This trip started a year ago when Mark read an article in his Field and Stream magazine about alligator hunting in Florida. He was able to talk Mandy into taking this trip with him. The last big hunting trip we took was to Newfoundland Canada. Mandy got a cow moose; it was her first successful hunt. Mark was able to get a woodland caribou. That was in 2006.
We are people who like to prepare and have plans. Mark communicated regularly with the outfitter and watched every alligator and hog hunting video on YouTube. Mandy bought waterproof bags—you can never have too many.
Next we went out to our hunt club property to sight in the weapons. Mandy uses a Browning A-bolt in 270 Winchester and a Parker crossbow. Mark uses a Remington 700 in 300 Win. Mag. We zeroed the rifles at 100 yards. The crossbow has a red dot scope that is on out to 35 yards. Mandy is a better shot than Mark is.
Mark made a pig silhouette out of an old piece of plywood. After the rifles were sited in I would set up the pig target down range in the weeds off to the side. Then we would take turns walking up on it and taking an off hand shot. We would then move it from one side of the shooting lane to the other and change the distance. Mandy is not only an excellent shot, she is also excellent at describing how ridiculous it is to sneak attack pig targets for hours.
With the weapons ready it was time to think about logistics. Tom has an arrangement with the PG Waterfront hotel in Punta Gorda, Florida for special rates for hunters. We booked a room with a waterfront view. The hotel was rated 2 ½ stars on Trip Advisor so we were very skeptical at first; however, we were pleased with the property in general. The balcony had a stunning waterfront sunset view. It was conveniently located near the main road and many good places to eat. The room suited all our needs. It had a microwave and a fridge. The waterfront park had a paved walking/jogging path that was very scenic, and safe, and went on for miles.
The first day of the hunt we met at Tom’s property. Our guide Kyle was there and talked to us about how the hunt would go. We had originally decided to hunt pigs from stands but Tom up graded us to a dog hunt. Mark was a little nervous about getting so close with the pigs. We signed the waivers and after Tom, his wife, son and the other guide, Colton, arrived with the dogs we started the hunt.
Our guide said it would happen fast and he was spot on. Less than five minutes after we began, the dogs cornered a 200-pound sow. The dogs were running after the pigs and we were running after the dogs. The dogs had the hog’s head secured and the guide grabbed its rear legs. Mandy was up first. Colton handed her the knife and Mandy made a quick kill. The hog was dead in less than 30 seconds. Kyle and Colton put the hog on the back of the ATV and the hunt started again. The dogs chased two more hogs for about 30 more minutes. We chased the dogs.
The weather was in the 80s and the dogs needed to cool off. Tom went back to dog pen where we parked to swap out dogs. While he was gone the other dogs caught a 140-pound boar. We ran toward the squealing. It was about a 100-yard sprint. After we all arrived and secured the pig it was my turn to finish the job. Like Mandy, it was quick; two pigs in less than 1 hour. The hogs were loaded and taken to the meeting area. We talked to Tom and his wife while the guides skinned the hogs and put the meat in the coolers we brought.
Back at the hotel room we talked about the hunt. This was by far the most exciting hunt either one of us has ever been on. We were both impressed by the guides the dogs and the way Tom took such good care of us. We could hardly wait for the next day.
The next day after breakfast and a morning workout we prepared for the alligator hunt. This was a night hunt. The Captain of the airboat was named Dave. He was wearing a headlamp and had a spotlight. As we drove across the lake he would turn his head right and left looking for reflecting red eyes. When he spotted one we would head strait for it. As we approached we would slow down. There is nothing like flying 50 MPH across a lake through tall grass in the dark. And then stopping on a dime. Dave, an expert, would determine if it was of legal size—a 6 foot min. and then ask if we could see it. We were not experts and often could not even see the animal. However, there were red eyes everywhere. If it was big enough he would ask if we wanted to try for it. We passed on a few 6 footers hoping to do better.
Mark found a keeper about 45 minutes later. As we approached it in the dark, the gator turned away from the boat and Mark was able to place the crossbow bolt in the back of his neck. Mark pulled the gator to the boat with the line. Once Mark got the alligator close, the Captain handed him a 44 cal. “bang stick.” While the gator was pulling the boat and Mark was trying to keep the alligator close, the “bang stick” was used to take the animal. Mark’s gator was 7’10.” What an adrenaline rush.
Two hours later Mandy had a 7 footer in the boat. Her’s was heavier and older. She always gets the biggest animal! No one told us to bring gloves, so we both pulled our gators in barehanded. We also both got them with one shot. Guess all that practice in the weeds did pay off!
We spent a few more days sightseeing in Fort Meyers, Sanibel, and Captiva before heading back home. This was a great trip. It combined Mark’s love of hunting and Mandy’s love of the beach. We recommend it all the time to our friends and co-workers who hunt.
There are several outfitters that provide these types of hunts. We recommend getting references. We used Tom Walker’s Outdoor Adventures. It was cost effective and fun!