John's Journal...


War With The Gator

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.

"That gator's laying back on the tree," Tadlock whispered as he spotted the mammoth gator for the second time. "Get ready, Ronnie." Groom had replaced the 250-pound braided cable with 200-pound braided Dacron line. He knew the line would peel off the reel easier, even if the line didn't have the strength of the cable. At the end of the line, he had tied two cork bottles. If we hit the gator, we could keep up with his movements as he drug the line around attached to both the arrow and the bottles on the surface. Tadlock started calling. The gorilla-sized gator once more left the tree and swam out to do battle in midstream. "I'll get that gator," Groom announced with confidence as he drew his bow and pointed at the gator swimming at us looking for something to kill. When 8 feet from the boat, Click to enlargethe huge reptile once more turned sideways, and Groom launched an arrow. The solid fiberglass shaft penetrated deep into the big gator's neck. This time when the lizard dove, it pulled out line. The two plastic bottles jumped out of the 5-gallon bucket where they rested.

"We got him!" I yelled to Tadlock. "Nope," Tadlock disagreed. "We've got him hit. But we're a long way from having him in the boat." As the gator started swimming upstream, Wheeler and Waller maneuvered their boat into position to try and keep the gator in the deep water. Both boats flanked the gator as he swam deep along the bottom. We had hoped the sound of the motors would make the reptile stay in midstream away from the tree-lined and stump-infested bank to enable us to get another shot. Tadlock informed us that a gator only could stay down for 30 to 45 minutes before it had to come up for air. He told Groom to, "get a broadhead ready. You've got that fish arrow in him already. When that gator comes up, put a broadhead in him this time." We chased the plastic jugs upstream. As the gigantic gator appeared, Groom launched a second arrow. Once more the alligator dove for the bottom. However, this time, he turned toward the bank lined with fallen trees. Although both boats circled the gator, we couldn't keep him out of the trees. When the jugs lodged in the trees, we knew the gator probably lay close to the bank under the trees. "There he is," Tadlock whispered. We saw the gator's head laying on a limb and Groom's fish arrow still well-placed in the gator's neck.

"Get another fish arrow with a cable on it," Tadlock directed. Groom Click to enlargequickly followed Tadlock's instructions, and the boat plowed ahead toward the gator. "Leave the cable in the bucket instead of wrapping it around the spool on the bow." Only 6 feet from the gator, Groom launched another arrow. When this third arrow hit, the gator's massive head came back toward the boat. I saw an immense number of teeth inside his canyon-wide mouth. I moved quickly to get away from the terrifying teeth to the other side of the 4-1/2-foot wide boat. When the gator dove this time, he had finished playing. He swam through the limbs and broke the 200-pound test line attached to the bottles. "We don't have the bottles to follow now, John," I told Tadlock. "What do we do?" Groom said, "I don't have any more fish arrows, either," Tadlock explained. "We'll have to harpoon him." Tadlock had two harpoons like the old whalers once used with heavy oak shafts and large stainless-steel rods in their ends. These harpoons had the points of spear guns attached to the ends of their shafts with break-away steel cables. As we waited and watched the surface of the water, we saw the white shaft of the fish arrow appear in midstream. "There's the gator," Tadlock reported. "Get ready, Ronnie."

Groom grabbed the harpoon and prepared for the thrust. However, the gator vanished before we could get close enough to make the strike. Two more times the gator came to the surface and then disappeared. I thought we'd lost the giant lizard. But the next time we spotted the trophy gator, he lay in the limbs of a tree up against the bank. Tadlock motored the boat toward the broad gator, and Groom readied the harpoon. When the boat was less than 1 foot from the gator, Groom drove the harpoon deep into the gator's back. The long lizard twisted, rolled and bent the end of the shaft. We readied the second harpoon. When the gator reappeared, Groom made a second thrust. This time, the harpoon did its job, and we had a strong cable attached to the gator. Instead of diving, however, the behemoth gator threw his head back toward the boat, coming within 1 foot of Tadlock. Wheeler, watching from the second boat, yelled out, "Ya'll got a real S.O.B. on the line, haven't you?" as he laughed and watched the splash of the big gator. Although we had the cable firmly attached to the gator now, the brute lizard had swam to the bottom. We could feel the cable rubbing against a log underneath the surface. "The gator's under a log," Tadlock said. "We may have a hard time getting him out."

Click to enlargeWhen I asked what we should do, Tadlock's eyes twinkled like those of a leprechaun about to reveal the location of a pot of gold. He told me, "We'll wait for about an hour. If the gator doesn't come out from under the log, we'll let Eugene swim down the cable and pull that gator out. Then we can get the gator up and into the boat." Caught off-guard, I couldn't believe Wheeler would dive in the water, swim down the cable, wrestle the alligator and pull it out from under the log. But when I questioned Wheeler, in his slow southern drawl he replied sarcastically "Yeah, sure, I'm gonna swim down that cable and grab that gator. And from now on, every time someone comes down this river, they'll say, `you see that tree over there against the bank? That's where Eugene Wheeler was turned into alligator manure.'" We all laughed while we waited on the gator's next move.



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 3