This year marks the eleventh season of modern-day alligator hunting in Arkansas. The largest alligator taken to date has been 13 feet, 10 inches, taken in the 2015 season.
“We always have some big gators come in during the hunt,” said Mark Barbee, regional biologist at the AGFC’s Monticello regional office. “It seems like each year was trading back and forth between the southwest and the southeast corners of the state for who could break the record.”
According to Barbee, biologists finished their alligator surveys in the last month and 101 permits will be available in this year’s drawing. Private-land-at-large tags will represent 60 of those permits, 21 will be available for public land in Alligator Zone 1 (Southeast Arkansas), and 20 will be available for public land in Zone 3 (Southwest Arkansas). Private-land-at-large tags are available through the regular draw application process, but people who are drawn must provide written landowner permission and a map identifying their hunt area at a mandatory orientation.
Each permit authorizes the harvest of one alligator, which must be at least 4 feet long. Alligator hunting is allowed 30 minutes after sunset until 30 minutes before sunrise during the approved alligator hunting season dates – Sept. 15-18 and Sept. 22-25. Each permit holder may have up to three assistants with them on the hunt, but only the permit holder is allowed to snare, harpoon or dispatch the alligator.
Applicants must be at least 16 years of age the day the hunt begins, and only Arkansas residents or holders of an Arkansas Lifetime Sportsman’s Permit may apply. Applicants with 12 or more AGFC violation points are ineligible to apply.
Barbee said biologists have seen a reduction in the number of nuisance calls they receive from the public, but it’s not likely due to the hunt itself.
“People seem a little more tolerant of alligators down here since the hunts began,” he said. “The private-land-at-large tags offer ways to remove nuisance gators for landowners, so some of them will apply or tell their friends to apply and hunt their property.”
Successful hunters also will be able to check their alligator online instead of the mobile check stations that were required when the hunts began.
“We used to run all over South Arkansas in the middle of the night to check alligators during the season,” Barbee said. “But with the new check-in system, we’ll be able to verify the alligators taken without all that manpower after dark and stay within Federal regulations.”
As with the rest of the AGFC’s permit application system, alligator-hunt applicants must pay a $5 nonrefundable processing fee at the time of their application. And, just as with the rest of the AGFC’s permits, any fees after drawing have been eliminated. Under the previous system, successful permitees were charged a $35 tag fee, which is no longer the case.
The purpose of the new application fee is to curtail frivolous applications that historically reduced the chances of more avid hunters to draw permits.
“Every year, we have people call in or come to the orientation that have drawn permits but don’t have anywhere to hunt or have the equipment you need to be successful,” Barbee said. “We try to get them in touch with the right people and point them in the right direction, but we hope the new application fee at least makes them slow down and think before filling out the form.”