I was with friends at Gator Country Trappers in Florida when they were called to remove a big nuisance alligator. I had a crossbow and my own license to harvest him.
It was already dark when we finally spotted the big water lizard in some thick weeds. Although his eyes were dimly lit by the red light on guide Al Roberts’ head, the alligator was hard to spot among all the weeds in the dark water.
He was half submerged with just his head and front half above the surface. He was angled towards the boat watching us. I knew I would have to miss the hard-bony head of the gator and hit him solid in the body.
If I made a solid shot I could use the 600-pound-test line attached to the Muzzy point to fight him to the surface and deliver the coup de grâce with a bang stick.
The pressure was on when Al kept whispering for me to take him before he submerged.
When I pulled the trigger on my TenPoint, the bolt flashed through the air and connected with the back of the alligator with a loud “Thwack!” It went under with a huge splash and peeled line off my rig.
The line whipped out and the buoy hit the water moving fast. It reminded me of the scene in the movie “Jaws” when the shark was attached to the barrel, except this was really happening.
It’s a weird feeling pulling up the line when you know that an angry reptile a lot bigger than you is attached to the other side.
As I struggled with the line, Al was yelling to make sure I didn’t get it wrapped around my feet or hands. I guess having a client dragged overboard and drowned by a gator might be bad for business. I brought the huge gator up to the surface. Al handed me the bang stick with more instructions.
I smacked the gator on the head. Sure enough, the stick went “Bang!” My first crossbow alligator was hauled in the boat.
STARED DOWN BY A BEAR
Crossbows have been around since before the Middle Ages. But the new compound-style crossbows are more deadly and accurate than I could ever have imagined. They are a silent, effective tool for harvesting all types of predators.
To prove this point, when our middle son, Seth, was 15 he decided to try to harvest a black bear on our ranch in Colorado with his crossbow. My wife, Michele, took him behind our house where bears often come into our field in the evening to eat the heads off our oats.
When the mother-son hunting team arrived at the field, Michele set up her video camera, and they started building a ground blind with sticks and branches to break up their outline on the edge of the field. Once settled, they waited to see if a bruin would show up.
A rainstorm moved in and they sat patiently waiting. About 30 minutes before dark, in the drizzling rain, a large bear ambled down the trail toward the field in their direction. The only problem was the bear turned and started walking directly toward them! Head on, he didn’t present a good shot opportunity.
The bear closed the distance to about 20 yards when he started staring at the hunters in the brush. Seth was aimed at the bear, but as he explained later he was a “little” nervous. The bear stared and then stood up on his hind legs. He was probably trying to look at them from a different angle. Or maybe it was aggressive posturing, as it tried to intimidate them into leaving his oat field.
But Seth didn’t want to see what the bear was going to do next, and he shot the bear while it was standing up looking right at him. It was not a high-percentage shot, but at that distance, if I were faced with the same situation I probably would have done the same thing.
Seth’s bolt was covered with rain water, and it looked like a tracer as the water flew off it as it raced toward the bear. When the bolt passed through the bear, both Seth and his mom felt confident it was a fatal shot. But under the circumstances, they figured it was best to back out as darkness rapidly approached.
When they arrived home we watched the video Michele had shot to review where the bolt had struck the bear. It appeared the bear was hit a bit low and we all agreed the decision to back out, instead of risking jumping the bear, was best.
The next morning we went on horseback to cover more ground in search of the bear, knowing the rain would have washed away any blood trail.
The Muzzy Trocar Crossbow broadhead had done its job, and the bear hadn’t gone far before dropping. The horses definitely made it easier to get the bear meat and hide out instead of packing it out ourselves.
We’re constantly working hard to keep the predators on our ranch in check. If we didn’t, we’d have bears tearing up our crops, getting into the trash. We’ve had them break into our chicken coop multiple times — even with an electric fence to discourage them.
Besides the bears, coyotes are also a constant nuisance. After losing a few of our calves to predatory coyotes, I told the boys they needed to work on the coyote population. Seth decided to use his crossbow to not only manage the coyotes but to do it quietly so he wouldn’t spook the game animals we guide clients on.
For his first crossbow coyote, he got serious. We set up an Ameristep tree stand over a carcass of an old horse that had died on the ranch. When the wind was right, Seth climbed up in the stand to see if a coyote would show up before dark.
He is often accused of being a lucky hunter, but as most hunters know, the harder you work, the luckier you get.
He didn’t have to wait long for a coyote to show up. It was 30 yards away and Seth said when the crosshairs settled on the coyote he knew the game was over.
Next time you head out for predators, consider leaving the rifle at home in exchange for a quieter option. The accuracy of modern crossbows surprised us at first. If I had known how accurate they are out to 50 and 60 yards, I would have shot a lot more predators with them over the years.