From near extinction in the wild, Georgia’s alligator population rebounded rapidly under protection and continues to expand even with limited hunting. Estimates are there are about a quarter-million alligators in Georgia now. And there’s a growing army of wanna-be alligator hunters in the state.
It’s been eight years since arguably my best hunt ever, an all-night ordeal filled with adrenaline, disappointment and finally exhilaration as fellow GON editor Brad Gill and I did battle with a 10-foot, 450-lb. alligator on the Savannah River.
That was the third year Georgia allowed gator hunting, and it took me two “rejection notices,” now known as priority points, to get drawn. Priority points are still the key to getting a permit to hunt Georgia alligators, even more so now as alligator hunting has risen in popularity.
Very important to planning an alligator hunt is deciding which zone to apply for—usually based on public waters available or access to private land with alligators—and what hunting techniques to use. But none of that matters if you don’t have a permit.
If you’re interested in going after an alligator sometime in the future, here’s the best tip we can give—apply for the quota hunt now. Also, make sure every hunting buddy you wouldn’t mind spending a night chasing alligator with applies now. You won’t get selected, but you’ll get your first priority point. You’re going to need at least two priority points to get a permit in most zones and three or even four in the more popular alligator-hunting zones.
Last year, not a single alligator hunter drew a Georgia permit using none or even one priority point. Remember, a priority point is a nice way of saying “rejected during a previous application.”
With two priority points, your best odds to get drawn for a permit was in Zone 4 (80 percent), followed by Zone 5 (53 percent), Zone 6 (33 percent), Zone 9 (25 percent) and Zone 8 (13 percent). In Zones 1, 2, 3 and 7, it took a minimum of three priority points to draw a permit—and even that wasn’t a guarantee. The toughest draw was Zone 2, where three priority points only gave a hunter a 39 percent chance for a permit. Four priority points was a guaranteed permit in all zones last season.
If you have future dreams of a gator-hunting adventure, in addition to building up your own priority points, have your friends apply. 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.
According to DNR regulations, “The selected hunter may have as many assistants or helpers as desired. The permittee or his assistants may hunt and take alligators as provided in the harvest permit, but only in the presence of the permittee.”
In other words, all of you can go on the hunt, and someone other than the person drawn for the permit can even do the gator wrasslin’ as long as the permit-holder is in the boat.
Last season, more than 11,000 people applied for the 850 alligator permits available. The vast majority of those, however, were applications using no priority points. Either applicants didn’t know they’d need two, three or even four priority points, or they’re building them up. Maybe it’s the “Swamp People” effect, but compare the 11,000 applicants last year to the first year WRD had a gator quota drawing when they received 2,557 applications.
If you’re a “Swamp People” fan, please note that “fishing” for gators—using limblines or set hooks—is not legal in Georgia. The most-popular method of hunting alligators here is with archery equipment, followed by harpoons. Giant treble hooks cast with either a saltwater fishing rod or by hand is another popular method.
“The percent success for the eight seasons is much lower than anticipated with a combined success rate of 29 percent,” a recent WRD report stated. “The zones with the lowest overall success rate are Zones 4 and 5 (18 percent), and the zone with the highest overall success rates is Zone 7 with 40 percent success. These rates can probably be attributed to the density of alligators within the zones and the amount of public water available for hunting. Zone 7 includes the Altamaha River, many of its tributaries and much of the coastal marsh area, which all contain a very good population of alligators. Zone 4 on the other hand has only small rivers and creeks and one WMA for public access, and most wetlands are on private property.”
Ready to apply?
You’ll need Internet access so you can create a Georgia WRD online account. Go to www.gohuntgeorgia.com/hunting/quota, and follow the instructions. Once you build up enough priority points and hit the alligator lottery, make sure to read “Guide to Alligator Hunting in Georgia,” a WRD online publication that includes info on hunting techniques, preparation and processing.
Gator Hunting Need-To-Knows
Season: Sept. 7-Oct. 6 for quota permit holders only. Bag Limit is one alligator. Legal alligators must be 48 inches long or longer in length as measured from the end of the snout to tip of the tail.
Licenses: Anyone hunting or assisting an alligator permit holder must possess a valid Alligator Hunting License (Resident License is $50 and Non-Resident License is $200) in addition to a regular hunting license. A WMA license is required if hunting on a WMA. Disability, Honorary & Lifetime License holders are exempt from these requirements. Alligator hunters must be at least 12 years old. Hunters 12 to 15 need not have an Alligator Hunting License or Hunting License; however, they must possess a valid permit or be with a permit holder. In order to hunt unsupervised, they must have a valid Hunter Education Certificate.
Legal Methods: Hunters may use hand-held ropes or snares, snatch hooks, harpoons, gigs or arrows with a restraining line attached. Legal alligators must be dispatched immediately upon capture by using a handgun or bangstick, or by severing the spinal cord with a sharp implement. No firearm, except a bangstick or handgun, may be in possession while hunting alligators.
Age Restriction: No one under age 12 may apply for an alligator hunting permit or accompany a permitted alligator hunter during a hunt.
GA Alligator Harvest
Zone 2012 Avg. Avg.
Success Success Length
1 38% 39% 9-0
2 28% 38% 8-7
3 18% 22% 8-0
4 21% 18% 7-9
5 21% 18% 8-4
6 23% 30% 7-10
7 39% 40% 8-3
8 33% 36% 8-5
9 30% 25% 8-10
State 29% 32% 8-4