To say I was a little out of my element would be an understatement. I’m a predator hunter, yes, but I was accustomed to staying on dry land calling in coyotes, bobcats and other four-legged mammals. But now that alligator season was officially open in my home state of Texas, it was time to expand my repertoire to include reptiles.
I spent a considerable amount of time in 2007 learning how to hunt gators. A good friend of mine has property with plenty of gators, but finding time to go was more difficult than I had hoped. During the last few weeks of the season I was able to carve out some time to chase after these prehistoric creatures. I also knew that this time of the year would be the most difficult time to call in a big gator. That’s right, my plan was to ditch the traditional method of “hook and line” and try and call in a big boy.
What I did to go into this hunt totally blind was go on the Internet and do a little research on the variety of sounds gators use for communicating. The two sounds that interested me most were the bellows that the mature alligators make and the distressed calls of the juvenile alligators. I figured, heck, they are predators and should respond as any other predator does. What I didn’t figure in was just how reclusive, intelligent and sneaky an alligator can be. Their eyesight is also much better than I had assumed.
Over the last few weeks of the 2007 season my wife and I called in several smaller gators. In fact, as the last few minutes of the season came to be, I watched a decent sized gator in my scope, just 20 yards away. But having heard about “the big one” from the landowner, we decided to wait it out until the next season and try again.
The New Season
On May 4 my wife and I went down to where the landowner had seen the large gator hanging out. This is in a pond surrounded by tall reeds that make seeing the banks on the near side very difficult. On the small end of the 3-acre pond there is more cover, moss and lots of lily pads. This makes it very difficult to see a motionless gator that only has his eyes and tip of his nose sticking out above the water. We decided to set up where this narrow end opens up. I started off with some bellows and even mixed in some juvenile distress sounds. Within a minute or so we had an 8-foot gator approach. (Experts say the best way to judge an alligator is to estimate the distance between his eyes and nose. If it is 8 inches then it is an 8-foot gator. If there is a 12-inch gap, it’s a 12-foot gator.)
This gator was very tempting but I elected to wait on the big one. By big I mean a 12-footer! We watched this gator for several minutes and I decided to switch to a different sound. I accidentally hit my No. 4 preset button on my Foxpro call and began playing the coyote pup distress at full volume. I quickly turned it off but not before it had played very loudly for a few seconds. Almost immediately the 8-footer turned and I thought I had spooked him off. I looked to my left and couldn’t believe my eyes; the big boy we were after was on his way!
Lana got the camera on him and as he got in the clear she gave me the go ahead to shoot. I was shooting a .243 loaded with 90-grain bullet. Gators have a small brain right behind their eyes and that was what I was trying to hit.
The shot felt good, water went everywhere, and the big gator just vanished. No roll, no flop, no nothing, just GONE. We waited for about 30 minutes and didn’t even see a ripple. We then got in the boat and dredged with a hook we had made to recover the gator with. We dredged and dredged and then dredged some more and still had found nothing. I was sick.
On the following Friday (5 days later) I placed the call on the far side in hopes of calling him in again. By placing the call on the far side I had hoped to get a better shot as he skirted the bank next to the reeds. Sure enough, he popped up not far from the call. Not wanting to miss another opportunity, I took my time, steadied and squeezed the trigger. This time I was using my Remington R-15 shooting a 69-grain bullet. I have loads of confidence in this rifle and felt this bullet would do the trick. I heard the gratifying sound of a solid hit, the gator then rolled and went down.
After considerable dredging we got him up only to discover it was not the big one. I was a little disappointed but still tickled that I finally called in and killed a gator on film. From tip to tail, he measured 9 feet. But the adventure wasn’t over yet.
Thinking the bigger gator was probably still in the pond my wife wanted to try for him. We got back to the pond on Saturday afternoon, and it didn’t take long to locate him. We played cat and mouse with him for quite some time and even though we didn’t get any good footage of the gator, Lana made a great shot on the 11-foot, 5-inch monster.
Over the past two years, I learned a ton about how to hunt alligators. It was a blast to watch these huge lizards come in to a call. And it all started with a little desire to stretch my boundaries and a few clicks on the Internet.