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Gator Hunting with the kids: Photo Heavy. Friday Sunday Aug 15 17, 2014

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Gator Hunting with the kids: Photo Heavy. Friday Sunday Aug 15 17, 2014

Old 08-22-2014, 11:40 AM
  #1  
Spike
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Location: Ponte Vedra (Palm Valley) & Cedar Key, FL
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Default Gator Hunting with the kids: Photo Heavy. Friday Sunday Aug 15 17, 2014

I was drawn for the first phase of gator season for the Upper St. Johns River Basin which is around Melbourne and my kids were stoked as they were going for their first gator! “Girls First”…… so my 13 year old daughter Kaitlyn would be first on the harpoon followed by my 15 year old son Casey for the second gator. We’ve hand caught small gators together while frog gigging but this would be their first real gator hunt. My largest gator so far went 10 foot 4 inches and one of the goals was to get an even larger gator.


Gator hunting started at age 6……

9 years later………
On board would be one of our cousins, Jason who is from Palm Bay and knows the local waters well. Jason’s parents don’t hunt or fish and as young boys I’d take Jason and his two brothers James & Bobby hunting & fishing. Together we gotten some of many firsts: first hogs, a deer, scallops, sheepshead, grouper and ducks. It’s really satisfying to see how much hunting & fishing plays a role in their lives now (big time) and to know I had a part of that. All three live for hunting & fishing.

Unlike my gator hunting where I’ve baited gators using “well-fermented” (rancid) sheep lungs we would be using rod & reels and snatch hooks adorned with a small cyalume chemlight so you can see where you’re casting. Gear would be strong spinning reels with stout rods, 60 lb braid, two feet of 80 pound leader on which the cyalume is attached and a weighted treble hook.


Snatch hook with chemlight (barbs pressed down)


Friday First evening:


Beautiful start of the first evening!!
Kaitlyn (13) & Casey (15)

Running out to our area was about a 25 minute run through a couple of lakes and long twisting narrow canals. Once there we used the trolling motor to motor around the canals. Our first gator was a 9 footer so we discussed it and decided to let it go in hopes of a 10+ footer.


Jason on the rod


Snagged on the shoulder

As the night wore on there didn’t seem to be many gators out and it was kinda a tough-off night. Jason had other friends out gator hunting too and later they stated the same thing.


One gator hooked in the tail


Double hook up


Tolerating this double hook up….then


not happy ….and


the business end

Around 5 am we called it a night and headed in. We had brought 7 gators to the boat with the largest going 9 foot but we believed the next evening would be better.


Saturday
After a few hours of sleep we headed over to see two gators that Jason’s friends took before they took them to the processor.


These gators went 10’ 3” and 9’11”


L to R: Gator girls: Kaitlyn and Jamie (Jamie took the 9’ 11” gator)


Chilling in the custom “Gator Box” (cooler)


Saturday evening: second night
The second gator we worked up happened quickly. Around 11 pm Jason hooked up on the rod and knew it was a large gator so we got the second snatch hook into him. From there we pulled him up with Kaitlyn waiting with the harpoon. After coaching her on where to stick him as he fought at the boat, snapping, twisting and turning, her first shot missed completely and her confidence kinda sank a bit but her second shot got him in the underside of the jaw then he took off again. Then one of the trebles pulled and not knowing how well her shot hit I took the second harpoon and stuck him in the neck. From there we pulled him up to the boat and I loaded the 44 Mag bangstick. Giving Kaitlyn directions on where to bangstick the gator her first strike didn’t have enough force and the bangstick did not go off. Wanting to seal the deal quickly I helped guide her on the bangstick and the shot did the trick with an explosion of water.


Jason securing the head


Coming on board


Two harpoon heads: underside of jaw and in the neck


Neck shot


What a first gator!!


Kaitlyn tagging it

Not 10 minutes later an airboat comes up with lights flashing and a Brevard Sherriff comes a calling.

Officer Keith from the Sherriff’s department checked our licenses and permit plus boater registration. He was very professional & courteous and was even nice enough to take a few photos of the four of us.


Kaitlyn’s first gator!!
10 foot 7 inches

Before he left he let me take a couple of photos:


Kaitlyn & Officer Keith


Pushing off and departing

Upon closer inspection of the gator we could see that he was bitten by a larger gator in front of his hind legs. Our 10’ 7” gator had an inside bite area of 8 inches wide but the bites on this gator’s side were 11 inches across! The bite cut across both top dorsal sides all the way across and even cut into the stomach too. That bite & fight by a much LARGER gator must have been ferocious!


Big bite!


Team gator

With that we hunted a bit on the way back in for the second gator but did not find a large enough gator to work.


Sunday afternoon

About to pull the iced gator out of the 10 foot custom gator cooler.


Another perspective on the gator bite in front of its hind legs
This 10’ 7” gator had an inside bite area of 8 inches wide but the bites on this gator’s side were 11 inches wide!


One 13 yr old happy camper

We then took him to the gator processor at Central Florida Trophy Hunts.


Gotta love your FIRST gator. This guy will be turned into a full sized gator rug.
Interestingly……they look much larger hanging as I’m 6’ 2”.


Sunday evening……..third night
Prior to going back out Sunday night my wife drove down from PV to pick up and take Kaitlyn home so she could attend the first day of school (on Monday). Unfortunately, but to Casey’s delight, Casey would miss the first day of school as we tried to get his first gator…………

Launching before dark we had to seek shelter under a bridge as a storm rolled through with lots of lightening and rain. The radar was lite up but after a bit it cleared to a beautiful sunset.


Another beautiful start of the evening. Running……


Also on board was Tara, Jason’s girlfriend

The second gator of the night was a good one and again things happened fast. We both hooked up at distance with the snatch hooks from the get go and we quickly brought the gator to the boat. We had a good idea this was a good gator and Casey was all ready with the harpoon.


One of the trebles snagged in the armpit

Casey’s first hit with the harpoon didn’t stick and that didn’t make the gator happy. The second attempt did stick and the gator took off with the harpoon tip in its back. After loading the bangstick and pulling the safety out we submerged the head a bit and Casey got ready with the bangstick. His first attempt was at too sharp of an angle and the round went off skimming the center of the forehead and raking across the muzzle penetrating the lip. With this the gator was dazed and complacent. The second shot was where it was supposed to go and Casey’s first gator was pulled aboard.


Coming aboard

Before photos were taken Casey said a prayer of thanks for the taking of this animal.


Casey’s first gator: 9 foot 3 inches
A SOLID first gator!

Of course a bunch more photos were taken before heading back to the barn.


Casey & I


Jason, Casey & Tara

Monday 8 am
After a few hours of sleep we loaded up his iced down gator and took it to Central Florida Trophy Hunts for processing and I got Casey back to school by noon so he didn’t miss the entire first day of school!!

Gotta love adventures like this with your children!!

Hoo Yah!!

Brian

Last edited by Big Bend Brian; 08-22-2014 at 11:43 AM.
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Old 08-22-2014, 12:30 PM
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Nontypical Buck
 
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Sounds like a good weekend with the kids.
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Old 08-23-2014, 11:25 AM
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Very cool. I did a gator hunt several years ago around Naples. FL. I went with one of the states problem alligator trappers. I got a 6 footer, a 7 footer and a 9 footer that day. here's a pic of the biggest one:



A gator hunt is kind of a unique experience. I heartily encourage everyone to try it at least once.
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Old 08-23-2014, 02:20 PM
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Excellent write up Brian, and nice pics as well. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

ATB
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Old 08-23-2014, 09:56 PM
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Congrats ! Family time can't be beat!
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Old 09-12-2014, 07:36 AM
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Great read, thanks for sharing!
-Jake
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Old 09-12-2014, 05:41 PM
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Nice write up, with some great pictures.The kids got some nice gators!
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Old 09-12-2014, 10:39 PM
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Spike
 
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Oh how I wish was there with you,
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