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Best of 2023: Giant Florida Gator, Whitetail Rut Intel, Crappie & Panfish, New Guns and Ammo

These 10 hunting and fishing posts on gafmag.com were the most-visited articles of the year.

Best of 2023: Giant Florida Gator, Whitetail Rut Intel, Crappie & Panfish, New Guns and Ammo

Top 10 favorite Game & Fish Magazine online articles of 2023.

What does the whitetail rut, a 900-pound Florida alligator and giant panfish all have in common? They were among the hottest hunting and fishing stories on gafmag.com in the past year.

Millions of outdoors enthusiasts visited the Game & Fish website in 2023. Here are the most popular stories:

1. Tagged Florida Gator is One of Largest in State History

  • A hunting trip with friends results in massive alligator weighing 900 pounds.
Large alligator in small boat
They really needed a bigger boat, but Kevin Brotz and friends managed to pulled the big gator into their johnboat. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Brotz)
  • A fun alligator hunt with friends on Aug. 25, 2023 with a couple of church buddies resulted in the tagging of one of the largest gators ever taken in Florida. The massive gator weighed 900 pounds and was more than 13 feet long. The crew was challenged in a 2 1/2-hour fight before finally dragging the gator into their smallish johnboat.
florida alligator
The huge Florida gator caught by Kevin Brotz and friends on Aug. 25, 2023 weighed 900 pounds and measured more than 13 feet. (Photos courtesy of Kevin Brotz)

SEE MORE PICS

2. Regional Rut Update 2023

  • Expert whitetail info and advice from each region all season long.
bucks battling
The Game & Fish Regional Rut Update 2023 included weekly reports from thr whitetail woods. (Shutterstock image)
  • The 2023 edition of our exclusive Regional Rut Update offered hunters a weekly report on rut activity in the whitetail woods across the country. From pre-rut in October to the peak in November and December, the project was viewed by tens of thousands of hunters each week.

REWIND TO THE RUT

3. Best Days to Hunt the Rut in Each Region

  • Seasoned whitetail hunters detail the days they're most looking forward to being in the deer woods in the weeks ahead.
gaf-rutbestdaze
What are the best days to hunt during the rut in your neck of the woods? Shutterstock image)
  • Our Regional Rut Update team of Doug Howlett, Daron McDougal and Josh Honeycutt asked experts from each region for their input on when the best hunting days are during the deer rut.

READ THE REPORT

4. Seven Great 7mm Cartridges for Deer-Sized Game

  • If you're in the market for a new 7mm, these choices are worth considering.
hunting bullets lined up
There are many fine 7mm cartridges, but Boddington believes these are seven worth considering. From left, in ascending velocity and power: 7x57 Mauser, 7mm-08 Rem, .280 Rem, 7mm WSM, .280 AI, 7mm Rem Mag, 7mm PRC. (Photo by Craig Boddington)
  • For deer-sized game, says Craig Boddington, practical all-around calibers (bullet diameters) are probably limited to just five: .257, .264 (6.5mm), .277 (6.8mm), .284 (7mm), and .308 (7.62mm). There are numerous cartridges in each, with unique case dimensions and performance characteristics. We all have our favorites to debate around the campfire, but nobody can say the 7mm, .284-inch, isn't an excellent deer caliber.

GET EXPERT INFO

5. Best New Rifles for Hunting 2023

  • From long-range rifles for big game to muzzleloaders and rimfires for those seeking other challenges, here are some of the best new hunting rifles from SHOT Show.
man shooting rifle
The Savage 110 Carbon Predator is among the new firearms featured. (Photo courtesy of Savage Arms)
  • Whether you're looking for a long-range rifle for hunting whitetail or mule deer, or want a new muzzleloader or rimfire for a different challenge with other game, the best new hunting rifles of 2023 offer a wide range of options. The trends at SHOT Show 2023 included more variety with stock designs, customization and the latest trendy calibers. You’ll find the traditional ones such as .308, .270 and .300 Win Mag along with the hot-button ones loved and scorned: 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, 6.8 Western, 7mm PRC and 28 Nosler. Whether you’re a lover or fighter, it’s impossible to ignore the great variety available today.

FEATURED GUNS

6. Marlin is Back! Classic Hunting Rifles Make Return

  • This is a quick look at the Marlin models 336 and 1894 from SHOT Show 2023.
hunting rifles set near rock wall
Now made by Ruger, the Marlin 336 Classic makes return to the deer woods. (Photo by Adam Heggenstaller)
  • Marlin is definitely, without a question, back in the game. Two years after the 1895 was re-introduced, Ruger-owned Marlin have followed with the returns of the models 336 and 1894 for this year. The 336 is chambered in .30-30 and .35 Remington; while the 1894 comes in .44 Mag and 357/.38.

WATCH THE VIDEO

7. In Search of Giant Crappies and Bluegills

  • When seeking plus-size fish, keep in mind that not all panfish waters are created equal.
Large bluegill fish
Lakes and ponds that don't allow motorized boats often produce giant bluegills. Bank fishing is particularly productive during spawning periods. (Photo by Jim Gronaw)
  • Giant, slab-sided panfish, those "dream" fish of exceptional body dynamics and dimensions, are not an everyday occurrence. You see them on social media, in magazines and in photos pinned to bulletin boards at local bait shops occasionally—hubcap-shaped crappies over 15 inches and repulsively rotund bluegills that tape 10 or 11 inches or more. The fish are wide and thick across the back. Many of us will not experience fish like these in our lifetimes, usually because we are chasing other species. Sure, we could hire a guide at one of those Deep South crappie meccas where 3-pound slabs abound. But that's not going to guarantee the fish of a lifetime. To be truthful, most anglers will see a 10-pound largemouth bass before they lay eyes on a legit, 12-inch bluegill.

LEARN MORE

8. Crappie Weather: Late-Summer Patterns Can Produce Hot Fishing

  • Paying close attention to the conditions can pay dividends when chasing crappies.
crappie fish
A fine crappie caught at a local pond as a major weather event moved into the region, firing up the fish. (Photo by Jim Gronaw)
  • You know the score in the summer. You have seen nothing but scorching, 95-degree temperatures with just an occasional thunderstorm to cool things off in the evening. Those thick slabs you caught back in the spring seem like a distant memory. To make matters worse, recreational boaters are whipping the surface of your favorite crappie lake to a froth, sending the fish deep and turning them tight-lipped. Let’s face it, summertime crappies can be tough customers. But by recognizing weather patterns conducive to catching crappies, you can predict their behavior even during the hottest of summers. By recognizing these key patterns, you can capitalize on peak feeding times and catch more crappies on your home waters.

HOW TO CATCH SLABS

9. Hunting World Mourns Loss of Louise Shockey

  • She lost a brave battle with cancer and passed away in September.
Jim and Louise Shockey
Jim and Louise Shockey. (Photo courtesy of the Shockey family)
  • Louise Shockey, the wife of Jim Shockey, mother of Eva and Branlin, and, in some ways, the unseen matriarch of the hunting world’s first family, lost a brave battle with cancer and passed away on Sept. 21, 2023.

READ AN APPRECIATION

10 Secret Catfish Baits You Didn't Know About

  • We found these unknown (but proven) catfish baits that attract whiskerfish time after time.
closeup of catfish
Catfish baits that are surprisingly effective.
  • This catfish bait article has been a popular destination for catfish anglers for several years, consistently one of gafmag.com's most popular articles every year. Check out these suggestions, including some surprises.

SEE THE LIST

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