Labor Day weekend has a special significance for alligator hunters in Mississippi. A few days into the start of this year's hunting season, a record-setting 756-pound gator was caught by Robert Mahaffey of Brandon in the first weekend of the season.
"That's the largest one we've weighed so far that's taken by a hunter," said state alligator coordinator Ricky Flynt of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. "We know there are larger individual alligators out there. Wouldn't be surprised to see 14 foot plus, or even a thousand pounds. We know that's capable of happening."
Gator hunting is something that's been popular for several years in Mississippi and surrounding states, permitted here by DWFP since 2005. However, this is the second year wildlife officials have allowed the gator hunting statewide, and Flynt said it's still in high demand.
"I think a lot of that can be thanked to cable television and various shows that are out there have become very popular," said Flynt. "You know, back in the late 70s and 80s, it was Jaws and sharks. Sharks were the craze. I guess nowadays it seems like alligators are the craze."
So what does it take to bag a record-breaking gator? Flynt said manpower is key. After all, the longest one last year was a male measuring 13 feet, seven inches.
"They're very long-lived animals, so they can get to very large sizes," Flynt said. "There's obviously going to be a lot of large individual animals out there for the taking, and we expect those records to continue to be broken."
Hunters are only allowed to harvest two per person, and DWFP maintains the gators must be at least four feet long, with only one of them that can exceed seven feet.
Also, bring a friend. There's no limit to how many people can be in a hunting party as long as one of them holds a hunting permit for gators. The gator hunting season ends Sept. 8.
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