Valdosta Daily Times


October 13, 2013

For the Love of the Sport

A tale of hunting Alligator

QUITMAN — Debbie Southerland of Brooks County was one of 140 in Georgia’s Zone Two to receive an alligator tag this past August. Southerland chose Zone Two because she wanted to hunt on Lake Seminole because it has a history of harboring large alligators.

Although she is an avid hunter, Southerland has never hunted alligator. She had been interested in an alligator hunt since 2007, but in 2008, after reading an article about a state record alligator kill on Lake Blackshear in Georgia Outdoor News she knew for certain she wanted to hunt alligators.

On average, an alligator hunter will receive one tag every four years, Southerland said. Everybody told her to hire a hunting guide, so after she received her tag, she called a guide who specializes in Georgia’s Zone Two.

The guide would have taken Southerland hunting, but could not promise her an alligator. Southerland decided to hunt for alligator without a guide.

“I wanted to feel the sense of accomplishment. I was worried that the guide would receive most of the credit, and not me.”

So Southerland called the guide to let him know she was going on the hunt without him, and he replied, “Well, good luck,” Southerland said.

Southerland added, “We showed him.”

Georgia’s 2013 alligator season was from Sept. 7 to Oct. 6. Southerland began her hunt on Sept. 13. Spending two consecutive weeks on Lake Seminole, she left empty handed.

On the third weekend, Southerland, Tim Sanford, her fiancé, and Nick Baker, her friend, spent 12 to 14 hours of Friday and Saturday on the lake. All day they were attempting to catch some 8- to 10-foot alligators.

It was around 2 p.m., Sept. 28, as Southerland was about to fall asleep ... when she turned, and to her surprise there was a large alligator that surfaced for air.

The head of this alligator was huge, and Southerland said, “Please Lord, bless our hunt, with this gator!”

It took her three casts to hook the alligator with a salt water rod and reel. Once hooked, the alligator dove to the bottom. Southerland spent the next 30 minutes throwing another hook, attached to a rope, dragging the bottom of the lake. It took 15 tries to snag the alligator.

At this point, the alligator was pretty much caught, but Southerland said Georgia law requires the alligator to be 100 percent caught before it can be killed. So Southerland had two harpoons with eight-foot-long wooden rods and dowels, but the alligator was too far away to harpoon.

The alligator surfaced for air a third time, and Baker hit the alligator with the harpoon.

Pulling the alligator closer to the 16-foot boat, Southerland jabbed the alligator with the other harpoon. At this point the alligator was 100 percent caught. They dragged it beside the boat, and Southerland shot it five times in the head, behind the eyes, with a pistol. The alligator was still blinking and breathing, so she reloaded, and shot him two more times, killing the alligator.

Southerland’s alligator was 140 inches, and weighed 480 pounds on certified scales. The Department of Natural Resources reports that 1,077 alligators were harvested from 2003 to 2012, and the average length was 100 inches.

“I go (hunting) for the relaxation. It gets you out in nature. It’s the best way to relax and unwind,” Southerland said.

She eats the meat, and shares it with family. Southerland doesn’t kill things just to kill, but she loves the thrill of the hunt.

“I never once dreamed I would get a gator this big,” Southerland said.

Instead of residing on the bottom of a lake, the alligator is now mounted on Southerland’s wall.

Text Only
  • 140418-AR_Paul_Townsend001.jpg Graphic novelist draws on inspiration

    A few moments with graphic artist Paul Townsend is all you need to understand that his mind swirls with stories that he’s willing to explore on paper – no matter where they take him.

    April 21, 2014 2 Photos

  • Pompeys Pillar.JPG Pompeys Pillar

    Along their journey west to the Pacific and return east to St. Louis, Lewis and Clark left numerous marks recording their presence in order to validate a claim to the land for the United States.

    April 20, 2014 5 Photos

  • 1vsusr2014.jpg seen.yer-shoh

    Two of the most revealing exhibits each year at the Valdosta State University Fine Art Gallery are the fall and spring senior art shows.

    April 20, 2014 4 Photos

  • Film Review Draft Day_Rich copy.jpg ‘Draft Day’ scores a field goal at the theater

    Our reviewer looks at the movies "Draft Day'" and "Rio 2."

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • emerging1.jpg Emerging Artists: VSU shines spotlights on student performers

    Three years ago, Valdosta State University Theatre & Dance created a twist on its seasons’ conclusions.

    April 17, 2014 2 Photos

  • bicycle safety.jpg SGMC, Kohl’s to host Bike Smart safety event

    SGMC, Kohl’s Department Store, Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department and Safe Kids Lowndes County will host Bike Smart!

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • 140410-AR-Wake_Compound001.jpg Bringing wakeboards to Lowndes

    In college, many dream of their future career paths and, while some may seem far fetched, some people are able to make theirs a reality. Luke Tilt and Quinn Silvernale were able to do just that.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • 140401-Ballet003.jpg Beautiful Dancers

    The Ballet School in Valdosta offers children with special needs the chance to live out their dreams of being a dancer. For many, this may have seemed like a far fetched dream given their physical limitations, but as the Ballet School proves, there is no such thing as a physical limitation.

    April 13, 2014 5 Photos

  • Dido and Aeneas 1.jpg VSU Opera, Chamber Singers Present ‘Dido and Aeneas’ April 19-20

    The Valdosta State University Department of Music will present “Dido and Aeneas” at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 19, and 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 20, in the West Hall Rotunda. Seating is limited to 100 people per performance.

    April 12, 2014 2 Photos

  • Film Review Captain A_Rich copy.jpg A salute to ‘Captain America’

    Our reviewer looks at "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," 'The Grand Budapest hotel' and "Bad Words."

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

Top News

Given the amount of rain recently, what's your favorite “rain” song?

Singing in the Rain
Purple Rain
Have You Ever Seen the Rain?
November Rain
Rainy Night in Georgia
     View Results