Dinosaur hunting. That’s what it feels like. It’s like hunting some prehistoric remnant that slinks around in the shadows or just below the surface, with huge teeth, sharp claws, yet still possesses the power to ambush prey the size of humans or larger. The American Alligator is such a unique game species that it’s only hunted in a few states in this wonderful country. Living in Louisiana affords me a special opportunity to hunt a game species that isn’t available to most people. Every September, I’m fortunate enough to have the opportunity to tag along on, or put a tag on one of these Jurassic throwbacks. In doing so I’m reminded how much I love this the Sportsman’s Paradise of my home state of Louisiana.
My favorite part about alligator hunting is that I’m able to do it with a great group of people. I’ve featured Dr. Ryan “Doc” Terry on this blog before, in Dr. Death & The .300 Blackout and his unbelievable photography, and videography as well. Doc played a crucial role on this hunt (as usual). However, this article is the Greatoutdoorinary debut of one of my oldest (and craziest) friends. You will see just how casually crazy Matt can be if you read through to the end of this article. Matt Shute is one of those people that I’m glad is my friend, because he would make one frightening enemy. When you close your eyes and picture a “Cajun,” Matt is probably what you picture. He is brash, brazen, loud mouthed, a physical beast, a “second nature outdoorsman,” and as loyal as a sheepdog to his friends. On this hunt, you will see the lengths that both Doc, and Matt will go to for a friend.
The Three Amigos:
Matt & I have known each other since we were practically in diapers, and Doc is one of my best friends, as well as family by marriage. Among our close family and friends they nicknamed us the Three Amigos.
Between jobs, and family obligations, it’s difficult to get the three of our schedules to sync up for a hunt. Now that I think about it, we have 9 children (and growing) between the 3 of us. We were planning on putting a tag on the first decent gator we came across, and we had one morning to get it done before work obligations, and stick wielding wives pulled us back to reality. We are only allotted a few gator tags, and fewer spousal hall passes, so we didn’t want to hang gator hooks, and have to put a tag on whatever sized gator happened to bite the hook. We prefer to actually hunt them. That way we can keep the size average much higher, and select only mature gators instead of having to kill whatever happens to bite the hook. Plus, hunting them is a lot more fun than just shooting something on a hook.
We were waiting for a gator that we’d seen before the season opened that was roughly 10 feet to show up, but before we knew it, we had burned a lot of day light, and the 10 footer hadn’t made an appearance. We got a call from one of the guys who has a camp next to ours. We’ll call him “T”. He let his dog “Joe” out to do his business. Joe looks like a mixture between a marshmallow, and a polar bear, and a gator kept coming out to eyeball Joe while he was cooling down in the bayou. The gator wasn’t a monster, but this wasn’t the first time that he’d sized Joe up for a meal….This gator had to go. We decided that I’d tag this guy, and we would try to find the 10 footer another day.
We set up by propping off of T’s steps for a shot. I was shooting Doc’s 75 Sako chambered in .270 Win shooting factory loaded 130 gr. Barnes TTSX bullets. I wasn’t sure of where this bullet would impact at the roughly 70 yards, so I aimed dead on, and shot…..And I missed! Uno Amigo yelled “High!” and yet another Amigo said “You shot low.”
I aimed a little higher, and missed even higher over him! This time, I saw the bullet impact the water over the gators head. I verified with the guys watching that it was shooting high like Willie Nelson, and adjusted for the 3rd shot. This time I knew my dope, and shot the gator just below the eye socket intending the bullet to exit the rear of the skull cap. I’ve seen these bullets do some pretty impressive things on game animals, but this time, it did not even exit the skull.
You would think that taking a .270 bullet to the face at roughly 70 yards would’ve scrambled this gator’s eggs, but it wasn’t dead. I learned several lessons on this hunt…
- One lesson is to never shoot a gator that is facing you or quartering towards you. ONLY take a side shot, or a facing away shot on gators. Side shot – in the soft spot just behind the eye/ Going away shot – right in the center of the skull cap where the brain stem meats the brain (think occipital or parietal lobe).
- Another lesson, is that the gator is never as dead as you think it is. They are tough beasts that have a zombie like ability to take bullets, get knocked out, then after being seemingly dead, they “come back to life” and begin fighting again.
The Craziest Amigo:
My own personal Cajun Navy went to retrieve the gator. So, 2/3 of the 3 Amigos (Doc & Matt) set out in a small flat bottomed aluminum boat with a hook on an aluminum pole, a long piece of lumber, and a treble hook on a rope. What could go wrong, right?
They searched the area for roughly 30 minutes having an occasional bump or feeling, but still could not recover the gator. Eventually, Matt and Doc chased the gator into some grass, and he came up for air.
Matt shot him several times in the head with a .40 cal Beretta pistol. The pistol was loaded with target ammo so the gator shook it off and dove again. They managed to find him hiding in the thick grass, submerged stumps and tree branches, but they couldn’t get a hook into him because the hooks kept snagging and tangling in the submerged vegetation.
Matt, in his infinite wisdom decided that it would be easier to hook a LIVE alligator by climbing into the water with it!
I figured it would at least make for an interesting video if it ate him, so I filmed from the bayou bank. The gator hissed, as he was slipping into the water. He felt through the mass of grass, branches, stumps, and logs until he felt the scaly skin of the reptile’s tail. He gently held his hand on the scaly skin and asked Doc to pass him the treble hook.
Doc gave him the hook, and held the pole, and the rope waiting for Matt to get one of them in the gator. Matt pushed the hook under the water, and between the tangle of submerged branches until he got the point of the hook under the beast’s tail. He jerked in an upward motion, setting the hook. ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE! The gator whipped its tail up in defense, and began to writhe under the water. Matt then realized that the body of the gator was between his legs, and trying to whip its reptilian head around enough to clamp down on him. The tangle of branches and Doc’s iron grip on the rope of the treble hook prevented the gator from being able to swing around fully to get his teeth in Matt’s flesh.
Doc somehow stayed on his feet in the small boat while Matt flipped his body safely back into the boat. They wrestled the stunned and exhausted gator out into the open water, where Doc, armed with his 9mm Sig Sauer P-229, finally put the coup de grâce in the gator who was still fighting to escape their grip.
At the end we had a hunt that it took all Three Amigos to get this gator in the cooler. It definitely wasn’t the largest gator on the planet, only measuring 8 foot 7 inches, but he sure was a tough SOB! It will provide some great leather for me and my family as well as some delicious meat. Gator hunting will let you know who your real friends are.
Would your friends do for you what Doc and Matt did for me?
Would you do it for your friends?
Would you do what “T” did, and let your friends use your marshmallow-ish dog as bait?
Kids, today’s lesson is quite simple…don’t try the less than intelligent things you read about on this blog, unless you have a properly trained Cajun with a thirst for gator blood, and a 20 something year friendship. Greatoutdoordinary OUT!