May 2018 Issue – By Rusty Brines, Subscriber
Subscriber Rusty Brines spent some time in central Florida hunting alligators and Osceola turkeys last March with Central Florida Trophy Hunts (321-632-8995; gatorhuntingequipment.com). He took a huge alligator and a great turkey and highly recommends this operator for anyone wanting to hunt alligator. Here’s how he describes his experience:
I needed one more predator to complete my world slam of 13 different predators, and since I was going to be in Florida hunting Osceola turkey in March I thought I would add an alligator hunt while I was there. I booked with Grayson Padrick of Central Florida Trophy Hunts. The hunt was for two full days with a third day added if necessary, as I was looking for a 12-foot or better alligator. I flew into Orlando International Airport where Padrick picked me up. The evening of my arrival we had an early dinner and then drove around checking out a few different ranches for alligators. I was amazed at the number of Osceola turkeys that we happened upon while spotting for alligators.
I had to borrow a rifle from Padrick, so the next morning he had me shoot a few different guns until I settled on the one most comfortable for me. Shot placement is extremely important when hunting alligators, so I took a few shots to make sure the gun was right for me. Around 7:30 the first morning, we began our search for alligators on the numerous private ranches Padrick can access. Over the next three hours we passed on many alligators in the seven- to 10-foot range. These prehistoric creatures were everywhere but not quite the size I was looking for. We spotted one that I thought we could come back to as Padrick said that particular alligator hung around in the area. This was a fair chase hunt where the alligators could move freely from ranch to ranch. What you happen across today you might never see again.
We mostly drove around, but there were some areas where we walked so not to spook the alligators sunning themselves along the banks of the many small lakes. After about a 15-minute walk we spooked a large alligator off a lakeside, but he surfaced about 70 yards away. We determined that this was a trophy alligator. Quickly, I rested the rifle on a set of shooting sticks and perfectly placed a bullet into the brain of the alligator.
To retrieve the animal, we had fishing rods rigged to cast 200-pound-test line with a huge hook on the end designed to snag the creature and pull it to shore. That would eliminate having to launch the airboat, which we had readily available for this hunting adventure. As luck would have it, one of the casts snagged the alligator, and we slowly pulled this monstrous beast to shore. Now there was a huge embankment that we had to pull the alligator up. Once we retrieved the truck we used a chain with rope and a huge iron hook to drag the alligator from the banks of the water, but we straightened out the hook! Eventually, with the chain we pulled the alligator to the center of the levee. We had to dismantle the tailgate from the truck to use it as a ramp, and with three people pulling and guiding, we finally loaded him into the back of the truck.
Back at the Central Florida Trophy Hunts office and processing facilities we measured the monstrous beast at 12 feet and five inches in length and 61 inches in girth around the belly. This was truly a trophy. The alligator produced more than 100 pounds of meat from his tail alone. Besides the meat, I was offered to have them create shoes, purses, belts, watch bands or anything else I wanted from the skin. I decided to have a rug made from his skin with his head fully mounted. They called a local taxidermist who picked up the alligator. He said he would have it shipped to me ready to be hung for display within four months. Our day was successful.
The following day they offered to take me fishing, drop me off at a beach or let me hunt Osceola turkeys. I jumped at the turkeys. There were no available turkey guides, as this part of the trip was unplanned, but I was willing to try the turkey hunt on my own. They gave me a popup blind and a shotgun and took me to an area where they knew turkeys were around. They dropped me off at a field, and about 20 minutes later four hens happened by at about 30 yards. Shortly after an 11¼-inch bearded gobbler followed, and I had my first Osceola turkey.
That evening we went to a wonderful dinner at the boat docks and watched the fishermen come in with their daily catches. After a good night’s sleep, they picked me up early the next morning and drove me 50 minutes to Daytona, where I was meeting another outfitter for the turkey hunt I originally booked for this trip to Florida. Without question I would recommend Grayson Padrick and Central Florida Trophy Hunts for an alligator hunt. This is not a weekend job for this outfitter but what he does for a living. Everything was spot on from the meet-and-greet at the airport to accommodating me by driving me to meet the next outfitter I was hunting with. I honestly don’t think you could find a better alligator hunt. I came a stranger but left as a friend.
Owners Grayson and Mindy Padrick know alligators, and if an alligator is on your bucket list, don’t wait any longer. This is a turnkey operation, from picking you up at the airport to shipping the finished mounted trophy to your home. They handle it all. I highly recommend this hunt.
Postscript: Central Florida Trophy Hunts offers several different levels of alligator hunting, including a full-service package hunt they call their “Premium Alligator Hunt,” covering two nights lodging, meals, fully-guided alligator hunting, a hog hunt, license, tag and pickup and return to the airport for $5,575. There is an additional $1,000 fee for taking a 12- to 13-foot alligator and $2,000 for a trophy over 13 feet. A “Priority Alligator Hunt” includes only the alligator and license and ranges from $750 for a five-footer to $6,500 for a 12.7-footer or larger. Both are on private land and are available year-round.