The research was done and now the time came to fish or cut bait. My wife Pam and I took off to Braithwaite, LA to hunt Alligators. From Council Bluffs we headed to St. Louis and then down I-55 for our first stop in Memphis, Tenn. This was an enjoyable drive and we had the opportunity to see country we had never seen before. That night we enjoyed some of the finest barbecue we had ever experienced.
From this overnight stop we were off to Louisiana for our overnight stay at Chalmette, LA. This was a great opportunity to enjoy some fine Cajun cooking and we took advantage of the local restaurants. After a good nights rest we were pumped and ready for the hunt.
At the jump off for the hunt, we met our guide Fred and Grant his assistant. This was very educational and interesting. These two men were from Florida where they took tourists on air boat tours of the swamps in their area for bird watchers. When we were out on the boat, Fred was able to identify every bird we saw and tell us something about the specie. This added to the adventure. In addition he had previously been a commercial hunter of Alligators in Florida for many years. There was plenty of know how with these two men and we became very comfortable.
During the month of September they came to Louisiana to guide for the owner of Louisiana Marsh Adventures. This is Alligator season in Louisiana. We had the expertise of these men with guiding, the marsh area, and handling alligators. This made for a great trip.
The first thing I was required do was sign my license to hunt Alligators in Louisiana. Then we were given an orientation of what would happen and how we would hunt the beasts. A critical thing was the placement of the bullet in the gator to bring it to a quick demise.
If you look where Fred is pointing his finger this is the spot where the bullet would be placed to kill the gator. It is about the size of a quarter. There is a moon shaped curved bone that goes over the head of the beast and the spot where Fred’s finger is pointing is the spot. This leads to the spinal cord. When the bullet hits this spot the gator will crock off. It sounded easy, but I was to learn how difficult it really was to get to that spot.
Placing the round anywhere other than this spot would not kill the beast, and you may have a bigger fight than you had bargained for as it might make the beast angrier.
Fred had a small rifle that shot a 22 magnum shell and that did the job. This was the smallest caliber shell I have ever used to kill big game. As I looked at the gun, I really missed my 30-06 and my 300.
This is the air boat that took us around the swamp. We were supplied with ear muffs to protect our hearing and life vests in case we fell out of the boat. Grant told us just to stand up as the swamp was not more than waist deep The engine was very loud and the ride was really exciting as we slithered over the top of beds of vegetation.
Pam in the air boat.
Just before I sat down.
Grant getting ready to shove us off.
Fred running the boat.
We headed from the dock into the swamps. We passed through a gateway that was built into a Levee separating the dock area from the swamp. This was constructed after Katrina to prevent flooding in the future. In case of another hurricane the gates can be closed to prevent storm surge.
Entering into the swamp, Fred explained how the gator were baited. A quarter of a chicken is used as bait and hooked into a really big hook. The bait is suspended above the water attached to a fiber glass pole with the line attached to a tree on shore. They want the bait suspended high enough so that small gators cannot get at it and out of the water to avoid other creatures that would feast on it. The picture below is not the best due to the sun, but it gives you an idea what you would find if a gator had not grabbed the bait. Fred told us after the season was over it took two months before he could eat chicken again.
The line is tight at this location. That means there is a gator on the end ready to be pulled in. Fred said you can never know how big it is until you get it up to the side of the boat. Sometimes big gators come to the boat gently and other times they raise holy cane and you never know what you have.
This gator was not big, but what was interesting was a really big gator was holding onto it’s body. He was eating on this gator and had eaten almost all of his tail. When he saw us, he let go and sank back down into the dark. Fred said he was a nice specimen and he wanted to come back and check this location as the big gator may want to finish his meal. Fred said he could see bubbles rising from the swamp. That meant it stayed around.
We moved through the bayou checking out the locations where bait was set. In each case there was a small gator on the hook. I would pull it in far enough for Fred to get a good look and then decide if it was worth keeping. In almost every case it was small and Fred would say, “We have more baits to check and we will keep checking until we find a big gator for you to kill.”
After four or five spots, we pulled in a really good looking beast. Fred said we will remember this big boy and see if we can find something bigger. He was estimated at 9 to 10 feet in the water. He came to the boat slowly until the distance between his nostrils and his eyes could be seen. That, I was told, was how you can tell the size of the gator. We saw some gators swimming that were estimated at over 12 feet just by judging the distance from the nostrils to the eyes.
Looking at the canal we were on.
Flying over the vegetation that was growing on the canal.
This is the biggest gator we had seen previously that was hooked and we had passed him up to look for a bigger beast. We came back to this location to harvest him after checking a number of spots. He came to the boat slowly but as I felt the line he was really heavy. I handed the line to Fred and got ready to shoot. I could not get a good bead on the sweet spot as the gator would not stay next to where I was standing. Fred was off to my left. Also, I had the gun up quite a ways from the gator’s head. This was not the correct way to make the shot. This was not like shooting a scoped rifle at a big animal. Right at the time Pam took the picture, I was doing poorly. I did it all wrong and took a shot. Even though it hit the gator’s head, it did not kill it and suddenly it became really enraged. I am not used to shooting iron sites especially at a moving target.
Fred told me to come to his left side and put the barrel of the gun close to his head at the right time. The reptile was really enraged after I shot him in the head. He rolled and went back and forth. Finally, there was a pause and I put the barrel of the gun right above the spot and shot him. The small rifle was not heavy and I took the gun out of my shoulder and just held it with my right hand. All at once he went dead still in the water. Fred kept him in the water and let him bleed out. That way he would not have blood in the boat.
There it is, calm as can be after putting up all that ruckus. Fred estimated him at 9 to 10 feet. He was maneuvered around until he was slid into the bottom of the boat. All of a sudden his legs moved and it scared both of us to death thinking he was still alive. Alligators, I was told, have a lot of nerve endings in the extremities so his tail moved around also. Fred taped his mouth shut and that made me feel better.
Then he said, “I have two tags to fill. Do you want to shoot another one?” Now, I was not going to pass up another opportunity to shoot another gator and anyway we were having a great time. We must have stopped at eight spots to see if there was a big gator there. If there wasn’t, we moved on to another baited spot, all the time looking at the beauty of the bayou and observing the many birds.
Pam and I helped Fred move the gator into the bottom of the boat. He felt like smooth soft leather and the top of the tail and the body that I thought was an exo skeletan was nothing but smooth and semi soft hide.
The next location proved to be thrilling as this gator from the beginning did not like being hooked and he was excited to get onto the boat.
This beast was really angry. He tried to take off and dive down. Next, he was trying to roll. Fred handed me the line and I could hardly hold onto it. Slowly I got him up to the side of the boat where I handed the line back to Fred. This gator had a real nasty streak in him and I was concerned that with all the commotion I would not get a shot.
As I started to put the bullet in the sweet spot, he rolled and the round went into the water. I missed and shot the water. Fred said, ” Take your time.” The gator was not going anywhere and when he stopped rolling momentarily, I quickly took the opportunity to shoot. I had the gun at the backside of his head and let him have it right in the quarter size spot on the back of his head. He went limp. You can see that I am holding the gun with two hands and the end of the barrel is just above the gator’s head. I remembered my mistake after taking the first shot on the previous gator and learned a lesson. That picture was taken right after the shot was made and you can see the blood coming out. He was kept in the water to let him bleed out before he was boated.
That made two gators and we had an outstanding morning. First, we saw hundreds of birds then the beauty of the bayou plus the alligator hunting. To show for our efforts, we got to harvest two of them. My deal with the outfitter was to keep the gator head and hide. I would have to wait for 6 months to get the tanning done or trade it out for one that was already tanned and prepared. We took the trade, and that way we went home with a head and a hide.
For meat, we bought some meat raised at an alligator farm rather than the meat from the bayou which would have been muddy tasting. We were not interested in that.
Pam and I with the two gators.
Fred and I with the two gators. I am 6’3″ so that gives you an idea of the size of the two of them.
What a trip! So much excitement in such a short period of time and we enjoyed every minute. The plus was traveling around the bayou on an air boat and enjoying the outdoors, including all the birds and vegetation.
We highly recommend Louisiana Marsh Adventures. (https://www.louisianamarshadventures.com)
Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck. Hank.