Quality * Service * Integrity
Capt. Phil Walters
Gator Hunting Across The South: A synopsis of State programs
Gator Hunting 101
Now that youíre draw to hunt
gators, you may find information on hunting & equipment is scarce. In the
next few pages Iíll give you a crash course on what equipment you need &
why you need to increase your chances of success while decreasing your chance of
About Gator Guides & Ratworks
been hunting gators since 1990, have harvested thousands of gators and guided
hundreds of clients on safe hunts while filling
95% of our tags, with a 9' average over 1 night of hunting. At one time,
our guides had 7 of the top 10 Safari Club International record book gators. If
you do a Google search on Phil Walters & ďgatorsĒ or ďairboat,Ē
youíll see weíve been around the block.
On the same
Google search, you will also find a number of stories on how ďJoeĒ hunted a
gator, but little practical information on ďwhatís neededĒ and ďhow
toĒ hunt gators. Pay attention!
our equipment is hand made for heavy duty commercial use. Itís made to be practical,
affordable, durable and above all, functional,
RatWorks is found in
use by nuisance trappers and guides across the South and in Australia for
Crocodile hunting. (FYI: Crocs grow up to 20'.)
Our equipment will put gators in the boat where other equipment will
produce a miss.
You Need & Why
Harpoon Pole- Driver, line, float, dart
(see more detailed info below)
Because of the habitat, gator
hunting is totally different from any other type of hunting. The key to harvesting a gator is locating him &
attaching a restraining line. The best, anywhere method of attaching a workable
restraining line is a HARPOON and
should be considered
MANDATORY for gators over 7'. While a bow rigged for fish works well
in open water, they donít function so great with a small line in vegetation,
timber, brush or other obstructions. Remember; if you shaft a gator, you need to
harvest him regardless of where he runs! With a harpoon rigged with the line
through the pole, you may harpoon any size gator in any circumstance and be
reasonably able to retrieve him. If you shaft a 8+ gator with your bow, you more
than likely will have to harpoon him to gain control. Then again, if heís only
6', the bow line will work.
A simple locating line, for open water use, is a casting rod
& a snatch hook. A large hook is used to hook them on the bottom, a small
hook to accurately cast over a swimming gator. For a large hook, 50-80lb mono
line or Fireline works great. For casting distance, 20-50lb line is fine. Tip:
Donít try to set the hook, as 90% of the time the hook wonít penetrate
the hide & a jerk will make him ballistic. ALWAYS
keep the line snug on him.
Once hooked, the
trick is to tire him to where you can HARPOON
him, attaching a large restraining line. If heís on the bottom, a harpoon made
of a section of galvanized 3/4" pipe (Bone Crusher pole) will nail him. If
pulled boat side, a jab pole or a throw pole will work. NOTE: hit him in a soft spot such as the neck, flank or large part
of the tail. Try to avoid the back armor and NEVER hit one in the head!
Ratworks Harpoons & kits are made to give good penetration with the
pole up to 30' for extra range. The drivers are 3-1/2" because longer makes
them bend easier and makes dart retrievable difficult. The pipe mount is added
to give weight to provide inertia to puncture the hide. The
Ratworks Double Bite
darts are made to penetrate and lock with
effort, as longer darts offer no
holding advantage but take more energy to bury below the dovetail. Believe
me, we have experimented with many sizes and have concluded the Double Bite to
be the most effective. Competitors darts work, however; marginal shots with a
RatWorks dart have a greater chance of sticking because it takes less energy to
NOTE: you must put as much
power as possible in your throw/jab. If you hit soft neck or flank, little
energy is needed. If you hit back armor, much more energy is needed to drive the
dart BETWEEN the scoots to bury.
When boat side,
DO NOT try to push the dart in. Wonít work. Either throw the pole or give
a firm, hard jab.
working a gator in range of harpoon or bow, a HANDS
FREE HEADLAMP is recommended. Most of your hunting will be at night as the
gators are more active after dark. If youíre very lucky, you may harvest one
at sunset or sunrise. More than likely youíll be out after dark. While you may
get by without a hands free light, your harvest will be much more successful
when you have Two Hands
equipment and the light is ALWAYS
where youíre looking. Tip: Only
ONE person on board should be working
a light. Once a gator is spotted, hand signals should be used to point the
direction of the gator. Quiet on
not required, itís a good idea to carry a bangstick. Every year we have to
kill gators under trees, tangled in bushes or wrapped in vegetation.
Additionally, bangsticks provide a safe, quick & humane method to dispatch a
gator. CAUTION: Only use your bangstick underwater and do not load until
the gator is COMPLETELY TIRED! NEVER
have a loaded stick in your vessel.
We recommend a
bangstick over a handgun because most vessels donít offer a stable platform to
shoot, safety of your fellow hunters as when a gator is shot above water, bone
& lead can be sprayed in all directions (watch your eyes) and the sound can
be intense, not to mention any nearby homes at night. Many times a large gator
will bite or jar a boat. Will you be stable with your finger on the trigger and
your buddy next to you?
A bangstick is a very good idea.
now have a large, very tired gator boat side thatís acting calm. (Heís calm
but can still bite & may have a few bursts of energy left in him. BE
CAREFUL!) You load your bangstick, take aim, drop the gator under at least
8" of water & hit him HARD with the bangstick just behind the back of
the head. Tip: NEVER hit them on the top of the head or above water as this
can spray bone & lead! Itís a good shot, you get blood and the gator goes
limp. Next, take your gaff and hook him under the front tip of the bottom jaw.
(Never fight a gator with a gaff. Pull it off him. If heís still fighting,
bang him again) Pin him EYEBALLS TO THE
GUNNEL, with the belly facing away from you and his mouth securely shut, you
may now CAREFULLY tape his mouth firmly shut. Tip: Always watch the gator for movement and watch the gaff! I do
4-5 firm wraps of black electrical tape. (much easier to use than duct tape and
works well on wet objects)
With his mouth
tightly taped, pull him onboard and sever his spine with a Buck knife just
behind the bump of the head in the soft spot of the neck. Gently work
your blade through the hide & meat down to the bone. Use the knife tip to
find the gap of the vertebrae. Once located, drive the knife into the vertebrae
using the palm of your hand (DONĒT SLIP!) until you have BOTH good blood flow
AND a quick nervous reflex from the gator. With the spine severed, heís dead
& wonít return to life. Next, place your state or CITIES tag 6" from
the end of the tail, snapping the tag over the BOTTOM of the tail.
Tip: Itís a good idea while both severing the spine & cutting for the
tag to either stand on the gator or tail or place a knee onto them to keep them
subdued and give you leverage. Carry a
squeeze bottle of a little soap, water & bleach to rinse with after you
handle a gator. They have very nasty bacteria on them. Immediately treat any cut
or scratch with an anti-bacteria agent.
The fishing rod
& snatch hook will only work in open water. A hooked gator may run 10 yards
or 100+ yards, so look around before you toss a hook and use judgment. For areas
thatís open water, the hook makes a great locating devise to get a harpoon
The Bone Crusher
(10' of 3/4" galvanized pipe) harpoon pole works great for gators too big
to surface as you can drop the pole down onto them. They work great for boat
side gators as they will punch just about any part of the gator. The downside is
you canít throw a pipe & they sink, so secure the pole to your vessel.
This is a
listing of the BASIC equipment need
to harvest a few gators. While you can make this as complicated as you like,
this is all the specialized equipment we carry for either charter hunts or
commercial harvest. (95% of our clients harvest two gators with a 9' average
in one night using this equipment) With the harvest success rate only 33% in
Georgia, with proper preparation and
correct equipment, your chances of success are greatly improved.
I canít cover hunting technique in this short letter, I did cover the basic
needs of gator hunting. On the technique side, youíll just have to spend some
time on the water & learn the gatorís habits.
hunting is safe. The boating at night, equipment, reflexes of your fellow
hunters and areas you hunt may not be. Pay attention at all times. Watch your
lines & equipment. Watch the waterway for logs, rocks & obstructions.
Have all your safety equipment onboard & wear
your PFD! When the action happens, it happens in a FLASH!
the area youíre going to hunt. Be courteous to waterfront home owners late at
night. (Lights, shots)
with your equipment before the hunt. Practice throwing your harpoon pole. Know
how youíll rig your vessel and watch everyone onboard while on the water. Stay
calm & have a plan.
you may want to ask around at bait shops, fish camps, feed stores, ect as many
local folks are only too happy to talk hunting and have a large gator removed
from their pond or lake. Always wash your gator with a soap/bleach mix to kill
bacteria before you skin them.
If you have any
questions, feel free to call me at
813-968-6154. Iíll help with time permitting. Come September 1 to October
8, Iím hunting gators all night.............so call before season if you can!
BANG STICK TIPS
Sometimes, you need to use both hands! When you hook a gator, ALWAYS keep the line tight as the hook will not penetrate the hide! Keep the line tight on pumps as well, If not, the hook will drop. If you have one line on the gator, try to tire him then attach another, stronger line to him. Do not attempt to harpoon or boat him until he is TIRED!
If the water is deep or he's too big to pull boat side, a Ratworks "Bone Crusher" Pole is the ticket! Pull the fishing lines perpendicular to the water's surface & drop the pole between the lines on top of him. The "Bone Crusher" also works wonders boat side on darting big bull gators. Upper left of picture is the Bone Crusher pole being readied for use. This gator was harponed in 30' of water while on the bottom of a pit. He was over 12'.
Jim Thompson lines up for a harpoon shot. Always be ready or you'll miss the big one! For short harpoons, use ONE HAND to throw. For longer ones, use two hands for a hard jab. Either way, hit him AS HARD as you can. Aim for the neck, don't hit the head! If he drops & you think he's in range........THROW the POLE where he went down! Once thrown, quickly retrieve the line/pole. If you stuck him, you'll know it. If not, re-rig the pole quickly for another shot. Practice make perfect.........
For large gators, a second dart in him is insurance. Always wear your PFD while in a boat!
For taping the jaws, a gaff works better than a snare. Only gaff a TIRED gator! Don't fight him with the gaff. If he fights, tire him more.
Gaff him at the front-bottom of the jaw. Bring him boatside EYES to the GUNNEL as pictured. Reason: it keeps his mouth closed if he slips and prevents him from jumping into the boat.
Always tape your gator! Tape his jaws shut TIGHT! Keep your fingers out of his jaws. Once taped, roll him on his belly to pull into the boat & don't pull the tape off! Electrical tape works well because: Its fast to use, fits in everyone's pocket (makes it always available when needed) sticks well when wet and is quick & easy when wrapping. Give him 5-6 wraps, a few more if he's over 10'.
Once taped, always sever the spine. Cut the hide/meat & GENTLY work your blade BETWEEN the vertebra! Let your knife do the cutting! When your blade in the vertebra, he'll flinch, you'll draw running blood, and he'll close his eyes (as pictured) for good. Work the blade down to the hilt.
Tips: pushing the head down while cutting opens up the spinal column. Keep the blood out of your boat if possible. It's very slick on deck, coagulates quickly and doesn't easily bilge out.
Firmly hold the tail when you're cutting to tag. Often, the gator will twitch when you cut him, so be careful! Don't over-react!
Cut in the first scale seam from the bottom about 6" from the end. snap the tag UNDER THE GATOR! If you snap it over the top or tag higher on the tail, it makes it very difficult to skin around the tag.
Tag your gator immediately upon capture/death. Once tagged, don't rip if off. If you have to drag the gator in, tie the tail into the boat to keep away from the prop or getting snagged.
Things not to do!
Do NOT harpoon gators in the head! On larger gators, a head shot 99% of the time will fail. It will bounce off and often you'll bend the drive, so don't hit them in the head.
This is a rare shot on a 7' gator. Bob Palumbo drove the Ratworks dart through the head. The bone plate on a gator this size is about 3/8 of an inch, whereas on a 10' gator, it may be 3/4" to an inch thick. With a "Run & Gun" hit at 30 mph, he got lucky.