“The Fancher Gator,” the largest alligator ever caught in Alabama at 838 pounds, was put on display at the Central Alabama Farmers Co-Op last year.  The alligator was caught on the Alabama River in Wilcox County in 2011. The 2013 alligator season starts in central Alabama on Thursday night and runs from Aug. 15-18 and Aug. 22-25.--File Photo
“The Fancher Gator,” the largest alligator ever caught in Alabama at 838 pounds, was put on display at the Central Alabama Farmers Co-Op last year. The alligator was caught on the Alabama River in Wilcox County in 2011. The 2013 alligator season starts in central Alabama on Thursday night and runs from Aug. 15-18 and Aug. 22-25.-- File Photo

Alligator hunters prepare for start of season

Published 9:04pm Wednesday, August 14, 2013

With alligator season starting Thursday night, local hunters are wrapping up preparations and getting excited about the rare chance to snag one of the large reptiles.

Alligator season is entering its sixth season in Alabama and for Dallas County’s Jim Nelson, who has participated in hunts in the past but never had his own tag; this year gives him a chance to bring home his first alligator.

“I’m an outdoorsman. I like spending time outdoors hunting and fishing. I live on the river,” Nelson said. “We see a bunch of gators and I just thought it would be a cool thing to do. I’ve got some buddies from out of town that are kind of interested in it, so we just put in for a tag and got one.”

Nelson says “a lot” of preparation has gone into getting ready for the hunt this year in hopes of bringing home a large alligator.

“I’ve been spending a lot of time on the water kind of scouting, looking at what is out there and gathering up equipment and stuff to do it with,” Nelson said. “It’s not like regular equipment that you have laying around.”

This year he has a crew of five people, including himself, ready to hop on the river and chase down an alligator. Nelson said all five people will have important jobs when they go on the hunt.

Although he has been on an alligator hunt a couple of times in the past, Nelson has yet to be on a crew that killed an alligator. Despite that, he is very schooled in the method needed to properly capture one of the animals.

“The technique we will use is catching them on rod and reel with big treble hooks,” Nelson said. “We will probably have at least three rods on one when we get it hooked.”

After hooking the alligator, Nelson said it is a waiting game.

“They are going to go to the bottom and then they are going to come up and it is probably about a two or three hour process,” Nelson said. “Up and down, until you kind of get them worn out and then you have to get a lasso on their head or legs.”

Between the five people on the boat, Nelson said several will be holding lights and others will be holding reels. Once the alligator is secured, somebody will shoot him.

“It will be a handful and everybody will be busy doing something,” Nelson said.

Another Dallas County hunter, Olivia Smith, was also awarded a tag for the first time this year and will participate in her first hunt, but her husband Wesley Smith has been several times. Based on his past experience, she says it is hard to say how long it might take to find a alligator, although they have scouted a little bit over the last few weeks.

“It is usually a couple of nights. They move around so they may not be in the same place twice,” Smith said. “We’ve got an idea of where a big one is, but right now we don’t know if he is still there.”

In central and west Alabama, hunting is from Aug. 15-18 and Aug. 22-25, from sunset to sunrise each day. Each hunter with a tag is allowed to kill only one alligator.

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