When we ended last week’s column, my hunting partner, Felber, and I had killed wild boars in Florida. Now we’ll get down to talking about why we went to Florida in the first place — to hunt alligators.
The way you hunt gators in Florida is not what you see on television, where they mostly show them being hunted in Louisiana. In Florida, there are no fishing lines to set, and on public land no firearms can be used. Gator hunting is done at night, and you use a harpoon for a weapon. This is fair chase hunting at it finest.
The way things are supposed to work, is not always the way it comes out. To locate a gator, you shine a high-power light across the canal and look for the eyes of the gator shining back at you like a deer’s eyes. The guide will then judge the distance between the gator’s eyes, and if they are wide enough apart he opens the throttle wide open and drives at the gator, which is usually lying on top of the water until you get within about 10 yards, at which time it is likely to dive. When you get to within a few yards you throw the harpoon, which has a float attached.
Well, things didn’t work the way they were supposed to work. I don’t know if it was because of Felber or it just wasn’t meant to be on this trip, but around 3 a.m. the transmission went out of the boat and sent us inside early. The outfitter worked all day to get it fixed, but that didn’t happen. However, he had another boat that he used when he only had one other hunter. Of course Felber wanted to go out anyway, although the outfitter explained the smaller boat was unstable with three people and it would be best just to call things off. That wasn’t happening with Felber. If you remember, Felber had let me take the first boar so he could get the first crack at a gator. So we loaded up at dark and off we went.
Around midnight, Felber got his first chance at a nice gator. But when the boat stopped, Felber lost his footing and almost fell into the gator-infested water. Though he was bounced around like a newspaper in a windstorm, he wasn’t going to be discouraged. He gathered his harpoon and himself and told the guide to go on, that he was OK (although I could see he was hurt). So on through the night we went.
Felber got his second chance about 1a.m., but again he fell, this time all within the boat. I could tell he was done for, even before the guide called off the hunt for fear of making gator bait out of Felber. Although I had fun, I drove 2,000 miles to gator hunt and never had a harpoon in my hand. Oh well, that is why it is called “hunting.”