For July 2017, Hen Outdoors chose Brooke Benham Wright’s photo as the profile picture of the month. This is the story behind the photo.
As Matt jumped into the boat after a 100 yard sprint in the water, the gator surfaced at the boatside and my instincts took over. I pulled back and shot.
The arrow found its mark perfectly behind the gator’s head. He rolled ferociously in the water then took off violently. Having a huge predator attached to the other end of a seemingly fragile bow line is an incredible feeling. He fought for about 10 minutes but then, I put another arrow equipped with a razor sharp broadhead through his vitals.
The fight was over.
Before me laid a nearly 8 foot gator. My heart pounded as I immediately felt thankful for this opportunity and harvest. He looked like a dinosaur as we helped pull him into the boat. What an incredible species - armored and evolved to survive. This was an amazing moment, but I then realized the hunt was still on. In Florida, you get two gators with each tag. Despite feeling elated and exhausted, we still had a couple hours left before needing to head back to the boat ramp. This was no time to give up.
My adrenaline had just slowed down when I noticed a small reflective eye in the grass. We stopped the boat to get a better look. I grabbed my bow and stood on the very tip of the boat. Standing with feet just inches over the tannic water I knew I was within the gators strike range.
Then, just arm’s length in front of me, I saw the bump of the gator’s eye. At close distance, the eyes no longer reflect light and I strained to see what direction he was facing. Then, I saw it. His nose was protruding barely above the moss. With alligators, you can judge their size by estimating how many inches it is from the nose to the eye. This is about equal to how many feet the animal is. I gauged 8 inches and was confident it was over 8 feet long.
As calmly as I could, I slowly pulled back the bow and released. The arrow came out smooth and upon impact the water erupted. This big old gator took off and slammed into the bottom of the boat. Did I just wake a sleeping giant? The line exploded off of the bow reel. In an instant, the boat was being pulled around by this beast. This gator wasn’t going down without an epic fight.
Finally, the exhausting fight came to an end and this beast was brought aboard. My first two monsters lay before my eyes. They are beautiful and fierce. This hunt would forever be a part of me.
We arrived back at the house just before sunrise having spent 12 hours hunting. Now, it was time to learn how to skin and dress the meat. When I cut into these prehistoric giants, I understood why they outlasted the dinosaurs. Their skin is insanely thick. Much of the meat is almost pure white and makes for my ultimate favorite treat, gator bites. We cut out every inch of meat as we reminisced on this epic hunt.
Our freezer back home would later be stocked with wonderful, hard-earned meat. This part of the hunt is every bit as important as the hunt itself. I discovered that I shared a part of myself with these creatures. We were both fiercely determined predators – who would win or lose this epic battle. Even if I hadn’t been successful landing these gators, the experience alone of hunting under the trained eye of my husband, learning more about this species, all under the veil of night helped me gain a greater respect and even more interest for hunting.
Ladies – I encourage you to give gator hunting a try. I was so inspired by this hunt and every bowfishing adventure I’ve had ever since, that we’re in the process of setting up a new fishing boat in Florida to give women and men the opportunity to bowfish and even learn survival skills. As an avid outdoors woman, it’s important to me to help empower others and be a positive role model for women who are considering outdoor adventures.
Hunting gators is an extreme experience you’ll never forget and one that will challenge you in ways you can’t imagine all while building self-confidence. This is part of the magical passion that is hunting.
In late August, we’ll return to explore the mysterious waters of Florida in pursuit of these highly intelligent and elusive reptiles once again.
-Brooke Benham Wright
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