Prehistoric dinosaurs. Giant lizards. Apex predators.
You guessed it – alligators.
I’ve hunted alligators a number of times and in a number of ways. Each experience is totally unique, but it is without a doubt one of the most fun things I’ve done.
Here along the South Carolina coast, gators can grow incredibly large – large enough eat anything from deer to people’s dogs with no problem. Landowners in South Carolina can apply for depredation permits for the removal of nuisance alligators each year – the Private Lands Alligator Program. If a 10 ft alligator is swimming after my dog, you can bet “nuisance” is the most polite thing to call him. Fortunately, being a part of the program allows landowners to take the alligators unsecured with a firearm. In other words, they don’t have to be “captured” via some type of line or snare before being dispatched. A tactical approach, or spot and stalk method, with a rifle will do just fine.
And so, that’s how we hunt. My very first gator hunt was right here in Georgetown, SC, just a few minutes from where I live. It was a warm day, and we were searching for gators in the same ponds we duck hunt each season.
Before you ask – yes, I have seen numerous alligators while duck hunting. No, it is not fun. The line between “hunter” and “hunted” gets a little blurry if you know what I mean.
After half and hour or so of exploring the banks and edges of the ponds, I saw a long mass about 70 yards ahead of us through the reeds. I put the scope up to be sure I wasn’t actually looking at a log – it’s an easy mistake to make, and one gators can exploit.
Sure enough, there he was. Just waiting for me. I trained my crosshairs right at the back of his head. Shooting a Remington .308 made for quite the bang, and his whole body seemed to jump with the impact. After the shot, we edged down the bank to make sure he was hit, stopping just a few yards away. Suddenly, his tail made two quick swipes back and forth, and we nearly jumped out of our pants. I took one more headshot just in case he needed some convincing to stay dead.
Once we were absolutely sure he was dead, it was time to drag him out, measure, and tag him. He was ultimately 9’1” long. Think about that compared to your size! Looks like we took a fighter this time. It turns out that this gator had only three legs. He also had a hole in his top jaw that allowed one of his lower teeth to show through. If he was a movie character, he would have been crew on the Flying Dutchman in Pirates of the Caribbean.
A few years later, I had an extra fun “girls weekend,” where the same type of gator hunting was on the docket.
Hunting the same ponds as before, I knew where one big fella had been hanging out near the bank. We took the long way around, sneaking up on the corner of the pond. Sure enough, there he was. My friend, Ashley, was the shooter that morning. Like a trained sniper, she perfectly placed her just at the base of the gator’s skull. He didn’t move an inch. Lights out, dead right there. I was able to get down to him easily and we could drug him up on the bank.
Gator hunting isn’t limited to South Carolina, though. Hunters travel all kinds of distances for all kinds of hunts. So, when Remington invited me to hunt alligators near Seadrift, Texas, of course I said, “Yes!”
This would be a guided hunt over the span of three days. Each of the three hunters could one gator apiece. Hurricane Harvey had just recently torn through the area, so the floodwaters were high and we anticipated needing as much time as possible to track down the beasts.
In Texas, we had to change tactics. Since weren’t hunting private land with depredation permits, the laws didn’t exactly allow for the spot and stalk method.
Instead, our guides went out either the night before or early that morning, setting large hooks baited with raw meat to tree limbs along the edges of the river. Then we’d edge up to the taut line to see what was on the other end. To our collective delight, each of our first three lines had nice alligators attached to them. Carefully positioning the gators’ heads, we got up close and personal with a suppressed AAC MPW 300 Short barreled rifle (SBR). Bang!
The “kill-zone” in an alligator’s skull is about the size of a quarter, so there’s not much room for error even when you are so close. And don’t forget – that thing is mad.
Once we got the alligators back to land, we naturally had to take some celebratory photos before loading them up in the truck. We would go home with 10 pounds of tail meat each, and got our skulls and hides later.
From a .308 to 300 Blackout, to a boom stick and the weapons in between, anything to make a solid hit on a big gator is the ticket. After all, the real work starts after the gator is dead.
No matter which hunting tactic you choose (or which is available to you), you’re going to have a great time hunting alligators. They’re a rough and dangerous species, but tasty mighty good fried up with a nice garlic remoulade sauce.
– By Hollis Lumpkin