Hey, Gator Nation.
We went gator hunting.
Out here in the swamps, where the real gators live, there is no Tim Tebow. There is no Urban Meyer. Just mosquito-ridden stickiness and hunters with harpoons, crossbows and bang sticks.
It’s open season on the gator in Florida.
But on Saturday night on the Kissimmee River, the gators won. They were elusive, ducking their leathery noses and red eyes under the water before most boats could get within 10 yards. At a boat ramp around 4 a.m. Sunday, the hunters were talking about the few close encounters with the red-glowing gator eyes. One group managed a pair of gators around seven feet long, taken out with a crossbow, harpoon and bang stick.
But for our party of seven, no gators were thrown on ice. Many oncoming boaters told stories of poor luck. We heard a 6-footer was taken at the ramp. That’s about it.
Florida hunters have been able to harvest gators since 1988. Fried gator bites are a hot commodity, and I’m sure plenty of Florida State fans would love to have them popping hot from the grease during their regular-season finale against the Gators. Maybe with an array of gator-skin belts, checkbooks and money clips, wallets, purses, pocket holsters, and if you have enough money, some nice boots. And could you blame ‘Noles fans?
But then, of course, the game would start, and there goes the superhuman Tebow parting a pair of linebackers.
That’s beside in the point. In the swamps, the real swamps, the numbers of gators are being thinned. Probably a good idea, just for the simple notion that one doesn’t want a stray gator making its way to the kitchen. Gators also are a nuisance to dogs, and any Floridian who has known someone living on the river has heard tales of gators plucking dogs from banks.
Still, the alligator is a complex and respected creature. Reportedly, it’s been clocked at 35 mph and has an average bite pressure of 3,200 pounds per square inch. The sleek, leathery creature is a modern-day dinosaur.
But the gators just weren’t emerging from the water much this night. We shined varying lights across the river, sometimes locking in on their red eyes. But they’d move, disappear into the water, then reappear behind us. We felt like a linebacker duped by one of those Tebow plays, where No. 15 darts toward the goal line, then leaps over the pile and flips the ball to a receiver for a touchdown.
So looking back, Gator Nation, it seems an apology is due.
We can only give respect to the gator.
And maybe even those Florida Gators, too.