Annual hunt bags big gators

By Wesley Harris

Louisiana’s annual alligator season is underway with some big catches being touted by hunters, including Chet Ovitt of Athens.

Ovitt was disappointed when he missed out on the 2020 alligator hunt lottery, but he more than made up for it this year.

The avid hunter and fisherman entered the lottery earlier this year, hoping to be granted tags to take three gators out of Corney Lake. Ovitt grew up around Corney and had a good idea where to find the big gators.

His biggest catch, a gator measuring 12-feet, 5-inches was taken out of Corney Bayou near the LA Highway 9 bridge in Claiborne Parish on September 1. Ovitt’s monster snag was one of three gators he harvested in a single day on Corney. The other two measured 6-feet, 5-inches and 7-feet, 6-inches.

Several alligators in the 10-12 foot range have been harvested in north Louisiana waters this year. A 10-footer from Toledo Bend has been making the rounds on social media.

Louisiana alligator hunting is permitted only through an annual lottery process. Through the Lottery Alligator Harvest Program, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries provides more than 430 licensed resident alligator hunters the opportunity to harvest over 1,290 alligators at 50 wildlife management areas and public lakes. Lottery applications are available mid-May of each year. Lottery applicants must be Louisiana residents, at least 16 years of age, and comply with hunter education requirements.

Ovitt said, “I bait huge hooks with chicken quarters and hang them about a foot out of the water.” He lets the chicken rot a bit so the odor wafts across the water to attract the huge reptiles.

Although Ovitt had friend Jimmy Dotson of Ruston with him to help, the biggest alligator “was just about impossible to get into the boat.” Ovitt estimated the 12-footer at 500-600 pounds.

In 1973 the American alligator was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. It was listed previously as an endangered species in 1967 under a law predating the 1973 statute.

Since then, gator populations have exploded. Hunting programs have been established in most states in the alligator’s habitat range. Louisiana’s wild alligator population has grown from less than 100,000 50 years ago to more than two million today. Nearly one million alligators are being raised on Louisiana farms for meat and other products.

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