For many hunters, the adrenaline rush is what it’s all about. But freezing your butt off in a whitetail stand isn’t always exactly heart-pounding. If you’re looking for a little more action in your hunt, or just want to hunt where it’s warm, a Florida gator hunt may be just the ticket. Captain David Smith of Gator Raiderz has been guiding folks to big Florida gators for 22 years. Here’s what he had to say about getting in on the red-hot Florida gator hunting action.

When Can I Hunt Gators?

Smith guides gator hunters on both public and private lands. Seasons and regulations differ between the two, as do hunting methods. Smith said, “On private lands, it starts in February and runs all the way through the end of December. The best times (to hunt private lands) are about March through June and about September through November. Our public hunting season is from August 15 through the end of October.”

How Do Public and Private Land Hunts Differ?

Smith said, “On the public waters, there’s a limited amount of tags, it’s done at night only, and no guns. We use a bang stick to actually kill them once we shoot them with a crossbow or a harpoon.”

“On private land, you can use a gun. It can be done any time during the day. On private lands, you have trophy fees. On public waters, there are no trophy fees. You just go out on the airboat all night and go for the biggest gator we can find.”

Public land hunts take place on large bodies of water, while private land hunts are typically done on smaller bodies of water that can be accessed from land.

What Types of Weapons Do You Use on Your Hunts?

Smith uses an assortment of weapons to get his gators on the line including: crossbows, harpoons, and fishing rods with a snatch hook. As mentioned, on private land hunts, hunters have the option of using a gun to dispatch their gator, although Smith discourages this as it doesn’t always allow the gator’s size and sex to be accurately assessed prior to the harvest. For a really up close and personal experience, some of Smith’s clients will catch a gator and take it with a knife.

What Do I Need to Bring on a Gator Hunt?

Smith said, “Basically just dress for the weather whenever you’re coming. I like to have rubber boots because you never know if you’re getting into the water a little bit or what’s going to happen there. That’s it. Everything else is supplied for you.”

How Much Does a Florida Gator Hunt Cost?

Gator Raiderz’s hunts cost an average of $1,500. However, if you want a gator bigger than eight feet on private land, the price goes up pretty quick. For example, a ten-foot gator would run you about $3,100. Smith said, “It all depends on the size.” Public land hunts go for a flat $1,600 fee with no trophy fees.

Once I’m Successful, What Do I Do with My Gator?

According to Smith, “Everyone’s really realized how good the meat is now. You get the meat, the hide, the head, and everything. We process it for [our hunters], then they decide if they want it mounted or if they want to take it to their taxidermist.” Taxidermy options abound when it comes to gators. Options include: a tanned hide, a rug mount, a head mount, a full body mount, or a half body mount coming out of the wall.

Why Should I Come Gator Hunting?

Smith said, “It’s exciting! We have some options now where, even if someone doesn’t want to kill a gator, we’ll take them out and catch them live and let them get pictures with it and we’ll release it. There’s so many different options. A lot of people like what we call the ‘run and gun’ style. They sit on the bow of the airboat as we go from gator to gator, shoot it with a crossbow that has a laser sight on it, put the buoy on the gator, and we come back around and they get to fight it up to the boat.” That fight can last anywhere from half-an-hour to one-and-a-half hours depending on the depth of the water and the size of the gator. If that doesn’t sound exciting to you, you’d better check your pulse.

To book a Florida gator hunt with Captain David Smith and Gator Raiderz, contact them at guidefitter.com/gatorraiderz

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