Gator Hunting

This is one of those random posts again. Today we are going to discuss one of my favorite things to do. . .gator hunting. Let me say that if you have an issue with people who harvest animals please stop reading now. Sorry, we all have different things that we enjoy and this is one of the ones that I do. I have friends that can’t stand that I harvest animals but we simply agree to disagree. You can do the same and I will be perfectly fine with that. I am going to talk about my very first time gator hunting.

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Four years ago I was at my cousin’s wedding in the middle of the state. I happened to start talking to my uncle and he had mentioned something about gator permits being open for the lottery. I became instantly interested. He is a guide and takes people out gator hunting all the time. If you are interested in going, you can find him on Facebook under Salty Cracker Charters, Capt. Mike Reark, best captain I know. I am not just saying that because he is my uncle but because I have been on his guided hunts and they are AWESOME.

Anyway, back to the story. After talking to my uncle he told me to apply for permits and if I pulled he would take me gator hunting. A couple weeks later I sat biting my nails, hoping that I would be awarded a permit. The state of Florida only awards about 800 permits, which is 1600 gators (2 gators per permit), and a lot of people apply for these, including people who buy the permits to ensure that the gator isn’t killed.

I pulled permits and was BEYOND excited! I called my uncle and we set up the weekend I would be able to come up to camp in Buckhead Ridge to get my tags filled. I will not lie, I was terrified to do this but I said I was going to do this. My parents decided to go with me. My dad bought a Trapper’s license, which allowed him to harvest a gator under my permit if it was necessary but it wasn’t. You think your girl was going to allow someone else to fill her tags? Hell. No.

So, let me tell you that gator hunting happens between 5 at night until 10 in the morning. Yup, you can’t hunt during the day. It is all done at night, but that’s part of the fun.

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One of the things you definitely get to experience when hunting is the true beauty of nature. I have some of the most amazing pictures just simply from basking in Mother Nature while out on different hunts.

We got to camp about 6 pm on Friday, ate quickly and got out on the water. That night we were hunting from the flats boat with the crossbow. We stayed out from 8 pm until 2 am. We didn’t see much that we could harvest but that is why it is called hunting and not harvesting. The “next morning” we got up about 5 am and headed back out. Again we didn’t see much. We did run into one big boy but he was not having it and stayed far enough away and underwater that we were unable to get a shot off. Home we went to get some breakfast and some “sleep.”

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Heading back out Saturday night about 6 pm again we took the airboat out instead of the flats boat. Now, the airboat is 1,000 times more noise than the flats boat and you can’t sneak up on the gators. Which means you gotta be quick on the draw with the crossbow.

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If you look at the gator picture at the top, that is how they look at night. These suckers are hard to spot and can go underwater for up to an hour AND pop up 500 yards away from you. I told, it ain’t easy but it is damn fun. So, first shot sucked. Not even going to lie. I wish I could say I shot the first one perfect but I didn’t. I missed. The second shot hit the gator but apparently I hit him by his jaws and it severed the 500lb test line we were using. My uncle had never seen that in all of his hunting. Hey, there is a first for everything.

When I shot that gator, I was PUMPED. Adrenaline was RUNNING through my body and then when we came up short, I. was. PISSED. I had shot him. How the hell did I not get him?! At this point it was about 1:30 in the morning. Like the previous night, we were going back in about 3 but we weren’t done yet.

My uncle started steering the airboat through the lake and shining the light right above the gators’ eyes. We found another one and this one was not getting away. Adrenaline coursing through my veins and anticipation rising, I set my sights on the gator and my uncle screamed, “Shoot em! Shoot em!” I pulled the trigger of that crossbow and said a silent pray. All of the sudden the test and the bobber took off! I had hit him! I got my first gator! I was so happy I was screaming. My uncle told me not to celebrate until he was in the boat, we had already lost one.

We followed him through the grass brought him up, harpooned him with a rope and bobber to make sure we had him. Followed him some more and brought him up to the surface and bang sticked him in the back of the neck. We don’t bang stick them in the skull because we keep the skulls. You know, trophies. Anyway, once the bang sticking was over, we brought him up to the airboat rail and taped his mouth shut. There is more to the story to ensure that the gator is dead but I will spare you the graphic details.

Two days and countless hours of hunting I had killed my first gator. He wasn’t anything big or fantastic but he was MY FIRST GATOR and that’s what mattered.

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Just under 7 feet, he was all mine. Yes, I harvested him for food. I did not let one part of this gator go to waste. His name is Chomper and his skull sits in my house. I harvested the meat for my family and we ate for a year. The hide was donated to a friend and he made a gun case out of it. Again, I do not hunt simply to hurt animals, I hunt for food. I also thank Mother Nature for her sacrifice and promise to give back.

The year I harvested this gator, I did not get to pack it out myself. We did not have someone at camp that normally does it so he was taken to the processor but the years following, I have sat with the guys and packed it out with them. Hunting is a thrill and an adrenaline rush like no other. And I always enjoy every part of it, even the nasty stuff.

I know there is a great majority of the population that believes I am a murderer and they do not understand how I can do what I do to an animal. You are completely entitled to your beliefs and opinions, I support you to think what you want. But to be honest, I obviously don’t agree with them. Hunters help control animal populations, poachers simply kill.

Hunting is something that I have grown to love and enjoy. When and if I have children it is something I am going to teach them about. My nephews are super interested and want to know when I go and when they can come too. They are fascinated by it. When they are old enough, whether my sister likes it or not (sorry Tiff, I love you!) I will take them with me to experience it themselves. If they don’t enjoy it, they don’t ever have to go again but I want to share an experience with them that they might not otherwise get.

This is just one part of who I am and it is something I truly enjoy. I hope y’all have an amazing holiday weekend and I will talk to you again on Monday.

– ♥ Lindsey

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