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Stealth approach to a wily gator works like a charm!

Updated: Jul 30, 2023

by Captain Phil Walters of The South's Most Experienced Professional Gator Guide

At the end of the movie “Quigley Down Under, starring Tom Selleck as Quigley, the bad guy is under a false impression that Quigley is not competent in the use of a six shooter. Earlier, Quigley told the villain “I have no use for a six shooter.” At the showdown, the villain, along with his two henchmen, gives Quigley a six shooter thinking he has the advantage. He is quickly shot along with his henchman and learns that Quigley was indeed versed with a revolver. “I said I have no use for one. Never said I didn’t know how to use one!” Quigley quipped to the dying evil outlaw.

I often employ the “Run & Gun” method of gator hunting with my airboat. In this method, you shine the gator, gain his location, “run” your boat hard & fast to him & “gun” him with the harpoon while he’s either at the surface or below it. While this style is fast action, exciting and takes a modest level of skill as both the boat & target are moving, it’s not always the best method of hunting gators; especially if you don’t have an airboat. A few of the drawbacks of this style of hunting is it burns a lot of fuel, scares the beejiggers out of the gators, (and often the hunters) is loud & could impact other sportsmen in a negative manner attempting to enjoy the same waterway.

Let’s talk about a method of gator hunting that is the opposite of the “Run & Gun.” It’s called “Trolling” and works like a charm on any water body where an electric trolling motor can be deployed. While I’m not going into details of the many types of trolling motors we can employ upon an airboat, we’ll talk about the finer points of “Trolling.’

Note: Alligator have a keen sense of smell & hearing. This must be taken into consideration when trolling. Be aware of the wind and/or current and chose your approach rather than making a direct bee line to your target.

Once you have located your intended target by shining him, it’s wise to take a direct beam of light off him and either place him into the halo of the light or, better yet, use a light with a rheostat and dial it down as low as it will go offering just enough light to illuminate the gator’s eye. (Often, a filter of red, green or yellow will help keep the gator from spooking.) Upon approach, you are now engaging in a “spot & stalk hunt, so all aboard must be ready and QUIET! Have all your equipment and lines set prior to approach and ready for use.

To hedge your chances, have a casting rod ready with a snatch hook, as you may be able to hook him once you’re within 30 yards or so, providing you’re in open water. Draw a bead on him with your gatorstick when he’s within harpoon range (30 feet or less). If your pole is set for throwing, be ready to throw should he submerge. If he stays up, hold off until within the “dead kill” zone of about 5’. Should he submerge, throw at your selected target area as he should still be near if he did not spook. Once thrown, retrieve the harpoon & ready it for a second shot ASAP as often the gator will pop back up again very close, so be ready.

While open water is the best to work a stalk, brush & cover near open water will often conceal nice gators that will hold for your light, so don’t overlook this type of habitat adjacent to open water.

While not as fast action as the “Run & Gun,” trolling will save fuel and reduce noise. However; I’m sure the adrenalin will ratchet up to high again when you sink your dart into a large lizard and the fight begins!


About the Author: Captain Phil Walters is owner of and produces RatWorks Gator Hunt Equipment. He has hunted gators professionally under fair chase principals across the South for two decades, has harvested thousands of gators while safely guiding hundreds of clients to their trophies. At one time, his clients possessed 7 of the top 10 alligators in the Safari Club International (SCI) record book. For 2008, Team RatWorks placed 2nd, 4th and 5th in the Central Florida Trophy Hunts “Big Gator Shootout” and harvested the Georgia state record of 13-7. In 2007, was presented the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance “Defender of the Heritage” award for hunting heritage education. Recently, Governor Charlie Crist appoint him to Florida’s Boating Advisory Council. In 2009, he guided for the largest gator harvested in Georgia at 13-51/2”.


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