Roundup’Gator hunters cover waters in pursuit of elusive demons

Published 11:30 am Monday, September 17, 2012

Alligator hunters swamped the rivers and lakes around Warren County this weekend for a last chance to bag one of the behemoth predators before the season closed at noon today.

The experience is much darker and dangerous than the hunts seen on the popular History Channel show “Swamp People.”

Mississippi, unlike Louisiana where the show is filmed, allows alligator hunting at night when the predators are most active in the water.

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The cover of darkness gives the gators an advantage, but with high-powered spotlights, hunters are able to search for the reflective red, demonic-looking eyes of the beasts.

The glow of the eyes alone — let alone what is lurking underneath the muddy water — is enough to send the average person scurrying in the other direction and gator hunters rushing in to trap and kill it.

“We’ve got some Northern relatives who think we are crazy,” said Todd Downey, who with a crew of friends and family members was hunting Friday about a mile from the mouth of the Big Black.

About a week before, Downey, Danny Lynn and Scott Lemons caught a 12-foot, 8-inch 610-pound monster gator in the same area.

Cooler weather Friday didn’t seem to keep the gators at bay, but the animals were leery of hunters as the 10-day season neared its end.

Robin Kinghton of Vicksburg chased and hooked the same gator for about two hours over a stretch of several hundred yards of river filled with fallen trees and beaver lodges but was unable to bring it in for the kill. That alligator was the only one of about two dozen spotted on the river during a seven-hour period that seemed remotely interested in striking at Kinghton’s large, bare treble hook.

On the Sunflower Diversion Canal, Jeffery Coon, John Williamson and Blake Williamson took a different approach and stalked the gators using bowhunting equipment. State law allows for the use of a rod and reel, a bow or harpoon.

“It takes shooting a bow a good bit to be able to make the shot,” Coon said. “It’s a very slow process. You keep the light on them and hope they don’t go under.”

The trio was able to harvest a 10-foot, 2-inch gator that was heavy enough that it took all three men to reel it in.

“It bottomed-out a 350-pound scale,” Coon said. “We had to fight him with one arrow and get him up to the boat and put another arrow in him and he took off.”

The number of alligators harvested in the county isn’t yet available, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks officials said but the local harvest has the potential to be the highest of any river counties. According to a 2006 study by MDWFP, Warren and Claiborne counties have the highest alligator populations of any areas along the Mississippi River.