The Alligator Hunt

Group with four gators at night
Results of the first day’s hunt; granddaughter Eliza, daughter Sara, myself, Brenda and grandson Jay. Now, to be fair, I was just along for the ride!

They call it alligator hunting, but you could just as easily call it alligator fishing. Actually, it takes a combination of hunting and fishing to get the gator on the boat. First, you gotta hunt to find him, then you gotta catch him with fishing poles. Sometimes the first sighting is through someone’s binoculars, as the gator

Boat with Brenda, Jay and two guides; with two lines hooked to alligator
Jay and one of the guides are hooked onto a gator, at the bottom of this phosphate pit — about 30 foot down. Brenda’s gator is already on the boat.

lies on the bank sunning in the distance. Other times, it’s looking at him on a “fish finder” screen, after he has splashed in and is laying on the bottom in 25 feet of water.

This was a guided, private land hunt in Florida. Within the regulations and quotas, an outfitter can take clients alligator hunting all year

The bang stick ready to deploy
The alligator is still hooked and has a rope over his mouth. All that’s left is poke him in the brain with the “Bang Stick” (orange rod), then bring him onto the boat.

long. They use heavy-duty fishing rods, with big treble hooks, specialized boats, a fish finder, and the most interesting thing — a “bang stick,” with which they “dispatch” the alligator with a bullet in the brain.

The “Bang Stick” is a simple tool; it likely got started in the SCUBA diving industry, as a defensive underwater gun. It is

Grandma and Grandpa sitting together
Brenda and I pose for a picture, before the morning hunt.

a contact firing gun (no trigger) — the firing pin is fixed; when the front of the bang stick is forced abruptly against the head of an alligator, the cartridge moves back and the primer makes contact with the firing pin. The cartridge fires and the bullet exits the chamber (end of the stick) and into the alligator’s

Gator hanging from rope with group looking up at gator
This picture gives perspective of the size of the gators. This one was the longest — nearly 12 feet.

head. This typically happens just under the surface of the water and doesn’t make much noise.

The hunting was very straightforward. We launched the boats in old, abandoned phosphate pits that had naturally filled with water — about 20-30 feet deep. Cruising around the edge of these pits, we would surprise an alligator that was out sunning on the

Brenda with open mouth gator
A happy Brenda, in a classic “hold the mouth open” pose.

bank. The gator went immediately for the water and the hunt was on, using the fish finder.

With heavy duty fishing poles and big treble hooks, we would cast over the gator and hook him as the line was retrieved. Sounds easier than it is! One hook/line really isn’t enough, so a second hookup is required. With two

Jay standing beside gator hanging from rope
Jay caught the biggest gator. He was 5’3” and the gator was 11’8”.

hooks in a gator, you can get him to the boat, but regularly a hook pulls out and you have to re-engage. Sometimes both hooks pull out and you have to start all over. We hooked up with five alligators on this trip. While we had some get “un-hooked,” we never lost one. Interesting hunting/fishing trip — for alligators.

Eliza test firing the hog rifle
There was also some nighttime hog hunting; Eliza is test firing the “hog rifle,” with thermal imaging scope.