Farm storiesStories by Wilson J. Gaidry, III

5. The alligators

In the mid 1980's animal fur became unfashionable and the fur prices dropped; many fur dealers and fur trappers were put out of business.

During the 1800’s and early 1900’s alligator hunting was very profitable and alligators populations were so reduced that by the mid 1900’s Louisiana had to prohibit alligator hunting. By the 1980’s the population had built up enough that Louisiana began allowing people to harvest alligators again.

The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries began issuing tags for alligator harvest based on the number of acres that were to be hunted. I was issued 6 tags to harvest the alligators on my property. I had never hunted alligators but my old friend Paul Pelligrin of Houma had hunted alligators with Alce Liner, whose family lived on Mauvais Bois ridge, North of Lake de Cade ridge, when he was young, and he was going to show me how to do it. Poles are stuck in the bend of the bayou with a hook and bait hanging over the water and the alligator swims along the bank, takes the bait and gets hooked.

How Alce did it

Paul had with him a little hatchet and he showed me just where Alce hit them in the head to kill them. We were doing well and had three or four alligators in the boat. Paul was driving the boat down the bayou and I was in the front when all of a sudden the boat began to curve and when I looked back one of the alligators was standing up and Paul was pushing the gas tank with his foot trying to keep the alligator away. The alligator had the whole gas tank in his mouth and Paul ran the boat on the bank and we all jumped out. We had to give the boat to the alligator. From then on I shot them.

In the beginning we had to skin our own alligators. The buyers only bought skins, but after a few years buyers would bring trucks with ice and we would bring the alligators by boat to the boat landing in Theriot where the alligator buyers would buy the whole alligator from all the alligator hunters. Crowds of people would come to the landing to see us unload alligators.

Paul chewed tobacco and spit all the time, and if the wind was blowing wrong I came back with little specks of tobacco all over. One year Paul couldn’t come and I took my wife. When I got to the landing all the other trappers began to tease me, “hey you got a better looking deckhand than old man Paul”. I told them I had to find one that didn’t chew tobacco.

By 2000 alligators were becoming big business in Louisiana; alligator skins were valuable and the alligator meat was popular in restaurants; people were opening alligator farms that raised alligators and had skinning facilities approved to pack and ship alligator meat. By that time I had accumulated tags from land owners and caught 156 alligators in 6 days the year before Hurricane Katrina. The alligator farms are controlling the prices and have just about put the alligator hunters out of business; it’s not very profitable anymore.

But I still hunt alligators with my high school friend Jules Hebert. We are both 80 years old.