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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Alabama gator hunts go smoothly on opening night


If there is such a thing as a perfect night for alligator hunting, the first 10 hours of the 2011 season may have been just that.
   
Hunters enjoyed windless conditions, low tides, cloudless skies and a night lit by a full moon and occasional yellowish fireballs as the Perseid meteor shower peaked Saturday morning.
   
Twenty gators were harvested on the Mobile-Tensaw Delta on the first day of this weekend's hunt, and another 14 were harvested in the new south-central Alabama area in Dallas, Wilcox and part of Monroe counties also enjoyed the sweet success of filling their tags.
   

Keith Roseta'

s huge alligator sent a ripple of excitement through a large crowd of spectators gathered at Roland Cooper State Park to see the first alligators ever killed in a regulated hunt on Millers Ferry and its tributaries, according to Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Conservation Enforcement Officer Keith Gauldin, who also coordinates the southwest Alabama hunts.
   
The Odenville resident's male gator that he found in Big Cedar Creek measured 12 feet, 9 inches and strained the scale before the digital reading settled at 661 pounds, Gauldin said.

"Everything went pretty smooth up here for the first night," Gauldin said. "We had a big crowd of spectators early that thinned out toward morning. The hunter reports seem to indicate they're not seeing as many alligators as they do on the Delta, but those they are seeing are quality animals."
   
Fifty tags were issued for the first south-central Alabama hunt.
   
Daniel Brown of Saraland made the most of his first tag, bringing the heaviest Delta gator to the scales at the WFF District V office on the Causeway. His 561 lb male measured 11' 8".    
Brown said he and his crew of his brother Bruce Brown of Saraland and Joey Rowell of Citronelle located the animal at about 1:30 a.m. as it swam the Mobile River near a well-known local bait-catching spot called "the bubbly hole."
   
There, outfall pipes from a paper company debarking operation roils the water's surface. Algae growing on the pipes attract small baitfish, which in turn attract larger fish that ultimately gain the attention of alligators.
   


Brown said he was able to get a treble hook in the gator at about 2:30 and it took roughly 2½ hours to get it secured to the boat and dispatched. Then the real work of loading it into the boat began. They called some friends who were hunting nearby and it took five of them to finally get the animal rolled into the friend's boat because it had lower gunwales.
   
They made it to the scales just as the sun was clearing the treetops over Daphne.
   
"I just bought a new gun safe and his skull mount is going to look perfect sitting on it," Brown said.
   
Upon overhearing that, one of his friends said, "Man, you may need a bigger safe."
   
A very familiar face also made it to the scales just before the sun rose.
   
With help from her husband Aaron Boone, her brother Jeremy Parks of Magnolia Springs and friend Morris King of Mobile, Darlene Boone's 10-foot, 351-pound male pulled from the Apalachee River was the fifth straight big alligator she's taken.
   
The Loxley residents individually buy 30 chances to be drawn for one each of the 125 tags issued for the Delta hunt in the state's computerized random drawing that awards the tags.
   
Aaron Boone has drawn two tags. The only hunt Darlene Boone missed was in its inaugural year and only because she found out about it after the application deadline had passed.
   
"My husband hunts everything -- deer, turkey, squirrels, ducks, but this is the only thing I hunt," she said. "I love this."
   
The first weekend of the 2011 hunt in each of the southwest Alabama areas wraps up tonight with hunting allowed from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Monday morning. Scales at Roland Cooper State Park and on the Causeway close at 7 a.m.

   
The second split in both hunt areas starts Friday.
  

By: Jeff Dute

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