Special Report: Going gator hunting

By Jim Wallace - bio | email 

Lake Seminole, GA (WALB) –   Georgia alligator hunting is one of the fastest growing game sports in the United States. Thousands of people from all 50 states applied for the lottery to decide the 850 hunters granted licenses to harvest one alligator.

Chase Lazmbree of Newton applied five times before winning the alligator hunting lottery, and being picked to receive a license. "I hunt everything. Deer, turkeys, hogs. Just never alligator," Lazmbree said.

Richard Grebel of Leesburg is also a first time gator hunter. This is what they are after, a huge trophy gator. The state record gator is 13 feet 9 inches long, 692 pounds, taken by Randy Hand of Decatur County.

To hunt gator, you need someone with a specially equipped boat and experience. Grebel is going on the Flint River with David Law. Law admits he would gator hunt every night if he could. "I guess it's the adrenaline rush of hunting something that could eat you."

Chase is working with John Wagnon, who will take him out on Lake Seminole. Hunters can use anything from a harpoon to a cross bow, but both Chase and Grebel have chosen to use their compound bow.

"Don't shoot him in the head. It's hard. Hit right behind his head, there is some soft tissue there. That's the big part of his body too," Law said.

The arrow has a rotating head that will anchor a float line in the gator, so that he can be tracked and dragged beside the boat, then shot.

Wagnon has also equipped his flat bottom boat with the gear needed to hunt gator, so that he host hunters. "I still get to go. I've got the gear. Get to experience the thrill of getting a big reptile on the end of a line and bringing him in."

You hunt gators at night, when they come out. As you are running, the guide shines a light along the shore. The gators eyes shine brightly when the light hits them, and the experienced gator hunter can judge it's size by the distance between the eyes.

"Some are dinosaurs. Some are healthy. But they all are dangerous," Wagnon said.

Law's strategy on the River is to spot the gators eyes, then drive up close and then use a trolling motor to move in for the shot.

On Lake Seminole Wagnon runs close to shore to surprise the gators. The water on the Flint River is very shallow, and Grebel does not see any gators big enough to satisfy him. Remember he gets to harvest only one.

At Lake Seminole Chase gets close to a number of gators, but also doesn't think they are big enough, and passes them up. "I got a good view of his head. He'd be about 9 feet," Chase said.

For hours they ride Lake Seminole in the darkness, looking for the huge prize. "I want to get up in this Fairchild area. That's good, and work over here," Wagnon said.

Chase gets another good look, but again decides not to shoot. "Got close to a couple, but they just weren't big enough. So we let them go."

Grebel calls it a night without taking a shot. "It was different. I've never been on the river at night."

Chase also calls it a night. Both will be back. "That's why they call it hunting."

Grebel returned to the Flint River two weeks later and took an eight-foot gator. He mounted the head and skin for a trophy.

Chase hunted again the next night, but never got his gator. Both hunters say they will put their names back in the lottery again next year, hoping to land one of the biggest animals in Georgia.

Georgia increased the quota from 700 to 850 gators this year, because of the increased number of the reptiles.

Georgia officials expect many more people from across the United States to enter the lottery to try and win a license next year.

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