The American Alligator is capable of growing to lengths of nearly 15 feet, and weighing as much as over 600 pounds. Male gators, called bulls, grow to these massive sizes, whereas females, called cows, will typically max out closer to 8 feet.
The sex of an alligator is uniquely determined by the temperature at which an egg is incubated, with temperatures above 34 degrees Celsius producing males and temperatures below 30 degrees Celsius producing females. Temperatures falling between those points will produce a mixed litter. Incredibly, recent studies have reported evidence that suggests that gators will lay eggs either earlier or later in the season in an effort to control their incubation temperature, balancing the overall male to female ratio in the population.
Alligators live in or around swamps, lakes, or slow moving rivers throughout the Southeastern United States. These areas are used to regulate their body temperature by either laying in the sun to warm up or getting in the water to cool down. In addition, gators also rely on the water to hunt for food. As patient ambush predators that typically hunt at night, they lay at the water’s edge with just their snout exposed, waiting for unsuspecting prey animals. Their main diet is mainly composed of turtles, fish, snakes, and small mammals. However, large gators have no problem killing and eating deer or wild pigs that get too close.
Where To Hunt
Strong alligator populations can be found in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina. If you are an out-of-state hunter looking to do it on your own, your options are limited to Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, as these are the only states that allow non-residents to hunt unguided. However, if you are unfamiliar with alligators, it is highly recommended that you hire an expert guide to assist you on your adventure. Alligators are big, dangerous animals that are not to be taken lightly. Because of this, entrusting a local guide with years of experience, quality gear, and the ability to handle sticky situations that happen all too often while gator hunting is your best chance at filling your tag.
Gator hunting techniques are largely determined by local regulations. For example, Florida alligators can only be taken with a gun on private land. However, most hunts take place on public land where gators cannot be taken with a gun. Instead, hunters employ several methods to get gators close to the boat. First, some hunters utilize bait to catch gators. Because baited hooks are illegal, hunters will use a small wood peg to secure their bait to the line. When a gator swallows the bait, their palatal valve (designed to keep water from filling their stomach and lungs) will keep the peg from coming out of their stomach. Hunters will then get close to the gator and use snatch hooks, harpoons, or crossbows to increase their control. When the gator is finally close to the boat, hunters are allowed to use a specialized weapon called a bangstick – a sturdy pole with a trigger mechanism designed to fire a bullet only when the end comes into contact with the target – to dispatch it. This style of gator hunting is extremely exciting, and offers an up close and personal battle with the large predators.
Other states, like Louisiana, allow hunters to harvest free swimming alligators with guns. This method is very effective for harvesting large gators, but, due to the armor-like nature of an alligator’s skin, an extremely accurate head shot is required to get the job done.
Unlike most game, alligator meat is not the most valuable portion of the animal. However, both the leathery hide and skull from an alligator are very valuable. Because of this, many processing operations are willing to process your gator in exchange for some portion of the animal. For example, if you only wish to keep the meat from your gator, the processing outfit can clean and package the meat for you in return for the skull and hide. Other people simply use the gator as a source of income and sell the whole animal for a healthy profit. However, if you want to keep everything, beautiful full body mounts, skull mounts, and preserved hides can be made from your gator. Lastly, the meat from a gator is delicious, and a local favorite throughout much of the southeast.