Steve Lewis of Batesville is one lucky guy, and he’ll tell you that. He’s a prime example of “the luck of the draw.”
For the second year in a row, his name was drawn for him to receive an alligator permit for Zone 3. Many Arkansans apply, but only 73 are chosen to hunt in Zone 3, Lewis said. According to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s website, the state is divided into five “alligator zones,” but hunting is only allowed in two of them.
“You have to sign up in June [for a permit],” Lewis said. Hunters find out if they are chosen, then have only two weekends to hunt the hefty reptiles.
After receiving a permit, Arkansas alligator hunters must attend a hunter-orientation class.
This year, hunters could be in the water 30 minutes after sunset Sept. 20 through 30 minutes before sunrise Sept. 23, and 30 minutes after sunset Sept. 27 through 30 minutes before sunrise Sept. 30.
Sept. 22 was Lewis’ lucky day at the Merrisach Lake Area in Tichnor.
Not only did he snag his second gator on that day this year, but Sept. 22 was the same day he shot his first gator last season. So, it really is his lucky day, Lewis said.
It was only his second day to go alligator hunting this year, and he was successful, but Lewis said he debated with himself whether he wanted to take the gator or wait for a bigger one.
Lewis’ flashlight beam hit the 9-foot-2-inch gator in the water, and he decided it was “go-time.”
“I wasn’t ever scared,” he said.
Alligator hunting doesn’t require many supplies, Lewis said. A cane pole with a wire noose at the end of it, a 16-foot aluminum boat and a 20-gauge shotgun were Lewis’ supplies the day he got his gator.
Lewis, his daughter Katie, and two of his friends were in the boat to assist him with his hunt.
When he snagged his gator, Lewis said, the 240-pound reptile didn’t go down without a fight.
“[The gator] tried to roll the boat,” he said. “It pulls you, and you pull back — then you know you’ve got it.”
When he shot his gator this year, Lewis and his crew in the boat were surprised at how big the animal actually was.
“We started pulling him in, and he just kept coming,” Lewis said.
The alligator was between 14 and 18 years old.
Lewis’ interest in alligators started when he was young and living in Texas.
“As a kid, we used to catch them because they were caught on our trot lines,” he said.
It wasn’t until Lewis saw the show Swamp People that he decided to actually pursue alligator hunting.
“Everyone calls it a hunt of a lifetime,” Lewis said. “There’s nothing like it.”
So far, Lewis has a 100 percent success rate with alligator hunting in Arkansas, he said. He has killed his limit of gators each year he’s hunted.
Hunters are only permitted to harvest one alligator per season, and it must be at least 4 feet long.
“There’s no shortage [of alligators],” Lewis said.
He does have some advice for anyone who is planning on going alligator hunting
“Take a long pole with you, and catch one that’s swimming,” Lewis said.
He intends on applying for a permit next year and plans to hunt gators as long as he can.