|Bows - Compound Bows|
See Ya Later Alligator
A grandmother's saying gets a different meaning.
One doesn’t have to be in Louisiana long before you realize two things that make any visitor uncomfortable, it’s hot and it’s full of alligators! Everywhere you go you can’t escape the sight of the gaping jaws of an alligator for too long. Billboards, business signs and newspapers all boast the image of this prehistoric beast. All this observation meant to me was that I had arrived in the right place. As long as my Mathews bow made the trip unscathed, I would be embarking on my first alligator hunt.
On this trip I would be helping to fill one of five nuisance tags attained by the land owner who’s calves were under such fear of attacking gators that they had refused to come to the ponds and drink. As I was to discover, it was for good reason. After a glimpse of these gators I am not so sure that I wouldn’t rather dehydrate than risk an explosive attack from one of these tooth filled eating machines myself.
Alligators have not always been as prevalent in Louisiana as they are today. In the 1960’s their numbers were estimated less than 100,000 placing them on the endangered species list in 1967 due to unregulated hunting (poaching) and the natural predation of baby alligators. In an effort to counter this decline the Louisiana fish and game introduced a Marsh to Market program in 1972. With this law in place every gator was to be legally tagged to be sold to gator warehouses for a going price of around $24 a foot. Here they were utilized for their meat and their hides for constructing purses, belts and the ever popular since the civil war soldiers wore them, gator boots. Other parts are used in science, for example the alligator embryos are used in cleft palate research.
Alligator farms were introduced in 1986 supplied with gator eggs purchased from landowners who harvested them from the wild. Alligator farmers were then required to return 17% of all eggs hatched into the swamps after they reached a length of the less appetizing size of four feet. This is the estimated number of gators who will actually survive to adulthood in the cannibalistic swamps of Louisiana.
Over a decade later the ponds and surrounding marshlands sport nearly two million alligators. Thriving on a constant diet of nutria, raccoons, beavers, birds, deer, calves and other domestic animals gators can reach upwards of 15-20 feet in length and an age of 50 years old. They can even reach a bone crushing 1000 pounds. That’s a lot of easily agitated lizard flesh.
Gators will flourish in the wild with no natural predators except man and each other. Although Marsh to Market has proven a hugely successful program it has come with a few people vs. alligator drawbacks. Nuisance tags were issued in such cases to remove problem gators and avoid possible encounters of the not so nice kind. On this hot, 90-degree day I was about to come face to face with my first Louisiana alligator.
The prehistoric eyes and nose were all I could see emerging from the murky waters in the shadow of a willow tree. A bit taken back, my memories jogged several alligator stories I had read in the past two months. Getting the feeling that His eyes had been watching me for longer than mine had his, the sweat ran down my face as I struggled to nock my Easton A/C/C. Wild fantasies aside, it was time for business. I had consulted with several veteran gator hunters who had suggested a couple of good shots to take. One was in the teardrop shaped spot just behind the eye and the other being a small oval shaped area behind the gator’s head containing a brain the size of three olives. Not much room for error and the positioning had to be just right. These were tough, tough critters and I needed to be a match for that toughness by executing a carefully placed shot.
Sneaking along the pond bank, I quickly found that a gator never takes his eye off of you. A fact that put all hopes of a "behind the head into a brain" shot to rest. My only alternative was a shot into the teardrop shape or through the slightly softer hide just behind the jaw, placing my broadhead into the same general area, separating the skull from the spine for a quick, humane death.
I decided to try for the teardrop spot. Slowly drawing back and anchoring solid I concentrated on the gator in my sight window. Feeling confident, I touched off the release. I didn’t even see where the arrow hit; it disappeared as quick as the gator did. Nobody I was with could follow the action either. I would later learn that I hit him dead center of the teardrop busting both blades of my broadhead, my arrow barely cracking the surface of his scales.
I renocked. He resurfaced. I drew back, more determined than ever, more solid than I have ever been before, taking steady aim for spot number two. The instant I released the water came alive with eight and a half foot of angry alligator. As quickly as it had all started it was over. A 350-pound beast with armor that can stop a bullet succumbed to one, well-placed shot in his only vulnerable spot.
I left Louisiana with a good lesson. If you do your homework studying your quarry, shoot good equipment and know your vital areas it doesn’t matter whether it’s a whitetail, black bear or a ugly old alligator, a single well placed shot is all you need to bring home your trophy. Mine will be mounted with jaws open wide on my desk reminding me of a hot day in the swamps of Louisiana hunting with my Cajun friends.
As a little girl I remember my grandmother saying to me when we would part, "See ya later Alligator!" I bet she never thought her little curly haired granddaughter would one day be chasing those prehistoric creatures with a bow and arrow! In the future when I use that saying with my own grandchildren you can bet I’ll be reliving this awesome hunt and wishing the excitement of that day for each one of them. Until next month… see ya later, alligator!
© September 2005
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