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South Carolina Alligator Hunting

 September 8th marked the opening day of the South Carolina Alligator Season. Hunters all across the state waited in anticipation for the noon hour when we could begin our long awaited hunt for the prehistoric giants.

In South Carolina, the Alligator hunting season began in 2009 with a limited drawing of 1000 tags for four coastal zones across the state. Since then, the popularity of the season has grown exponentially and getting a tag is not guaranteed through the computerized drawing that occurs each June. Currently 1200 tags are drawn for hunters allotting three hundred for each of the four zones.

Prospective hunters register and pay a $10.00 registration fee beginning in May of each year in hopes of drawing the coveted tags. Hunters specify which zones they prefer to hunt but can also register for all four. While only one zone is allowed to hunt in, if drawn the tag will specify which zone the hunter can hunt. The season runs from noon on the second Saturday of September through noon on the second Saturday of October.

This was my third year of registering and finally the tag arrived in the mail! Over the past six weeks hundreds of hours have been spent analyzing maps, calling people who live in the area, and researching methods for getting my alligator. I drew for the Pee Dee zone, which is the North Eastern zone and includes the area from Georgetown to the North Carolina line, inland to the convergence of Lake Marion.

Snatch Hook and Alligator Arrow

Opening day we spent 15 hours on the boat looking for and at alligators looking for just the right one to put my tag on. In South Carolina, we must have the alligator restrained alongside of the boat or bank prior to dispatching. This is done in several ways, with the most popular being the use of snatch hooks. Weighted treble hooks in the 12/0 to 14/0 size that is cast over an alligator and (hopefully) hooking them somewhere along its body. Let me say right here, it’s a lot more difficult than one might think. Once an alligator is hooked, they are fought until they can be restrained alongside of the boat and then shot in the head with either a handgun or bangstick. (Rifles are not allowed) Other methods of capturing alligators include, bow and arrow, crossbow, and harpoon. Often several of these methods are used on the same alligator. For example, if a hunter shoots the alligator with a bow and arrow, this is often just the beginning of the fight, snatch hooks are secured into the alligator and finally a harpoon attached to a strong rope to fight the alligator to the boat for dispatch.

Having never hunted alligator before, I can assure you it is an addicting activity. Searching for giant leviathans along rivers and slews is difficult and once spotted its not easy getting into range of snatch hooks or bow and arrows.

After season opens, alligators can be hunted twenty-four hours a day, and many prefer to hunt only at night. Using bright spotlights to look for the distinct red glow their eyes reflect in the lights. And getting close is easier at night when the ‘gators feel safer.

After a while, you learn not to investigate every set of eyes you see. Small ‘gators eyes reflect just like adults. Looking for a wide gap between the eyes will eliminate a lot of false stalks. Any alligator over 4 feet is legal, but let’s face it, a four foot alligator will weigh less than fifty pounds, and yield only about 8-10 pounds of meat, making it hardly worth the $100 tag fee.

Like many our sights were set for a bigger alligator with me personal limit set at nine feet. In the two days we hunted we had several opportunities at alligator that were nine feet and larger but we were unable to connect. As the season progresses, the pressure subside and the gators get smarter so we are hopeful that within a few weeks we will have our tag filled.

As an outdoors person, this new challenge is something that has been highly anticipated. I highly recommend it for a greater challenge and an outstanding trophy.

South Carolina has so much to offer the outdoorsman and woman. Alligator season is one more adventure to add to your list of activities and pursuits.