Alligators are one of the great success stories in modern conservation and one of North America's unique hunting opportunities. Throughout their range, alligators were once decimated by unregulated hide hunting and were among the first species listed under the Endangered Species Act. Full protection, active management, and the development of gator farms to meet the demand for leather, allowed wild populations to rebound. Legal alligator hunts first became available in the early 1980s. Today, alligators are important game animals in Florida, Louisiana and Texas, with additional opportunities in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina.
A gator hunt can make a perfect add-on to a family vacation in Florida, sightseeing in Louisiana, or hunting other big game in Texas. As with all hunts, doing your research and finding the right outfitter for you is critical. Alligators are hunted in a variety of ways, but there are a few constants. First, gators are cold-blooded and are active only in warm weather. Their digestive system is regulated by temperature, so air and, particularly, water temperature affects how attracted to bait they may be. Seasons, where applicable, are generally held in late summer with most hunting in September. This takes advantage of a full summer of growth, but late-season hunters may encounter sluggish gators if an early cold front comes through.
Second, dead alligators sink, a fact which often dictates the hunting methods. In the core hunting counties of Texas, for example, it is illegal to shoot a free-swimming alligator except with bow-fishing equipment outfitted with 300-pound-test line. In many places, alligators are "hunted" with a set line baited with rotting meat. The alligator will swallow a fist-sized bait with a hook hidden inside and hook itself as it swims off.........(continued)