January 15, 2016
By Bob Bramblet
Recon weekend for one python-hunt team from Southwest Florida.
I never need an excuse to spend time in the Everglades. Sometimes, however, I have one and this past weekend was my last chance to do some scouting before the start of the Python Challenge 2016, a month long effort to remove as many invasive Burmese pythons from the Everglades as possible. Thousands of python hunters are expected to participate in the event, such as “Team Florida Sportsman,” our five man group made up of Deputy Sheriffs including myself, Eric Bramblet, Chris Patricella, Jim VanPelt and Will Mallett.
In the 27 years I have lived in Southwest Florida, I have frequented the Glades, and I have never seen a Burmese python. I know they are there, I guess we just don't visit the same places. One of the goals for the scouting trip was to check out some spots I haven't been as well as a few favorites. Chris, Eric and I hit the road early and arrived to our first spot just as the sun was rising. This area was not far off the beaten path but seemed to have everything that would attract snakes. It was in close proximity of water, had good tree cover and was rocky.
We spent the morning walking along promising areas and fishing a little. Both proved fruitless as the day wore on. We came across a few snakes, but no pythons. It was a beautiful day and I observed many different wading birds, hawks and osprey.
Chris and I came across an injured hawk with an obviously broken wing. A call to FWC ensured the hawk would have another chance and it was picked up about an hour later.
By early evening we set up camp. We opted for a National Park System campground instead of winging it and ended up at Mitchell's Landing on Loop Rd. It's quiet and out of the way and pretty close to where we wanted to go the next morning. At around midnight, a front bringing lightning, wind and a lot of rain came through, which made for a fairly exciting night. By morning we were stormless and after some camp coffee, back on the road.
As the sun rose, we found ourselves driving atop the US41 levee looking for pythons trying to find warmth. We were advised by a native that we missed one by minutes and after thoroughly searching nearby came up empty. Although we were unsuccessful at finding pythons, any day is a great day spent outside and taking in the natural beauty of the Florida Everglades.
The 2016 Python Challenge begins January 16th at noon and runs through February 14th. Python collection areas include the many parks, management areas, forests and preserves in South Florida. Look for reports, pictures, videos and updates from the field Bob Bramblet and Team Florida Sportsman throughout the competition on bonitabobfishing.com and floridasportsman.com.