A good ending: Claiborne County hunter snags gator

Published 6:34 pm Tuesday, September 5, 2023

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VICKSBURG — Mississippi’s 2023 season had a good ending for Claiborne County resident James Hudson as he punched two tags on gators with his buddies.

Boat troubles in 2019 left Hudson empty handed for the alligator season, so he was a little doubtful he would fill his tags this year. Each year thousands of hunters enter in for the Mississippi Alligator season and only about 900 of those are drawn for the hunt. Gator hunting in Mississippi is different from what you have seen on the TV show Swamp People. For one, you have to catch the gator with fishing poles, get it to the boat and get it under control before dispatching it. 

It takes a considerable amount of skill and patience to take a gator in Mississippi. Hudson’s friend Steve Stuart saw an 11-foot gator Saturday afternoon as it relaxed on a bank before the hunt began. Stuart’s cousin George Beard, Noland Bullen, an Adams County Christian School alum, and this reporter made multiple trips down a steep sandy bank to get deep sea fishing rods, ice chests, running lights, snares, a jon boat and flat bottom boat to the water. 

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The 11-foot gator slipped into the muddy water sensing the game was on. Once on the water, Stuart slipped up to some structure where he saw the first gator of the night and cast over him. The treble hooks found their mark as his rod bent with the tension. 

“Gator on,” Stuart said. The boat spun around as the gator worked his way along the river bottom. Bubbles of air streamed to the top as we waited for the gator to resurface. 

It was still daylight as the sun set and Stuart’s rod relaxed suddenly. 

“He broke off. He must have cut the line on a log,” Stuart said. 

He pulled up the line to show no hook at the end and set to tying on a new treble hook. A cat and mouse game began.

Gator heads would pop up on the surface before dipping back below the water again. Boats spun around trying to get in position to catch a gator. 

Heads turned and bodies jumped with each splash of an alligator gar breaching for air or food. Buffalo joined the gar to break the tranquil water and quiet night.  

George looked behind him with a spotlight and saw a pair of eyes down stream. Gator eyes glow red like lights on a Christmas tree. He turned the boat around and went to investigate. 

The hunters found two small gators under five feet swimming along the bank. Small gators seemed to be unbothered by the lights and boats. Perhaps they felt they weren’t the target. 

Back to the river bend and structure the hunters went to wait. “Maybe we ought to poke around the hole on the bank to force him out,” Stuart suggested. 

Hudson found a subtle stick to poke around a willow tree and roots, then maneuvered his jon boat upstream to investigate a pair of eyes. Turning around, he spotted a gator next to the structure. 

Hudson made a blind cast to the bank and slowly reeled his treble hook along. “Got him,” he said as the tip of the rod bent down. The hunters moved closer to the ancient bridge and tree tops sticking out of the bank.

Looking over the side, headlamps shone into the water as a tail flicked up from the murky depths. The gator worked hard to get to another log but made a fatal error. In his attempt to break free he moved to open water. 

A hunter opened the bale on the spinning rod and let the hook drop to the bottom. Slowly, he turned his hand over to reel in the slack and felt a sudden heavy weight on the rod. Raw power and muscle shuddered on the other end and the hook set 

Pulling up, the hunters could see more of the gator’s tail. Stuart made a daring leap from the jon boat, snare in hand. He looped it around the gator tail to bring it under control. 

“Where is the Willie hook; I need the Willie hook,” he shouted. Stuart set the big hook on the gator’s side.

Grabbing a knife, he cut the lines on the fishing poles. The gator’s head came to the surface and a front leg was snared as Stuart grabbed a shotgun and pulled the trigger. Hudson shook with adrenaline as the fight was over.  “I am tickled right now. I didn’t think anything good would come out of this year’s gator season, after everything that has gone wrong,” he said. 

Hudson breathed a sigh of relief as Stuart taped the gator’s mouth shut. Hudson helped pull in the gator to the boat as the group headed back to shore.

Once ashore it took about an hour to get gear and both boats up the steep bank. The group took pictures with the gator.

Hudson said he enjoys working on habitat management with his dirt work company and often helps deer camps clear brush and trees to plant food plots. The night ended around 1 a.m. after a visit to a processor.

Pulling out of the driveway, Hudson called his dad and told him about the gator hunt. “I didn’t think this season would have a good ending but it did,” he said.