Organization, planning and patience keys to success
Alligator hunting is one of Mississippi’s most challenging pursuits, and among some hunters it’s the most exciting. But those challenges can lead to a frustrating season for some. Ricky Flynt, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks Alligator Program coordinator, explained some of the most common mistakes he sees.
“I’d have to say that the single most common mistake I see occurring among gator hunters is their failure to be prepared for the ‘Big One,'” Flynt said. “I’m not sure if it’s because they have low expectations of success, or if they simply are not experienced in what it takes to follow up after the harvest of a large alligator.
“For the most part, many hunters have never had their hands on a large alligator at all. It can be a little overwhelming for a first-timer once they are up close with a 10-foot or larger alligator and see just how cumbersome the carcass is to handle, much less to get it placed into cold storage.”
Because alligator season occurs in the hottest part of the year, Flynt said hunters need to have a plan in advance to cool their gator.
“An alligator carcass can ruin in quick order once the sun rises if there is not already a contingency plan in place,” Flynt said. “Access to walk-in coolers are the best option, but there are alternatives that work well if a person is creative.”
Get it together
“The second most likely mistake has to do with being organized,” Flynt said. “Alligator hunting requires a lot of different equipment, gear, and supplies.
“Just finding a place to store all of the necessary and potential items to be used in a boat and still have enough room to walk around in the boat can be quite a task, much less have it organized. Things can get very exciting very quickly. It can be all hands on deck at the drop of a hat.”
Because of that, Flynt said success can greatly depend on a group’s ability to adapt quickly and have the necessary items needed for the situation at hand.
“That means that everyone in the hunting party knows where everything is located and can get to it quickly,” Flynt said. “So, being disorganized can be the difference in success and heartbreak.
“Prepare well ahead of the hunt. Use a check list and check items off as you prepare your vessel for the hunt.”
Watch and wait
According to Flynt, patience is a virtue when it comes to alligator hunting. Not only can it improve your success, it can improve the quality of hunts for others.
“Alligators, compared to humans, are very patient,” Flynt said. “It is nothing for an alligator to submerge upon the approach of a boat and just go lay on the bottom of the river for 10 to 20 minutes, maybe over an hour, then slowly and stealthily resurface a short distance away with nothing but their eyes and nostrils above the water surface.
“People who are not familiar with alligator habits can run themselves ragged up and down the river approaching alligators only to see them submerge, then aborting to move on down the river looking for another alligator. This type of hunting is less productive and creates more disturbance of alligators and other alligator hunters.”
Flynt recommends that if you see a gator you want to harvest and it submerges, stick with it, be quiet, keep your lights on and watch for bubbles, ripples or moving vegetation.
“If a hunter watches for these clues, there is no need to keep moving when the alligator you are wanting to hunt is right under your nose, so to speak,” Flynt said.
Although Flynt said all of his points are keys to a successful hunt, returning home alive and unharmed is the most important aspect of alligator hunting.
“Never take chances that could result in accidents that can result in serious mistakes, injuries or even death for yourself and others around you,” Flynt said. “Things can be very dangerous navigating the waterways at night. In fact, navigating the waters with multiple people and all of the equipment in the payload on a vessel is the most dangerous aspect of alligator hunting.”
• Wear personal floatation devices at all times.
• Follow boating regulations and have all safety gear on hand.
• Have first aid kits readily available.
• Keep cell phones in dry storage.
• Always make sure someone outside your hunting party knows the general location of where you will be hunting and where you are launching your boat.
• Keep plenty of water and sustainable food on board.
• Never consume alcohol while hunting.
And last, but not least, “Get plenty of rest,” Flynt said. “Alligator hunting can be extremely exhausting and an exhausted boat operator is a recipe for disaster.”
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