The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Lifestyles

August 29, 2013

TV lures gator hunters to La.

(Continued)

Louisiana’s wild population is now approaching an estimated 2 million, with more than 300,000 more on farms, according to Wildlife and Fisheries.

Zimmerman has 215 tags this year for 15,000 acres of marsh where he harvests alligators, putting out 20 to 60 lines each afternoon.

“We trap one day on 2,000 acres, then we’re done with that area. We move on to another one,” he said.

He books 60 hunts a year — all in the season’s first nine days, because that’s when he generally reaches his limit.

Six-foot fence posts hammered into the bank anchor 30-foot-long, quarter-inch-thick nylon lines. Nearby is a cane pole set into the bank at a 45-degree angle, a clothespin at the tip about 6 feet above the water. The line dangles from the clothespin so that a 6-inch hook baited with chicken is about 2 feet from the water.

If an alligator has swallowed the bait, it gets hauled next to the boat so a hunter can shoot it point-blank with one of the lodge’s rifles, Zimmerman said. Hunters can bring their own guns but Zimmerman recommends using one he provides. “It’s very messy. You end up messing your guns up, getting them dirty.”

He charges $550 a night including a 5-course dinner, continental breakfast and Cajun brunch. About one-third of his alligator hunt customers come just for the ride. The rest buy the hunting license; 30 to 40 each year pay extra to keep a trophy gator. Hunters may shoot five or more but rarely keep more than one, Zimmerman said.

Kinler said wholesalers’ prices are expected to equal or exceed last year’s average of $23.50 per foot. Bigger skins bring in more per foot.

Zimmerman charges $50 per foot for alligators less than 7 feet long, up to $200 a foot for those 12 feet long or more.

Wholesalers buy the alligators whole, he said, while trophies get skinned and prepared for taxidermy or tanning.

“There’s a lot of labor involved,” he said. “And also preparing the meat.”

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