John's Journal...


The Final Battle

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.

After an hour's wait, Tadlock said, "We'd better get this gator in the boat. If we don't, I'm afraid we'll lose him. Put the bang stick on the end of the harpoon, Ronnie." Groom screwed a metal fitting containing a .44 caliber rifle shell onto the end of the harpoon. If Groom hit the gator with the bang stick, the shell would fire and kill the alligator. As Tadlock felt the cable move, he knew the big bull had prepared to come up for the last time. He instructed Groom to, "get ready, Ronnie. He's coming up." When the wide eyes and the huge body of the gator surfaced not 3 feet from the boat, Click to enlargeGroom administered the coup de grace. The gator threw his head down and his tail up, rolling and thrashing beside the boat and throwing murky water high in the air. We feared we might capsize. I thought one or more of us would get bitten before the big bull gave up. But finally I saw the alligator's immense foot and back laying still above the subsiding waves of black water. We tried to put the Bunyan-sized gator in the boat but almost swamped the craft. We towed him to the shallow side of the river to a mud flat. All five of us had to get in the warm, dark water up to our waists to try and drag that gator out on the bank. We pushed and shoved to finally wrestle our monster gator out on the shore while I worried that another gator might lurk under the surface.

"That's the biggest gator I've ever seen," Tadlock told us. "Let's measure him." The gator was 13-feet long and weighed over 800 pounds. After a brief rest, we loaded the expired gator into the boat, which required all the strength the five of us could muster. The monster-sized gator entirely filled up the boat. The war for the record-size gator had taken five hours. We nearly lost the big reptile four or five times and had several close Click to enlargeencounters with the popping jaws of the bull gator's barrel-sized head. The gator had given us a night of hunting, adventure, excitement and thrills to last a lifetime. Although I'd never participated in a bow-and-arrow gator hunt before, I promise you it won't be my last.

More than 1 million alligators, a close relative of the dinosaur, live in Florida. Because of their growing numbers, alligators were taken off the endangered species list in 1985. Statistics from a couple of years ago show that Florida residents reported more than 12,000 threatening alligators in pools, motel fountains, golf courses, schools and even the flame trench of the space shuttle's launching pad to the state of Florida. Although few gators actually attack humans, biologists have found these incidences increasing, as alligators grow less wary of humans and people feed them. Gators, which like to eat fish, turtles, birds, deer and especially pets, generally range between 6- to 14-feet long and can weigh 1/2-ton (1,000 pounds) or more. These reptiles' jaws hold 80 teeth so strong they can snap a 2x4 like a toothpick. One Floridian had a gator Click to enlargeturn on his small flat-bottomed boat and take the front end of the boat in its mouth before putting its teeth through the aluminum bottom. Besides a body often described as one massive muscle from head to tail, the alligator also can see in the dark due to the crystals that line its eyes and intensify light. Florida's 40 or so licensed alligator hunters remove about 4,500 gators a year from the state, transporting alligators 4-feet long or less to other swamps. But they must kill bigger gators because of their intense homing instinct. One gator the state tagged, released and moved 25 miles away turned up at the original site in less than a month.



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 4