into a territory, he became like the warlords of old. Any time he saw or heard a contender to his throne, the alligator would meet that challenger with deadly force. When I asked Groom if he thought he could kill an alligator with his bow, he answered, "If that gator gets close enough, I'll shoot it." Excitedly I told Groom to, "set the date. You plan to do the shooting with your bow, and I'll shoot with my camera. Now we need to find us a big gator."


Check back each day this week for more about THE GREAT GATOR HUNT ...

Day 1 - The Beginning Of The Hunt
Day 2 - The First Hunt
Day 3 - War With The Gator
Day 4 - The Final Battle
Day 5 - Gator Hunting Saves The Wetlands




Entry 263, Day 1