Mississippi Slip!: Bring a snare on your Gator Hunt!
By Captain Phil Walters,
The South's Most Experienced Professional Gator Guide
Gator hunting in Mississippi has an interesting & entertaining twist. If you are among the lucky to be selected in the lottery drawing and are issued your permit & tags to harvest two gators, one of the tags is restricted to harvest a “slot” gator in the range of 4’ to 7’. This “slot” gator must be harvested before you seek out a monster gator for your trophy room.
As a professional hunter, I possess a modest eye for judging trophy class gators. When confronted with this new class of smaller gators, I found it to be an educational adventure. My hunting hosts, Todd & Tommy Cook of Utica, MS, drew their permit for the 2009 hunt on the Ross Barnett Reservoir, had never been on a gator hunt before. So, before departing the landing, with excitement filling the air, we neglected to completely review our equipment & insure we had a slip snare onboard.
We started the night finding many gators ready to cooperate, however it was to our dismay that judging the size of this size class proved difficult. Since we had a suitable supply of harpoons onboard, we quickly realized our dilemma; a harpoon is a permanent method of harvest under Mississippi rules as once harpooned, you must harvest the creature. If your “slot” gator was outside the stated size, you would likely be making a hefty contribution to the Mississippi Wildlife Conservation Fund, of which, none onboard favored that option.
Had we made the wise choice of carrying a snare (I had a dozen for sale in my truck) our enjoyment factor would have been greatly increased. Ricky Flynt, the leader of the Mississippi Alligator Program and the person that conducts the “Training & Orientation” seminar all hunters must attend before receiving their gator tags, had stated that it is acceptable to live catch your slot gator & measure him to ensure he’s within the legal size. Had we heeded these words of wisdom……..
As our hunt progressed, we approached many gators in the 8’-10’ class, of which, we had to ignore. Definitely, we were having a very difficult time of judging a suitable “slot” gator. One gator I judged too small prompted Todd to reach down & grab him for confirmation of size. At 3’, he definitely needed to chomp on a few more frogs to make size.
As we kept searching for a slot gator, it dawned to me just how much fun this COULD have been had we a snare. Catching & releasing a few of the “slots” we got near surely would have produced the size we needed along with a few photo opps. Darn! As the night wore on & we continued to pass on gators, we finally found one to cooperate. My words directed at this young gator, “you look like you could become a fine Louis Vitton purse” apparently froze the gator in self admiration as Todd cautiously put the tape to him, judged him legal, then abruptly jarred the gator out of his daze when the harpoon hit him. After spending most of the evening searching for this prized size, we decided to call it a night & retired back to camp.
For the second night, now knowing where a number of choice gators were, we decided to run a loop & harpoon the first 8’ plus gator that presented itself. As we ran, we missed 3 good ones in the 9’- 10’ range but saw no where near the sizes of the night before. As we spotted a set of eyes glowing in a heap of vegetation near an island, we decided to investigate. As we eased up to the source of the glow, we clearly saw a 10’-11’ gator resting on a log, out of the water & in the best possible position for harpooning; looking away from us.
We approached slowly, both Todd & myself readied our harpoons for what appeared to be a sitting duck! Just as we neared the log placing the gator in point blank range, we both produced great throws at our intended target and both delivered hard & deep penetrating hits not more than 4” apart. The only problem was we were both 4” low and had successfully harpooned a large log! As we pulled & fought to ready the harpoons for chase, Mr. Gator realized the peril of his location & decided to head for deep open water. Meanwhile, after 20 minutes of sawing, prying & pulling, Tom said “I never would have thought theses little Chisel Point darts would be so hard to remove.” I replied, “They do a much better job in a gator than a log,” Finally, we dug our darts from the log we hit and were able to proceed. While it was a fine looking log we had harpooned, there were no plans to mount it for the trophy room.
After a short break from the logging experience, we headed for a nearby canal with an 8’ gator that had held for the light on previous passes. As we ran in there, the gator cooperated, held for the light & Todd drilled him with a swift throw of the GatorStick harpoon. After a short battle, the gator was tired, his jaws taped shut, his spine severed, then the final tag placed into his tail. While not a giant gator, he did go near 9’ and we filled both tags, with all aboard having a great experience. Just would have been better if we had brought along the snare…..
Applications for the 260 permits for public gator hunting will be accepted by Mississippi’s Wildlife & Parks Department from June1-15, 2010. For more info, visit http://home.mdwfp.com/.
Captain Phil Walters is owner of GatorGuides.com and produces RatWorks Gator Hunt Equipment. He has hunted gators professionally under fair chase principals across the South for two decades, has harvested thousands of gators while safely guiding hundreds of clients to their trophies. At one time, his clients possessed 7 of the top 10 alligators in the Safari Club International (SCI) record book. For 2008, Team RatWorks placed 2nd, 4th and 5th in the Central Florida Trophy Hunts “Big Gator Shootout” and harvested the Georgia state record of 13-7. In 2007, GatorGuides.com was presented the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance “Defender of the Heritage” award for hunting heritage education. Recently, Governor Charlie Crist appoint him to Florida’s Boating Advisory Council. In 2009, he guided for the largest gator harvested in Georgia at 13-51/2”.