|Inside the Hunt for Gigantic Gators|
|By GIO BENITEZ (@GioBenitez) , MICHAELl T. CAPPETTA, CHRIS D. JAMES and ASHLEY M. LOUSKO||Sep 9, 2013, 8:45 PM|
It's midnight deep in the dark waters of the Mississippi Delta, and there's 48 hours of this year's record-breaking alligator hunting season left to go.
Over the past 10 days, three teams have captured some of the largest alligators ever recorded, making headlines across the nation.
Each hunter is allowed to catch two gators in this 10-day season.
Beth Trammel and her family caught a whopping 723 pound alligator a little more than a week ago, so we decided to tag along on their nighttime hunt.
Trammel, a suburban mom, is a paralegal by day and an alligator hunter by night. She's joined by her son Parker, husband Rob and brother-in-law Sean.
"I'm the Gator Queen," she said.
Catching that big beast last week – on her second night hunting ever – made her feel as if she were in the presence of a prehistoric monster. She was terrified.
"They pulled us around in circles, for about an hour, hour and a half," she said.
It's her son's 18th birthday, and they are hoping to catch a second gator tonight.
Aboard their 12-foot wrangling rig, we spot the first gator. Sean throws out his line, hooking the gator's foot.
"Ricky told me that's the best place to catch a gator. I've never done that before," he said.
It's about 5 feet long, which makes it a legal catch. But the night is young, and they decide to let it go.
For the next three hours of chasing, the Trammels would spot gators, but they'd disappear under the water as soon as they spotted our boat and our lights.
Time ticks away. It's now midnight, and this alligator shows his face. At about 5 feet long, it's the one they want. They catch it and put it away.
While some may object to this blood sport, the Trammel family has very practical reasons for its decision to hunt.
"We eat the meat," she said. "And I don't see it any different than someone who goes and buys the prepacked meat in the grocery store."
Biologist Ricky Flynt is the hunt coordinator. He took us right to a female gator's most-coveted spot: her nest.
The reason why they are so big this year? He says it's because for years nobody was allowed to hunt them. This enabled the gators to both grow in size and in population. They have now become a dangerous nuisance. Alligators have been spotted in backyards, swimming pools, parking lots, even in downtown Jackson, Miss.
Even though the gators are no longer endangered, some believe wild alligators should be left in the wild. Flynt sees alligators more as a renewable resource, like the trees.
"If I cut it down, it will regenerate. The same thing will happen with alligators, just like any species we manage through hunting."
Another big record-breaker during this 10-day alligator hunting season is Dustin Bockman, who managed to wrangle a 727 pound beast an hour after the Trammels, breaking that family's short-lived record by 4 pounds.
He's out tonight looking for an even bigger catch, and thrives on the thrill of it all.
"[It's] 700 pounds, something that can eat you, has thousands of pounds of jaw pressure. It's pretty exciting."
At 3 a.m. he spots the big one, but the battle to actually get it into the boat would go on for hours.
In the end, an 11 foot monster was captured right in front of our cameras. But he's not doing this only for the catch.
"Being out here with all my friends, it's about the memories you make with each other. It's not about what you kill."