Gator Country

Upstate Outdoors
August 01, 2019 - 10:28 am

Phillip Gentry

If you were drawn for a tag for the 2019 South Carolina Alligator Hunting Season, you’ve been notified by now. If not, better luck next year. Alligator season takes place across the lower coastal sections of the state, but that does not prevent Upstate alligator hunters from applying for the program and enjoying the sport.

The South Carolina Alligator Hunting Program breaks the state down into four hunting zones. They are the Southern Coastal, Middle Coast, Midlands, and Pee Dee regions. Drawn tags are specific to one zone and the animal must be harvested from that zone. Gators can be harvested from both public and private waters (with permission) unless restricted. A list of counties and hunting areas within each zone can be obtained from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources website at

Below is a list and description of commonly used alligator hunting equipment.

*Snatch Hooks: Snatch hooks may be used to attach a restraining line to an alligator. A snatch hook is a weighted treble hook that is attached to a restraining line. The hook is either hand-held or used in conjunction with a long, stout fishing rod and reel and heavy line. The hook typically is cast over the alligator or over the area where it last submerged. The hook is then retrieved until it makes contact with the alligator, at which point it is set with a strong pull. The line should be kept tight until the animal tires, as the hook often falls out of the alligator if the line is allowed to go slack.

*Archery Tackle: Archery tackle, including crossbows, are commonly used to hunt alligators. It is recommended that detachable heads be used to keep the animal from removing the arrow shaft. Attach a float to the end of the arrow line rather than tying the animal to the boat. 

*Snares: Wire snares attached to a restraining line that is loosely mounted (using a small rubber band or piece of tape) to the end of a pole are most commonly used to secure the alligator once it has been harpooned or snagged and brought under control near the boat.

*Harpoons and Gigs: Harpoons or gigs may be used for attaching a restraining line to an alligator. Harpoons or gigs consist of a penetrating point such as a straightened fish hook, detachable dart, fish gig or spear point that is attached to a restraining line. The harpoon point is typically mounted on a pole, arrow shaft or spear and is thrown.

*Handgun: Any caliber handgun may be used to dispatch a captured alligator, but larger calibers are recommended. Alligators may not be shot until captured and restrained.

*Bangsticks: Bangsticks are a safe and effective tool for humanely killing alligators. Bangsticks or power heads, typically used by divers to kill fish, discharge a firearm cartridge upon contact. A bangstick is a firearm under the laws of South Carolina.

The most successful alligator hunting takes place at night by spotlighting for gators in the waters of coastal rivers and swamps. The animal’s eyes shine red in bright light. Maneuver close to the animal and attach a line to it by either snag hooking or sticking it with an arrow, spear, or snare. 

Use more lines for bigger gators and attach a heavier line by snare, lasso or grapple before trying to kill an alligator. Regulations require that alligators be under the control of the hunter before they can be killed. 

Once the gator is under control, dispatch it with a high caliber handgun or bang stick, making sure to sever its spinal cord behind the head. Control of the jaws is best achieved with a long steel gaff, then tape to secure them shut. The animal is now ready to boat or tow to shore where the legs and tail can be secured for transport.

This year’s public season will begin at 12 p.m. (noon) on Sept. 14 and run until 12 p.m. (noon) on Oct. 12.


Phillip Gentry is the host of “Upstate Outdoors,” broadcast from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on 106.3 WORD FM. You can also stream the show live or on podcast at 

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