I’ve got good friends. My blog should be a testament to that. Through the years I’ve been fortunate enough to get to do some really cool stuff with some even cooler people. From deer hunts on land that most can only dream about, deep sea fishing trips 80 miles out into the Gulf of Mexico, to alligator hunting on the Mississippi River, I’ve got to experience so much of the great outdoors that the South has to offer. This weekend, once again, was another opportunity to hang out with friends and family and test ourselves in God’s grocery store.
My trip began like most trips, me screwing something up. I finally got my boat back on Friday morning and wanted to take her for a test run before heading to Vicksburg for the weekend. I thought I’d dump her in the Bouie River just outside of Hattiesburg for a quick ride and on my way I’d be. Well, that just wasn’t meant to be. The boat launch had a little sand on it but I thought, “hey, I can make it.” I couldn’t make it. Upon backing the trailer down the ramp I realized I was stuck. Thank goodness there is always someone down there to lend a hand to an amateur in need. We pulled my truck and boat back up the ramp with an old ski rope that I had in the boat. Thankfully it worked and I decided that I would test the boat later, so I began my trip Northwest.
I arrived at the parent’s home of my cousin, Brandon Parker around 6:30. The house is nestled on plenty of land that borders the Big Black River in Edwards, MS and there are plenty of toys to keep me occupied. Brandon lets me know that we are going to pull a small boat down to the river with his four wheeler and winch it in the river with the Hummer. Guess who got to drive the Hummer? My weekend was made whether we killed an alligator or not as I drove that bus sized diesel vehicle through the woods and down to the river. I felt like I could destroy anything and everything with this machine. It was the ultimate man experience, driving a Hummer to go and kill an alligator. Unfortunately, we did not kill anything that night, but the time spent with family made the empty boat at the end of the night bearable.
Then I got the call that I had been hoping for. Good friend, Matt Alliston called and asked if I would want to accompany him and a couple of friends for a Mississippi River gator trip. Matt was my guide for my gator hunt last season and we have spent the last few alligator seasons hauling around on the Mississippi River and adjoining rivers in search of large gators. We put in our boats at Grand Gulf and down the Mississippi we went. The Mississippi River at night can be pretty intimidating, especially when barges are running the river. Not to mention the thought of running into a channel marker at 35 knots is something that gives me chills. We arrive at a small river that dumps into the Mississippi and our quest begins. The hunting is slow and we spot a few small gators but can never get hooked up. I’ve got a feeling that these gators have seen quite a few lights and boats in the last 10 days as gator hunters from all over try to fill tags. I’m going to blame our early failures on the fact that they have wised up since it’s late in the season. We hunt several different gators through the night with little to no luck. My adrenaline wears off and fatigue sets in somewhere around the 2am mark. My spirits are dwindling and the thought that we may go home empty handed begins to creep into my mind. Through the night we tell old stories of catching big gators because it sure doesn’t look like we are going to make any new ones on this night. Around 5am we decide to finally pull the plug and head back toward the Mississippi and back toward the boat launch. As we are making our way toward the mouth of the river we spot red eyes up ahead swimming toward the middle of the river. This is a very good sign that it could be a large gator. We kill the motor and creep up on him with the trolling motor. The moon is full so we don’t even really need a light to see the large reptile swimming downstream. With one cast of the rod, I am hooked up to a large and very angry alligator. I fight with the giant a few minutes before our buddies arrive and also get a hook in him. After a lengthy battle with hooks coming loose and lines breaking we are finally able to harpoon and snare the gator. It turns out he is larger than we thought he was which makes us even more grateful for the late night luck. We dispatch the gator and roll him in the boat. This is where things get comical. I am not real squeamish, but this thing smelled TERRIBLE! Matt and I both begin to gag and finally I can’t take any more as I lean over the boat and throw up. Now I’ve got to ride beside this stinking beast for at least an hour back to shore. I vomit again. Heck, I almost want to vomit thinking about it now!
We hit the Mississippi River as the sun begins to rise. It’s possibly the most beautiful sunrise that I’ve ever seen, and a gentle reminder of how fortunate I am to get to do these things. At the boat launch we all agree that this is going to be our yearly tradition. Which brings me to the question, is it August again yet?