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The Hunt is On, Part 3

The hunt is a multi-million dollar enterprise that controls the gator population and boosts the state's economy. While it could be a once-in-a-lifetime chance, hunters say the most important thing is to keep their wits about them.

After the sun goes down, many people choose to hit the hay, but alligator hunters on Lake Seminole are on the prowl. Or by being shy, rangers stress that alligators are ferocious animals and hunters should exercise extreme caution when dealing with them.

"It's not like watching the crocodile hunter. Everybody sees that Australian getting out there and messing with the gators, these animals are wild and unpredictable," says John Kirkus.

Alligators are fierce in general, but the threat increases tenfold when they're trapped.

"We stick a little thing made of stainless steel under the skin, and the skin is so tough that it will hold the gator to this boat," says Benny West.

"They can use hand-held guns, any caliber, but they have to wait until the alligator is up next to the boat before they can dispatch him," Terri Jones adds.

Hunters have plenty of weapons at hand, but the alligators have their own defenses built in.

"I've seen gators puncture holes in boats, I've seen people bit by gators, the amount of pressure those jaws put forth, you can't control that."

But rangers say therein lies the big attraction. The danger, coupled with the fact that the hunters may never be selected to participate again, is what makes alligator hunting such an unforgettable adventure.

One-hundred-eighty hunters were chosen by lottery out of thousands of applicants, each was allowed to harvest one gator more than four feet long, and just a note, the 9-footer I helped catch was not killed, he's been relocated to a gator farm in Camilla.

Plans are already being made for next year's hunt. You can log onto the board of natural resources' website at gohuntgeorgia.com, or call the south Georgia office at 229-426-5267.


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