From the start, when a season was established in 2003, a permit to hunt a Georgia alligator has been a hot-ticket item. The number of permits available has risen over the past decade from 180 that first year to 850 now, but the number of permits available is still a drop in the bucket compared to demand.
Last year, 7,313 folks applied for one of the 850 Georgia alligator permits. (This is the number of individuals who made “first-choice” applications—you might hear numbers above 10,000 for applicants, but that’s double and triple counting hunters who make second and third choices.)
You might think… Dang, 850 permits out of 7,313 folks, that’s almost 12 percent odds to get picked… those aren’t good odds, but it’s a chance.
The reality is that because of a preference-point system your odds are zero of getting a Georgia alligator permit without at least two preference points. An applicant gets one preference point each season he or she applies and doesn’t draw a permit.
If you currently have no preference points and want to go alligator hunting, you’re on the three-year plan—at best. Start applying now, and while you’re at it, set up WRD quota-hunt accounts for your wife and kids and start applying for them. Make sure your hunting buddies begin applying as well.
All of y’all building up priority points is key because on one permit, all of you can enjoy the gator-hunting experience. You can then space out which hunter applies with priority points each season, and your group can hunt a Georgia gator every season.
The hunter who draws a permit can have as many “assistants or helpers” as he or she wants. All of you can go on the hunt. The permit-holder doesn’t have to do the shooting, just be a member of the hunting party. Each hunter, however, much have the alligator hunting license along with other required licenses (regular hunting, non-resident if from out-of-state, WMA if hunting a management area, etc.)
With only two priority points, your best odds to get drawn for a permit is in Zone 4. Last year, 76 percent of applicants with two points got a Zone 4 permit, and the year before that it was 80 percent. The problem with Zone 4 is hunting access—other than weekend-only alligator hunting allowed at Grand Bay WMA, you better know a private landowner who has a gator in a pond or swamp in that zone.
You can gamble and hope to get a permit by applying with two priority points in Zone 5 (32 percent chance of getting with drawn with two) or Zone 6 (27 percent). But if you want to hunt this year in any other zone, use three priority points. In Zone 9, only 4 percent of applicants using two priority points got a permit, and in the rest, it was 0 percent.
With three priority points, it was a guaranteed draw in Zones 4, 5, 6 and 9.
The toughest draw was Zone 1, where three priority points only gave a hunter a 13 percent chance for a permit. This zone includes Lake Eufaula and the Chattahoochee River down to the upper part of Lake Seminole.
Four priority points has meant a guaranteed alligator permit in all nine zones. If history holds, don’t use five or more—you’re just wasting a valuable priority point.
Let’s assume you’ve saved some priority points, and you are going alligator hunting this September. The most-popular methods of hunting alligators in Georgia are with archery equipment and harpoons. Growing in popularity are snatch hooks—giant treble hooks cast with either a big saltwater fishing rod or tossed by hand.
If you want a monster gator, most experts recommend you leave the bow at home and instead use a harpoon or snatch hook. For a 10-foot or better alligator, you need a stout line, and the bigger the line the more difficult to get an accurate, deeply penetrating shot with an arrow. If you’re stubborn like me and want to use a bow, spend the $300 and buy a Muzzy Gator Getter Kit. It includes a Muzzy Pro Gator Reel, an extra spool of 600-lb. Gator Cord, three Gator Getter Arrows and two Big Game Floats. If you can’t afford the kit, at least get the Gator Cord.
Once restrained, any caliber handgun or bangstick is legal to kill the alligator. Leave your deer rifle at home. Unlike on the television show “Swamp People,” in Georgia you can’t shoot an alligator from across the bayou. It has to be restrained by a rope before you shoot it, and you can’t use a .22 rifle like on the show. Also, “fishing” for alligators is not legal in Georgia—no set hooks hanging from tree limbs.
To apply for an alligator quota permit, or any Georgia quota hunt, you must set up and use an online account with the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division of DNR.
Go to www.gohuntgeorgia.com/hunting/quota, and follow the instructions.
Once you build up enough priority points and hit the alligator lottery, you’ll want to read “Guide to Alligator Hunting in Georgia,” a WRD online publication that includes info on hunting techniques, preparation and processing.
Here are some additional general need-to-knows from the WRD regulations:
The alligator season this year is Sept. 7 to Oct. 6, and—obviously—it’s only for quota permit holders. The limit is one alligator per permit. Legal alligators must be greater than or equal to 48 inches in length as measured from end of the snout to tip of the tail.
Anyone hunting or assisting an alligator permit holder must have a valid alligator hunting license, which is $50 for Georgia residents and $200 for non-residents
If you’re thinking about hunting a WMA, check the regs. WMAs in the legal zones are open to alligator hunting only if that WMA has open small-game dates that coincide with the open season for alligators—unless otherwise specified. Some are specifically closed to alligator hunting, and some like Grand Bay are only open to alligator hunters on weekends.
Do not purchase an alligator license until you are drawn for a permit. The gator license does not entitle you to kill an alligator. The quota-hunt application process is now open, and the deadline for the alligator application is 11:59 p.m. on July 31.
Hunters who are selected will be mailed a harvest permit and temporary alligator harvest tag. You can’t give away or sell a Georgia alligator permit or tag to someone else.
If you kill a gator, it must be tagged within 6 inches of the tip of the tail. The temporary tag must remain attached to the alligator hide until the carcass is validated by WRD and a CITES tag is issued. All alligator carcasses or hides must be validated at a WRD Game Management office during normal business hours, which are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., prior to Oct. 15.
Gator Quota Insider
Info and tips to get a Georgia alligator permit.
• No. 1: Apply! Create an online WRD quota-hunt account, and apply every year. If you don’t think there’s any chance you can hunt this year, apply anyway without using preference points. Bank the preference point you get this year.
• No. 2: Preference points are gold. Georgia, unlike most every other state, doesn’t charge a fee for applying for quota hunts. You have nothing to lose by applying without preference points simply to get another one. Build them up until you’re ready to use a few to get a guaranteed permit.
• No. 3: Don’t bother selecting a “second choice.” Last season, you couldn’t draw an alligator permit without it being a first choice and using at least TWO preference points.
• No. 4: The zone with the best odds for getting selected is Zone 4. With two preference points, there was a 76 percent chance you’d get drawn for a gator permit in Zone 4. The odds for the other eight zones are slim to none of getting a permit without at least three preference points.
• No. 5: Don’t apply with another person or a group! This is common on WMA quota deer hunts because folks want to go on a hunting trip with friends. A single gator permit allows you to bring as many other people on the hunt as you want. You can only kill one gator per permit, but everyone can enjoy the excitement of an alligator hunt without burning their preference points. If you apply with a group to get multiple permits, everyone should apply with the same number of priority points—the group application defaults down the person with the fewest.