It’s hot. I could finish the column with just that statement and it would be the most accurate thing I’ve ever written. With baseball camps in full swing, I tried to imagine shivering in a deer stand on a cold December day to get through the day. It didn’t work. Sweat continued to pour out of every pore in my body while I watched 9-10 year old kids run around like it was 72 degrees with a breeze. The good news is, it won’t be hot forever.
Late June through mid-August is probably one of the toughest times to be an outdoorsman in Mississippi. For me, I’ve got a little more time to do things during this period, but the heat makes it tough to be motivated. If you’re going to fish, you have to do it early in the morning or very late in the evening. I’m not much of a morning person so evening it is. However, I checked the temperature around 8:00 this evening and it was still above 90 degrees. There is simply no way to avoid the summer heat and get outdoors at the same time. I’ll just have to settle for night fishing until one of my favorite times of the year arrives, late August.
Yes, it’s still very hot in late August. But, late August brings one of the best things, in my opinion, that Mississippi has to offer…alligator season. The first round of selections for the annual Mississippi alligator season have come and gone. Before the week is over, all applicants will know if they’ve been awarded the coveted permits, or not. We recently had Ricky Flynt, director of the Mississippi alligator program, on our podcast. I’d always wondered how the selection process was really carried out, and Ricky was more than happy to explain it to us. I’m sure he has to replace his phone this time of the year each year with the amount of phone calls he receives from unhappy applicants that didn’t get selected.
In order to potentially get tags for gators, one must apply during the first week of June. There’s a deadline and you must have an up to date hunting license to qualify. Next, all applicants go into a random drawing done by a separate organization. The lucky winners are then contacted by the MDWFP and have 48 hours to purchase their tags. If the winner does not purchase their tags in the allotted time frame, those tags go back into a second drawing. If the applicant was not awarded tags during the first drawing, they are still eligible to receive them in the second drawing. There is no second application needed.
Soon after purchasing the tags, the hunter is then sent a packet from Ricky and the MDWFP. This packet will contain a booklet with pretty much any question you can ask regarding the upcoming season. The packet will also include two temporary tags that must be placed on the alligator after dispatching it. If you lose your temporary tags, you are out of luck. Also included in the packet is contact information for different vendors in the event that you’d like to have your alligator professionally processed. If you’ve never dressed one before, I suggest factoring this cost into your trip. An alligator is probably the most difficult wild game species in Mississippi to dress out.
Since we are talking about cleaning gators, let’s get into eating them. Ricky also had some good advice on how to prepare and cook your meat. One of the biggest things he mentioned, and one I’ve had experience with, is getting all of the fat off of the meat. Alligator fat tastes like death. If you eat gator meat that has fat on it, the odds are that you won’t eat anymore, ever. Also, getting your gator iced down as quickly as possible after the kill will make the meat better. The longer it sits in the Mississippi heat, the worse it is going to be. If you plan to fry your meat, my preferred method, cut it into small bite sized pieces. Heat your grease up to 350 degrees, batter the meat to your likening, and then drop it in. The key here is not to overcook the meat. You’ll want to get it out as soon as it floats, if not just before. It’s been my experience that alligator meat is also best served hot, right out of the grease.
This time last year, things were looking dim for our alligator season. This year, one of the guys in our group has already been drawn for tags. We also plan to do some private land hunting and are trying to entice our friend from Virginia, Chad Heflin, the owner of Marshfield Outdoors to come down and go with us. I figure if you’re going to have the word “marsh” in your business name you’ve got to at least hunt the biggest predator in the marsh once in your life. Until the season gets here, you guys can find me soaking up some ballgames from the couch…in the comfort of air conditioning.