Several months ago during alligator season, I was invited on a girls-only hunting expedition on a private island. I love a good adventure, and I love alligators -- they are good to eat, but also amazingly beautiful animals...almost prehistoric looking to me -- so of course I was on board! The island's caretaker gets several gator tags each season to help make the island safer for deer hunters when that season comes around, and he was kind enough to invite us three ladies to come along.
Let me be clear that I did not kill any of these animals -- I told my group that I would be happy to do anything they needed except kill them. So I get the job of gator wrangler -- once a gator is hooked, it is my job to pull it in on a rope and hold it until someone gets a good shot. Highly dangerous, but what an adventure this was!
First steps of the weekend were getting to the island and setting the baits. I drove about an hour south of Charleston, hopped on a boat and rode another 30 minutes or so to the private island. Thousands of acres of nothing except forest and marshland...and one hunting cabin. Next, we hopped on the truck, equipped with a seat on the back for a better vantage point of alligators. We made our own poles out of Chinaberry trees cut down in the wild, and then hooked them up with ropes, chicken quarters and treblehooks, and rigged them to dangle over the water so the alligators would have to jump to get them, instead of a turtle or something else. We saw a monster of an alligator cross the dirt road in front of us at one point and set a bait nearby. We also wound up getting one without the bait -- our first catch of the day!
Then was the time to wait, and we made a plan to go back out to check the bait at midnight. With a long night ahead, we posted up on the porch with wine and had a great meal of shrimp and grits. ...and then some more shrimp and grits. Under the cover of night, and amid rope burns and rifle shots, my photos from the night didn't turn out great. Our bait we set for the monster who crossed the road worked, and this was the biggest alligator I've ever seen. After he was caught, we had to go back to the cabin and drive the backhoe to the site so we could actually move him.
The next morning we checked the baits again and got one more. When it was time to leave, I realized something I hadn't thought about on my way out there -- if you're on a private island, how do you get these alligators back? Well, turns out they come on the boat with you. We sure looked like a sight coming into small town Bennett's Point on a Sunday morning with alligators draped over the bow and holding rifles so they wouldn't bounce around on the trip. Another half hour drive with the gators in the back of the truck to the taxidermist where they were measured and weighed. The monster gator actually weighed-out the scale, which can measure up to 500lbs, so we don't know how much he weighed, but he measured about 12.5 feet long.
This was the opportunity of a lifetime, and I'm so happy for the experience. Although I ached for days afterwards (when you wrangle alligators, you discover muscles and stamina you never knew you had...otherwise you turn into gator food), I would do it again in a heartbeat. What an adventure!