October 2011
Featured Articles

Hunting Alabama's Monster Alligators

These Alabama Gator Hunters Can Give the “Swamp People” of Louisiana a Run for Their Money

 

Wesley Smith, Crawford Henry, Clint Norris, Blake Jones and Wesley Siddens pose with their trophy gator of 720 pounds.

Clint Norris has hunted big game all across the western United States and parts of South America. He has had many exciting hunts, but he said the most exciting hunt of his life took place recently a few miles south of Selma on the Alabama River when he and his gator hunting buddies boated a 12-foot, 4-inch, 720-pound alligator.

Norris and his hunting buddies were lucky enough to be drawn for one of the fifty permits issued to hunt in Dallas, Wilcox and parts of Monroe Counties. This was the first time this area was opened to alligator hunting. But, before Norris and his friends Wesley Smith, Crawford Henry, Blake Jones and Wesley Siddens could start chasing alligators, they had to take the Alabama Department of Conservation’s mandatory class on alligator hunting.

Norris was grateful to Central Alabama Farmers Co-op’s Manager Tim Wood for making the Selma Co-op available to the Conservation Department to teach the course. The store also sells equipment for taking gators. The two-hour workshop covered topics like the history of the alligator in Alabama, laws and regulations, and methods of legally taking a gator in Alabama waters.

Clint Norris, wife Dori and daughter Maddox admire Norris’s monster gator.

 

Baiting, as shown on the popular TV series Swamp People, is not allowed in Alabama. The gator must first be hooked with a large rod and reel, harpoon, hand line or shot with an arrow approved for bow fishing. Once the gator is brought boat side and secured, it can be dispatched with a shotgun using no. 4 shot or smaller or with a bang stick of .38 caliber or larger. Rifles or pistols are not legal for dispatching gators in Alabama.

Norris and his party had been trying to hook a large gator they had spotted a few days before. This gator continued to elude them for several hours until he was hooked with a large treble hook on a heavy rod and reel.

"After we got the first hook in him, I was able to get my throw line hook into him. We then got two more hooks into him with rods and reels. After we had him restrained up next to the boat, I shot him. He immediately went to the bottom of the river in 27 feet of water. We tried for several hours to get him off the bottom without much success. Three conservation officers arrived as we were fighting the gator. After we shot him, they checked us to make sure we were legal and then helped us boat the gator. If it hadn’t been for the assistance of conservation officers Alan Roach, Cliff Robertson and Chris Jaworski providing some additional muscle, I’m not sure we could have recovered this giant gator. We just couldn’t get him in the boat out in the river. We secured him to the boat and slowly made for the bank. It took 10 people to lift the gator into the boat," Norris explained.

Once the gator was boated, it was taken to Roland Cooper State Park for weighing and recording other data by Conservation Department biologist.

 

Mindy Hatchett lends perspective to the monstrous size of the alligator Keith Fancher tagged in the inaugural gator hunt in west central Alabama recently. Fancher’s gator was 14-feet, 2-inches long and weighed 838 pounds. (Photo: David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources) Below, it took a strong hoist to lift Flancher’s whopper gator of 838 pounds.

 

"Once they were through weighing and measuring, we iced him down in the boat and dressed him the next day. As I said, this is one of the hardest earned trophies I have ever collected. I had enough meat to give some to my friends. I plan to have the head mounted and tan the hide. And you know what? There are a lot of alligators out there bigger than the one we bagged. We plan to try to get a larger one next year," Norris added.

Another gator, harvested by Keith Fancher of Shelby County and his party, was even larger than the Norris party gator. This gator was 14-feet, 2-inches and weighed a whopping 838 pounds. Fancher’s gator was hooked near Pine Barron creek in Wilcox County. According to wildlife biologist Chris Cook, Fancher’s gator was the largest alligator he has seen during his career. Cook’s gator was so large it couldn’t be hoisted in the pontoon boat the hunters were on and had to be secured to the side of the boat and towed three miles to the check in station at Roland Cooper State Park.

Cook was not surprised that such large gators exist in the newly-opened hunting area.

"Since this area has never been legally hunted, one might expect some really big gators will be bagged there. It is basically an unhunted population that has been allowed to live and thrive in a protected environment," Cook remarked.

The following is a list of alligators harvested by length, weight and hunter’s name.
• 14-2, 838 pounds, Keith Fancher, Shelby Co.
• 12-4, 720 pounds, Clint Norris, Sardis
• 12-91/2, 661 pounds, Keith Rosetta, Odenville
• 13-1, 604 pounds, Jamie Thomas, Selma
• 12-2, 625 pounds, James Glennon, Birmingham
• 12-10, 607 pounds, Dale Herring, Saraland
• 12-4, 578 pounds, Craig Gamble, Camden
• 13-4, 528 pounds, Frank Carnes, Tuscaloosa
• 12-61/2, 522 pounds, Colby Sisson, Moody
• 12-0, 511 pounds, Leslie Bryan, Saraland
• 12-1, 444 pounds, Robert Akins, Madison
• 11-11, 498 pounds, Roger Boaz, Adger
• 11-10, 465 pounds, Dawn Daley, Camden

 

Biologist Keith Gauldin, who coordinates hunts in the Mobile Delta area, said gators don’t get much bigger than Fancher’s trophy; anything in the 12-foot range is big, anything over that is really big. Gauldin observed that the gators in the west central area are more robust for some reason.

"I don’t think there are as many gators up there because it is a more riverine habitat than marsh like in the Delta," Gauldin said.

So, if you have had a hankering to hunt giant alligators with Troy Landry, star of Swamp People, and his Louisiana buddies, look no farther. Just apply next year for an Alabama alligator hunting permit and you just may be the one who bags the giant gator that will make the Louisiana boys shake their heads with envy!

Ben Norman is an outdoor writer from Highland Home.