For the second time in as many years we drew an alligator tag for first phase Orange Lake just south of Gainesville, Florida (Sept 1-7). Besides my hunting partner EricT, on board was my neighbor Eric, and another friend, Jim, both of which had never gator hunted. Since EricT and myself don"ôt feel the need to take any more gators ourselves, we enjoy taking other people out to introduce them to a very unique hunt. Here is a brief summary and a few pictures of our hunt.
We were greeted by"¶bugs, and lots of them. Fortunately they were just swarming and they were not of the biting variety. All night long we didn"ôt see any large gators. Since it was getting late we set out a bait to play with a 7 footer. After that, a few pictures were taken and the gator was released unharmed. Back at home by 4 a.m.
We hit a different part of the lake and managed a good eating sized male that went 8 foot 10 inches. After soaking a bait (rancid chicken) for 25 minutes the line got tight and the gator took some drag off the rod & reel. We then pulled the anchor and got the harpoons ready. With light tension on the bait line we pulled him up and called him a shooter. He then surged and dropped back down pulling the boat around and towed us briefly. The second time the gator came up Eric, my neighbor, hit him with the first harpoon and the gator thrashed around and took off a short distance. We then pulled him up again with the new harpoon line and Eric stuck him again. At this point, around midnight, a small boat pulled up with two guys, almost out of gas, a tad disoriented, and hoping for some help getting back to their ramp. We told them we"ôd help them after working the gator up. After a bit of rolling, thrashing, and biting, we pulled him up and Eric hit him with the 44 mag bangstick. We then pulled him back up, turned him over, taped his mouth, and hoisted his head to chisel the spine. After getting the gator in the boat we started to break down the gear when we noticed both harpoon tips were broken.
Before Eric stuck his gator I had told him when he hits the gator with the harpoon that he just didn"ôt want to stick the gator but that he should drive the point home like he"ôs trying to go through the gator. He took those words literally as he broke two 3/8 inch ss push points (carries the dart tip) on the gator. We worked our gator into the boat and then started escorting the lost guys to the ramp (they had no GPS). At the gator processor cooler, we saw a large bull gator that was almost 14 feet. That was an impressive animal, I later learned that it had been taken off of Lake Jessup. Back at home by 5 a.m.
Hunt with the kids
: This evening we decided to our young kids out to show them first hand what it"ôs like on the lake when it"ôs dark and to show them some gators up close. At the ramp we loaded up Nicholas (9), Mathew (7), and Casey (6) in the 18 foot Go-Devil and hit the lake. Mixed in with harpoons, floats, a bangstick, spot lights, rancid chicken, and a gator rod was a good selection of Trail Mix, Doritos, candy, and drinks. Hopefully, enough to keep us out till around midnight (we came close). I don"ôt know who was more excited, the kids or us dads
First up was cruising a portion of the lake"ôs southern boundary and enjoy the fading light on the lake. After dark, we used the spotlight to show them the large number of gators on the lake. They had a fun time yelling, "ú There"ôs another one!"Ě Knowing that our time on the water was limited we got out the snare and sneaked up on a couple of the smaller gators for closer inspection. With a 3 footer on board the kids got some hands on and we took a number of photos that will ensure the memories last a long time. The kids enjoyed holding the gator immensely. With the release of that gator we speculated that it would not be caught again as it probably got a powerful education.
Hoping to add to the boys evening we got set to drop a bait to get the 2nd gator of our tag. Just at the mention of the first "úLet"ôs go home"Ě statement, we stopped where three gators were hanging out in open water and dropped our bait and backed off ~100+ yards to sit and wait. We then pulled out all the tricks to keep the kids on the water and keep them in a positive mood. Light winds kept the bugs down which was helpful. Within 25 minutes we could tell a gator had picked up the bait but we gave it another 20 plus minutes to help seal the deal. Unfortunately, the gator didn"ôt swallow the bait so we reasoned that it was a small gator. With that we headed back to the dock quite pleased with the evenings success. The kids had a great time. Back home by 11:30 p.m.
Our last night
: A few nights later we went out knowing that the Tropical Storm Ophelia had kicked up the winds. By 1 a.m., white caps were up and by 4 a.m. it was even winder and the ride back was a wet one. One of the things learned was that when it"ôs windy and the water is choppy the gators aren"ôt in their usual places. We had fun but could only find small gators (< 7 ft). Back home by 4 a.m.
We"ôll try again to take our second gator during the last week of the season in October.
The hunting area: Orange Lake
Bugs. They were thick, but only right at dusk and on the windward side.
7 footer on a string
Quick release (your looking at it"ôs open mouth)
Bait: rancid chicken
Jim bringing in an 8 foot 10 incher
In the boat
Jim & Eric
Gator platform: 18 foot Go-Devil
***************Night out with the Kids********************
Running out. The boys are giving their best alligator call
Eric, kids, and a 3 foot volunteer
Casey & I (same gator getting a lot of "úexposure"Ě)