There are plenty of techniques for hunting alligators that that vary in technique, equipment use, and harvesting. It is first prudent to state that legal methods of alligator hunting are different from state to state, so before you try this extreme hunting sport, become familiar with your state laws. Make sure you include which states require licenses or certificates and the locations in which you are allowed to hunt.

Methods

There are many ways to capture an alligator for the take, and each one has their own challenges, inherent dangers (such as boat hazards, hooks, knives, guns, slippery decks, etc…), and of course, the inherent dangers of alligators themselves. Gators will fight back and can seriously injure you. If you are up for the challenge, read up on the methods below.

Harpoons and gigs can be used to attach a restraining line to an alligator once the hunter is near enough. This method consists of using a penetrating point such as a detachable dart, fish gig, or spear point attached to a restraining line. A harpoon point is normally mounted on a pole, shaft, or spear and is thrown at the alligator in order to penetrate its hide. A gig, however, is a pronged weapon with a metal or wood pole, and is jabbed at the gator. For gators 7 feet and larger, it is highly recommended that you use a harpoon to gain control of it.

Wire snares are a commonly used method of hunting alligator after it has been harpooned or snagged. Wire snares are attached to a loosely mounted line to the end of a pole. This method can also be used as an initial capture technique as well.

Snatch and baited hooks are essentially fishing for alligators. These methods require hooks set in water with or without bait (for bait, rotten chicken is best), and acts just like fishing.

For humane hunting, bangsticks are common in an alligator hunters’ arsenal. These are safe and effective tools that divers use to kill fish and alligators. For a humane hunt, the shot should be centered behind the skull and angled to enter the brain. To get in this position on a wild alligator is difficult and no easy feat, but with patience and using a restraining line, bangsticks are an effective and humane way of hunting a gator. Keep in mind that to legally kill an alligator using a bangstick, the gator has to be restrained using the methods discussed here. You cannot “freestyle’ this shot.

Firearms are also a very common method in line with using bangsticks. While most firearms are capable of killing a gator, it is the skill of the hunter that will determine how successful your hunt will be.

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When to Hunt

Alligators are mostly hunted at night, where they are most active and the reflections of their eyes give them away in the dark.

However, in some areas such as Louisiana, day-time hunting is common in areas where the water is infested with gators.

Where to Hunt

The American alligator can be legally hunting throughout the Southeastern United States. The following states distribute alligator hunting licenses: Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, South Carolina, and Texas.

North Carolina is the only state within the habitat of the alligator that prohibits hunting. They are protected there and can only be killed by wildlife officials.

Harvesting

The key to harvesting an alligator is to properly locate and attach a great restraining line. Harpoons are your best choice at restraining a gator and is highly recommended (you really should consider it mandatory) to use a harpoon to restrain gators 7 feet long and over. Try to hit the gator in one of their soft spots, such as the neck, the large part of the tail, or the flank. Avoid the back armor and head unless you have bangsticks to dispatch him after restraining.

Once you have your gator dispatched, always tape the mouth shut. To make sure the gator is dead, sever the spine with a Buck or similar knife, just behind the bump of the head. Take your time and gently work your knife in to find the bone.

After, make sure you attach your state or cities tag about 6 inches from the end of the tail and clean yourself up using the appropriate cleaning agents. Also wash your gator with a soap/bleach mix to kill the bacteria before skinning.

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Advice

Due to their natural habitat in and around water, gator hunting is vastly different from any other type of hunting. It is worth it to get a feel for the water, learn the techniques of gator hunting, and spend some time on the water watching the movements and actions of alligators before attempting to hunt them. Alligator hunting is not something you just jump into. It is recommended that no novice hunts along or with a group of other novices. If you can, always find an experienced hunter from which to learn the ropes.

When you are out on the water, the danger you encounter is not necessarily the gators, but rather the equipment, the environment, and the dark. It is important to pay attention at all times, pay attention to your surroundings and hazards, watch your lines and equipment, watch the water for logs and obstructions, and to always carry safety equipment on board.

Your equipment should be prepped and inspected before you leave on the water. Make sure you have the appropriate restraining equipment and bring along the tools for after the kill as well—such as duct tape, your tags, cleaning agents, and so forth. Go through your checklist and ask an experienced hunter if you have missed anything.

It is also crucial that you also become familiar with all of your equipment that you intend to use. As with any type of hunting, it will not succeed if you do not know how to properly use your tools or gear. Practice throwing your harpoon pole to maximize your accuracy and familiarity when the time comes to use it. Know how to rig your boat. Know how to properly dispatch an alligator. And most importantly, stay calm.

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In addition to knowing your equipment and knowing the anatomy of a gator in order to dispatch it properly, it is important to know the area that you are going to hunt. You will likely be hunting at night and if you are in an unfamiliar area, you don’t want to get turned around when the struggle of the hunt becomes real. When the action happens, it happens extremely quickly, so have your wits about you as well as a plan. When you scout out your area, fellow hunters love to talk shop and offer their experiences and advice. You can go to different camps, talk with locals, ask around at bait shops—you will get a welcome reception as well as kudos for interacting with locals before coming in to hunt.

Speaking of local, etiquette is something many soon-to-be gator hunters do not often think of. Much of the waterways that gator hunting happens in the backyard of locals’ properties. Be courteous to waterfront home owners when you hunt late at night. This includes keeping your lights focused and shots to a minimum if possible. Just be thoughtful of the people in the area as you take on your challenge.

With some of these tips in hand, you can now get started in preparing yourself to enter a hunting adventure unlike any other.