Newly licensed alligator hunters for The Central West Ala. region look through equipment from an expert vendor and hunter. A total package of gator-gear, harpoons and hooks included, will cost a hunter $425. The region handed out 50 hunting tags on Saturday following a mandatory seminar on hunting rules. -- Ashley Johnson

Gator season brings business

Published 8:48pm Saturday, July 28, 2012

As hundreds of hopeful alligator hunters flocked to the Central Alabama Farmer’s Co-op Saturday, to attend a safety seminar, it is evident that the alligator sport is growing.

Only in its second year, the Alabama Alligator licenses and tags are tough to come by.

This year only 50 tags were handed out, but 1,452 people registered in the West Central Alabama area, beating the more popular Eufaula area by a couple hundred.

Co-op owner Tim Wood said it hard to calculate the exact economic impact this will have on the area, but he said it would be noticeable.

“You think about the people who are coming in and out of the county scouting before hand and they are buying fuel and food,” Wood said.

Many of the hunters scout the alligators prior to hunting them and this adds in the revenue brought into the town.

But Wood said that more than reality TV shows about alligator hunting, one factor is driving up the amount of those wanting to hunt in the Black Belt area — the Fancher Gator.

“When they killed the state record up here, everybody from the Tensaw Basin in Mobile and all over, they started applying up here because we are getting such big alligators,” Wood said. “Here it is just like hunting land that’s never been hunted before.”

And it might be in part due to the fact that this area of the river is untouched from alligator hunting that there are rumors among hunters about what lies in the Alabama River.

“One guy said he saw an 18-footer,” Wood said. “Now, an 18 footer in a boat compared to 18 footer standing right next to it might be different, but there are still an awful lot of big alligators still in the river.”

He said this is still a good economic opportunity for the area and hunting overall is big revenue for him.

“I think what it does is it brings a little more awareness to the natural resources we have around here and then how we manage it,” Wood said.

Outside of the Co-Op, two vendors sold their services with alligator hunting. One vendor displayed all of his alligator leatherwork, showing how he can turn someone’s prize trophy into wallets, boots, belts or hats. Another venture, RatWorks Gator Hunt Equipment, sold hooks and harpoons to those who just received their hunting tags Saturday.

“There could be a lot of money in this industry,” said Gator Mike, an expert alligator hunter with RatWorks Gator Hunt Equipment. Gator Mike declined to give the Times-Journal his real name.

He said there is not much promotion for the industry and there is plenty of potential for it. For example, he said, the amount of restaurants that offer alligator meat.

“The most expensive part of hunting is fuel and lodging,” Mike said. “Equipment seems like a lot of money but once you buy it you’ve got it, it doesn’t go anywhere.”

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