Gator bait

By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer

State biologists say one of the most exciting hunts on land or water may be coming to an area closer to home before long.
Launched in 2005, Mississippi’s public water alligator seasons have created a brand new brand of excitement for hunters and fishermen who may have thought they’d seen it all.
“It is very exciting,” Ricky Flynt, a wildlife biologist with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, said. He serves as coordinator for the state’s alligator program. “One of the things we’ve often heard people say is, it’s the most exciting thing they’ve ever been involved in. Many say they’d never deer hunt again if they could hunt alligators all year long.”
As it is, though, public seasons are limited to just four nights each during September and October on the Pascagoula and Pear River areas, and tags are limited by draw. This year’s tags have already been awarded. Additionally, owners of certain private lands in the Delta and in counties along the drainages of these two rivers may apply for landowner tags through a separate system.
Growing interest
“This program really has garnered a lot of interest,” Flynt said. “We started the first public water season in 2005 and had 1,200 applications submitted for 50 permits that allowed the taking of one alligator each. This year, we awarded 480 permits that allow the taking of two alligators each and had 2,856 applications for those.
“The reason for the gradual expansion of the hunting season has been to get us to a point where we could have a much broader alligator season statewide by geographical region. That’s the whole goal.”
The draw is open to Mississippi residents and is typically conducted in June. Once drawn, each successful applicant must attend a one-day training session before being allowed to hunt. Those who’ve attended sessions in previous years are considered trained and don’t have to attend again, however.
“The course lasts three and a half hours and covers alligator biology, legal techniques for harvest and how to process the meat,” Flynt said. “All of the meat on the alligator is edible. The legs, backstraps, jowls and tail are especially choice.
“Also, many people will taxidermy the head or the whole animal. They’ll also tan the hide and display it or use it to make garments and other products.”