Cowboys may not be as common as they once were, but their way of life persists in a few small pockets of the world, including the fertile lands surrounding Lake Okeechobee and the Florida Everglades. Here, cowboys use rope, leather and horses to manage cattle herds numbering into the thousands. It’s difficult to overstate the commitment cowboys have for their charges. Their herd is their livelihood, representing food, shelter and a future for their family. And above all else, they work to ensure their herd’s safety. For most cowboys, protecting their herd simply means curtailing the local coyote population and chasing off the odd pack of feral dogs. But there’s one predator that represents a special threat to south Florida’s cowboys: the American alligator.
Florida alligator hunting requires a very different set of skills and equipment than most quarry. This isn’t like sniping 40-pound coyotes with a small caliber rifle. Alligator hunting requires close-quarters combat with a monster.
American alligators are unrivaled predators of the swamps, rivers and lakes crisscrossing south Florida. With a size that rivals grizzly bears, alligators represent a serious, potentially lethal threat to any who stumble too close to the water. While relatively few attack humans, small cattle are an entirely different story. Few big alligators will miss the chance to feed on such a meaty, calorie-rich carcass when the opportunity arises. Accordingly, many cowboys are forced to solicit help from local NOMADs.
Conventional wisdom would have you believe that it is easy to find a 400- or 500-pound alligator in a small stretch of water, but the reality is another story. Alligators are incredibly cryptic animals, whose entire lives depend on their ability to remain unseen when need be. They use this stealth to sneak up on unsuspecting prey at the water’s edge before exploding into a furry of teeth and power and to avoid potential predators. This includes NOMADs patrolling the shallows or shore. You’ll have to use all of your powers of stealth to avoid spooking your quarry into the safety of deep water. You’ll have to pit your powers of stealth against his, and he uses his every day of his life. This isn’t an easy task.
There are many ways to harvest alligators, and the legal methods for doing so differ from one body of water to the next. But most require one hunter to use a snare to keep the alligator on the surface or near shore, while another hunter tries to fire a bang stick or rifle cartridge into a small target zone near the back of the gator’s head. This is clearly a challenging task on its face, but the skill level necessary becomes painfully apparent once you try to deliver such a shot on a squirming, thrashing beast.
But once you’ve hit your target, the real work begins: You must now drag the immense animal from the water. This often proves to be an intellectual exercise as much as a physical one. Each time you try to pull an alligator from a local lake or canal is different, and you’ll face unique challenges in the process. While it is possible to manhandle small to medium animals with enough man-power, you may have to employ steel cables, winches, tractors or heavy equipment to get a true giant out of the muck.
When pursuing a giant alligator or other quarry, you’ll need every edge you can get. Get equipped with a full range of high performance hunting apparel from Nomad Outdoor.