Alligators might not generate as much bowhunting business as elk, deer, bears or turkeys, but it’s a niche market that’s growing and directing attention to the diverse opportunities available through archery.
Recently, “Field & Stream” offered its readers an information-packed how-to feature covering gator-hunting tips and the necessary gear for bowhunting gators.
Opportunities for bowhunting alligators are increasing throughout the Southeast from Texas to South Carolina, generally during August, September or October. No state, however, can match Florida for gator-hunting opportunities because of its longer season, higher alligator-harvest quotas and a growing list of gator-hunting guides.
“Florida offers nearly everything you could want for gator hunting,” said Blake Shelby, PSE marketing director. “Whether you want to hunt day or night, or call them, stalk them or float up to them, you can find ways to do it in Florida. Probably the most difficult thing about gator hunting is that permit numbers are controlled, and each state varies on what you can do. You can’t just show up tomorrow and expect to hunt them.”
“Tracker Jack” Woods of Waldens Outdoor in Augusta, Ga., sells his own patented reel system called a “Gaitor-Aider,” which can be fitted with 200-, 400- or 600-pound test line. Woods, too, doesn’t see gators as a big revenue generator, but with Georgia and South Carolina now issuing about 500 tags annually, and Florida within driving distance, it’s a market he can’t ignore.
“You typically aren’t selling guys a gator-hunting bow,” Woods said. “They can use just about any bow they like shooting, so it’s another fun bowhunt for the guys who draw a tag.”
One archery pro who sees gators as big business, however, is Florida-based Glenn Grizzaffe, co-owner of the Tampa Archery Shop in Tampa. Guided gator hunts are an important part of Grizzaffe’s business. During the past year he’s booked 532 hunts, of which half were bowhunts. He specializes in calling gators by imitating the distress sounds made by young alligators. Male alligators come looking for an easy meal, while female alligators respond out of maternal instincts to protect their young.
“It’s a fun way to hunt because you’re not just waiting around in the dark to shoot them,” Grizzaffe said. “It’s more like hunting elk or turkeys. You’re hunting them in daylight, and they’re swimming to you.”
Emily Beach, the ATA’s education and curriculum development manager, said gator hunting will be included in the association’s Explore Bowfishing curriculum, now in development. Explore Bowfishing will complement the ATA’s popular Explore Bowhunting curriculum, and help introduce new archers age 11 and older to yet another fun aspect of archery.
“Gator hunting shows the diversity of opportunities in bowhunting and bowfishing,” Beach said. “As with bowfishing itself, gator hunting may not generate the numbers we see with deer hunting, but it’s fun to bowhunt the more uncommon big game you see around our country.”
Beach said the new bowfishing curriculum might prove even more exciting for new archers because bowfishing typically provides multiple shooting opportunities. “It can serve as a stepping stone from target shooting to bowhunting,” she said. “Bowfishing is usually more fun than target shooting because no two shots are the same, and there’s usually much more action than in bowhunting.
“Plus, it can be done from piers, boats or shorelines,” Beach continued. “You’re not restricted to one small spot like you are when bowhunting deer from a tree stand or turkeys from a blind. If you see carp or gar nearby, you can move to try intercepting them.”
Those experiences also help prepare new hunters for stalking or setting up on alligators, deer or other game animals. If you’ve ever fished for trout in streams, creeks or small rivers, you know fish can be very spooky. They easily detect movements and ground vibrations from heavy footsteps.
Beach said Explore Bowfishing will have its own activity guide and units on fish identification. It will also likely have an equipment kit so students can learn how to use its specialized gear on various bows. “We’re still working on it, but we expect ‘Explore Bowfishing’ to be just as fun and comprehensive as Explore Bowhunting,” she said.
Gator gear illustration courtsey of Field & Stream. Get their full story and gator hunting tips here.
Featured photo on news page courtesy of P.J. Perea.