South Carolina Gators

Trip Preparation
      Have you ever booked a trip with little or no knowledge of what you’re getting yourself into? That’s exactly what my gator trip to South Carolina felt like. I had heard about people going out and shooting big gators, but I wanted to do it with a bow. I really didn’t know how on earth to go about so I did a little research. At Cabin Fever (My local archery shop) we paged through their catalogue and found a “Gator Getter Kit” Basically it had everything one would need to stick a big gator…well except for a little bottle of liquid courage.

Gear Setup
      Once the kit arrived we stripped my Monster down and setup what looked to be an extreme carp kit. You have an arrow connected to a spool of 500lb test line, strings hanging everywhere, and a float that hangs off your stabilizer to throw in once you stick a gator. I had no sights, a new specially designed rest, and line hanging from my arrow. Immediately I could see that if you were not careful you could end up with a misfire and a tangled mess. The no sights really threw me for a loop…I hadn’t shot instinctively since I was a kid so I was hoping the transition would be smooth.

Shot Placement
      Gators are covered from head to toe with a shield of armor. You’d think there would be tons of places to stick an arrow, but your shot placement needs to be extremely precise. There is only a small portion of their skin that is soft enough for an arrow to penetrate. This is located right behind their skull where there neck meets their head. They also have a softer area on their belly/side but it can be very difficult to see this part because it is always submerged.
South Carolina Gator

      Gator hunting is done primarily at night using spot lights. You can hunt during the day with rifles but it can be very hard to recover your animal since there is no line attached like there is with a bow. The first night was really a trial run for me, I had no idea how good of a shot I would be and I didn’t know what to expect. We tried a variety of tactics throughout the trip. We tied the boat up and played CD’s that call the gators in. We tried stalking them by paddling up without the motor, we tried going up to them fast, you name it we tried it.

Judging Size
      I have become very used to judging deer, or elk, or even hogs but how in the world do you judge a gator? You can only really see their eyes and the end of their snout. SO that’s exactly what you use. They figure a good estimate is to judge the number of inches from their eye to their snout and that’s about how many feet long your gator would be. This seemed easy enough and like anything when you find a monster, there is no question. At night as we drove around we shined a bright spot light along shores, and in the water. When we spotted a gator, and we spotted a ton, their eyes glowed red. It’s really a creepy feeling when you shine a swamp and see hundreds of red eyes glowing back at you. Especially when you think that these are only a few hundred yards from nearby homes.

The Hunt
      I’m not sure in all my travels if I’ve ever met such a great bunch of guys as I had the privilege to hunt with in South Carolina. They were staying out late at night with me rounding up gators, and then getting up early for work the following mornings. They also had the perfect boats, and not just any boat but a specific gator getter boat. It had a high place to sit and watch, a platform on the front for the shooter, and a mud buddy motor that could get us through almost anything. It even came equipped with a CD player and surround sound to call the gators in. There is no way I’m even going to pretend to have stuck the first gator I shot at. It took a lot of practice and patience, but I was thrilled when I stuck my very first gator. He wasn’t a monster, but at six feet long he was a perfect starter.

      My days were spent stalking gators with my bow and occasionally shooting them with a rifle, but my ultimate goal was to stick a monster with my Mathews Monster. The last evening when time was starting to run thin I had my chance. We were lucky enough to be accompanied by a guy whose father was actually a professional gator hunter back in the day. He could call in gators with his mouth and he was a blast to be around, truly a fun person. In fact he was leaning over to show me a small gator and he fell in the water! We pulled him out but he was all smiles saying the wife’s going to be surprised that he took two baths in one day! Talk about a good sport, but he was soaking wet. He insisted we continue hunting and it’s a good thing we did.

      About an hour later we spotted a giant gator and he was territorial! This meant he would try to hold his ground, hopefully giving us the chance to get close. We cut the engines and Mendel grabbed a small little broken off canoe paddle. We slowly crept our way along and finally arrived within shooting distance. I drew and when I released all my line got tangled and it splashed the water in front of him. Lucky for me he was a mean old gator and didn’t want us invading his space, so he stayed up giving me another shot. It’s hard enough untangling line when you have time but I was trying to go as fast as possible. I knew he wouldn’t stick around forever and this guy was a giant!

      I got the bow, spool, and line re-rigged and tried to calm myself down. This was the last night, and probably one of the last opportunities I would have. I released the arrow and this time it hit right behind the head in the soft part and it was game on! The gator splashed and dove to the bottom. He didn’t pull all my rope out so there was no need to throw the float, but what a great feeling!! Little did I know the work had just begun. This gator was a monster, super heavy, and I had a 500lb test line connecting me to him.

      We pulled him up for what seemed like hours, we’d finally get him close to the boat and he’d take off. I had to let the rope go most of the time in fear of loosing a hand, but then it would start all over. All the ground you gained was gone again. Finally we must have tired him out as all three of us took turns pulling him in. He showed himself and we fired several rounds into his skull. Quickly we tied his mouth shut and we were all looking at each other in awe. Not one of us expected this big of a gator! He was enormous and as we dragged him into the landing he was actually pulling the boat as we drove. Back at the landing a group of 10 guys waited and helped us bring him to shore. This was a true group effort and I never could have done it without every single person’s help and patience. I had no idea what I was getting into at the beginning but I know one thing for sure. Gator hunting is something I would love to do every single year! 

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