Each year I try to do one, how should I say, big hunt. This is what I would call a dream hunt, or a hunt that is a little more than going out to the land and sitting in the tree stand. I have been to North Dakota seeking a legend of the west in the buffalo. I have been to Arizona chasing mountain lions on horseback. Each hunt required much pre-hunt planning. It was a lot more than getting a tag and going hunting. This year I felt like I had a good shot at pulling a tag for an alligator in Georgia. Over the next few weeks, I will go over some of the information I used in planning a dream hunt. This first post will go over the information needed to increase your odds of drawing a tag.
I began planning the alligator hunt several years ago. I researched South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida for possible hunt destinations. I knew many who hunted South Carolina, and Florida is well known for their alligators. I chose Georgia for a couple of reasons. With a family of 5, in order to keep a happy household I must hunt on the cheap. Georgia provided an opportunity to apply for a tag without having an application fee. Looking down the road, I felt I could draw one in the lottery from South Carolina and Georgia at about the same time. Florida offered the quickest success, however a $1000 license was the turnoff (granted, for the $1000 you get 2 tags, but I only wanted/needed one gator). When looking at overall costs, Georgia would run about 25% cheaper that South Carolina.
I was not ready to be drawn the first couple of years I applied, so I listed zones that offered the lowest chance of success. This would insure I did not draw a tag too soon, since I had hunts lined up the first couple of years anyway.
Once this season's application period came around, I wanted the greatest chance of drawing a tag. Looking at the different zones, zone 4 offered best odds of selection based on the number of tags available and the number of 1st choice applications in 2010. But here was the catch, it had lower quota numbers, lower applicants, so, were there gators there? I pulled up google maps and searched for rivers, lakes and ponds in the counties represented in zone 4. After finding potential spots that way, I started calling some of the towns in the zone, speaking with the chamber of commerce or town hall for information on where gators could be hunted.
I joined a Georgia hunting forum and looked at old posts as well as reading current information coming in. In other words, I scouted as much as possible without ever leaving home. Once I was confident I could take an alligator in zone 4, I made it my top choice.
Shortly after the draw I received notification I had indeed drawn a tag, and had done it with only 2 priority points.
Next, I would have to plan the trip. Stay tuned...
Bill Howard writes a weekly outdoors column for the Wilson Times and Yancey County News and the blog site Bill Howard's Outdoors. He is a Hunter Education and International Bowhunter Education instructor, lifetime member of the North Carolina Bowhunters Association, Bowhunter Certification Referral Service Chairman, member and official measurer of Pope and Young, and a regular contributor to North Carolina Bowhunter Magazine.