By Prois Staffer Megan DeHaan
Some people leave marks on your heart more than others. It just so turns out we met more than a few in Florida. Southern Florida feels like a foreign country to me. Its full of swamps, farm ground surrounded by ditches of water, and its flat, but still for some reason every time you turn a “corner” you seem to find something new. There’s water everywhere, but you don’t dare dive in to cool off unless you want a limb bit off. We started the trip off helping out a trapper. There are few ways to hunt gators. One of them is buying a tag for trapping. You can be accompanied by a licensed trapper and go out and harvest live gators or shoot them to be taken back for meat/hides/etc. Almost nothing is wasted, and population control is essential to maintain a healthy balance. We got the front row experience! I was hooked.
We then ventured off to go hog hunting in the evening. We didn’t know what to expect other than we were going in a swamp buggy and we had hounds. I thought gator hunting was fun……this was better. Not only did we not have lights, but we didn’t have alligator/snake proof body suits. I only ponder the thought because as were running full speed in the dark chasing the guys and dogs in front of us sinking in water, tripping over brush, I start thinking what if I stepped on an alligator or something??? But the adrenaline rushing through my body told me not to worry and I kept running lifting my feet up hoping I didn’t trip….again. We get to the dogs, and the pig, my husband ran up and grabs the pig by the leg, flipped it over and the rest of us had to grab the dogs off before they got mauled. By this point I was out of breath. They told me to hold the pig down so they could tie it. Once the hog is tied its pretty much a sitting duck, just don’t get near its head…
Next, was fishing. We headed on down to the Everglades and went to the Ten Thousand Islands. Don’t let the name fool you, only a couple islands are even islands at all with only a couple places to stand. They’re all mangroves. You can’t just get out of the boat. It’s all huge groves of trees that look like they’re just floating in the water. Bizarre! Our fishing guide takes us all through the “islands”. At one point I thought we were going straight into some trees only to have to duck down into the small fishing boat and within a minute we were slowly weaving through a tunnel of mangroves and swamp in the middle of nowhere. The tunnels were miles long! You leave one and enter into a secluded open water resembling a lake to fish some more. The only way out is through the tunnel system. It was beautiful, peaceful, and left me speechless just soaking it in. The fishing was great and of course I caught the biggest fish. A 35″ Snook! Everything we caught was catch and release, we didn’t catch anything we could keep. I was in paradise and I have the sunburn to prove it.
Air boats….I need one. Seriously…..I do. Those things are awesome! If I could just bring home a swamp buggy and an airboat I would be set. We got to take one out in the swamp and drive around. I had a permanent grin of my face the whole time. They can spin around on a dime! If you ever want an adrenaline rush that might be the ticket.
We had so much fun the first time out hog hunting we had to go for round two. Only this time was a little different. We ran a hog within the first 30 minutes. He was big, I mean big. I knew this because the guys that took us didn’t let me off the buggy this time without telling me to stay back. Not only did they say this, they made eye contact with me and made sure I heard them. The strike dog did its job and before I knew it all the commotion had settled down and while some were hog tying the rest of us were wondering where the blood was coming from? One of the dogs were bleeding pretty badly. Those teeth are more treacherous than they look. One little swipe could kill a dog. Luckily it was only a flesh wound. Did I mention how big that hog was? I couldn’t hardly lift him up for a picture, not to mention I had to balance him between my legs and stop him from whipping his head around at me. It started drizzling…..we kept at it. Within an hour it was pouring. Every single person on that buggy was drenched. Except for me! HA! I was smart enough to bring my Prois jacket with me and I was dry as a whistle…except for my legs. They were drenched. But, at least I was warm. I even stayed on the buggy after everyone got dropped off at one car in hopes we would go faster on the way back. Oh and you can add, mosquito proof to any Prois shirt. I never got bit through any shirt!
The last hoorah. We decided to give her one last try and go for a real big gator. And as luck would have it we found a monster. He was 12 ft. long and weighed over 450lbs. This guy must have been 100 years old! As soon as they see you they go under and they’re gone. You have to fish fo them and snag em up. After wrestling them down you either have to bring them ashore and tape their mouth shut or in this case (he was too big for comfort to do that) you shoot him first. He showed his age. I’ve never seen such a giant dinosaur up close. My husband shot him with one shot and it took a truck to get him out of the water. Now that was a gator!! What a great way to finish up our trip.
I saved the best for last. The people we met there. We had the royal treatment the whole time. I’ve never met more hardworking, honest, all around great people. I feel honored to even had met them. I will never forget my experience and im already planning a time to go back. We made some lifelong friends that’s for sure. If anyone is looking for a great place to go gator hunting and a once in a lifetime experience. Please look up Townsend & Sons Everglades Outfitters. You will not be disappointed I promise you they are some of the nicest people I have ever met and I consider them a part of my family. www.thegatorman.com 863-673-3783“