Final weeks of alligator season are often the most productive.
After successfully acquiring a coveted Statewide Alligator Harvest Permit, the natural temptation is to hit the water ASAP, snatch rod and floodlight in hand in search of a monster. The 3-month wait from the May lottery is unbearable. Without question, plenty of big gators are tagged during the first four week-long harvest periods stretching from August 15th through September 14th. When thinking about the mayhem of those weeks, holding out until October isn’t the worst idea, though.
Gator hunting in October possesses a stigma of failure. The pressure to perform is unlike other forms of hunting. The tags are hard to draw and expensive. Still, some have a do-or-die mentality about hunting in August or September. In reality, any number of unplanned events derails hunts during a designated hunting period. Fortunately, each year, giants are bagged throughout Florida as the calendar switches to fall and the general season opens. Harvest data support this claim; check it at myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/wildlife/alligator/harvest/data-search/.
For example, Lake Kissimmee is a popular gator hunting unit between Polk and Osceola counties. In 2018, hunters bagged 281 gators with an average length of approximately 8 feet, 2 inches. Sixty gators were harvested over 10 feet in length. Of those, 21 were killed in October (35%). This includes a 13-foot, 2-inch giant boated on the 23rd, the largest of the season reported on the lake.
The 2018 season wasn’t an anomaly, either. In 2008, 13 of 48 gators over 10 feet were harvested in October (27.1%). And in 2013, 28 of 51 gators in this size range were taken during the month (54.9%). Lake Kissimmee doesn’t maintain a particular distinction in this category. Visit the website and plug in any other hunting unit with a large number of permits, and the results will likely be similar.
Why is this a productive time to hunt? Really, it’s a matter of hunting smarter rather than harder. The beauty of gator hunting October is the relative ease compared to the previous months. For starters, the weather is far more agreeable. Those August hunts are brutally hot and prone to be ruined by thunderstorms.
October hunting also is more successful as fewer hunters ply the waterways. Gators are responsive to hunting pressure, the older ones especially. After the initial rush of the season, the pressure subsides somewhat. The gators can still be cagey, but your opportunities to shine a big boy greatly improve the further the season advances from Labor Day weekend.
The mistake hunters make is believing that if they don’t tag out during the first few weeks of the season, the action is over. Yes, other outdoor pursuits are in full effect by now. However, those monster gators are still lurking in Florida’s dark waters well into the season. October might be your best chance to intercept a big one. FS
Note: The statewide recreational alligator hunting season runs Aug. 15 – Nov. 1 each year. Within 24 hours of harvesting an alligator and prior to taking it to a processing facility, you must complete an alligator harvest report form either online or a printed hardcopy that can be obtained at MyFWC.com/Alligator. Mail any unused CITES alligator tags by Nov. 15 to:
FWC Alligator Management Program
1239 SW 10th Street
Ocala, FL 34471.
Published Florida Sportsman Magazine October 2019