Locals hooked on gator hunting

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 1, 2001


PHOTO: A group of local outdoorsmen, who spend a few days each year hunting alligators, beam over their prized catches. From left are Norman Danos, James Richard, Roy Trosclair, David Hof and Alex Danos. (Staff Photo by Amy Szpara) LAPLACE – Several St. John the Baptist Parish avid fishermen and hunters take the last few days of August off from work each year. They do not take those days off to vacation in Florida or fix up things around the house. The days are set aside for alligator hunting, and after they trap and kill their limit, they sell the reptiles to earn money by the pound. Norman Danos, of LaPlace, has been alligator hunting ever since he was 12. So, when the season recently opened, he was ready for it. Though alligator season lasts for 30 days, he will probably have his limit of 37 a week into the season. By second afternoon of the season, he and his friends had already caught 20. They are allowed one for every 200 acres of swamp land, which he leases down U.S. Highway 51 heading toward Manchac. The land, which has to be approved by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, is usually either owned or leased by people who are doing the hunting. Otherwise, a person has to have the owner’s permission. After Danos and his buddies get their 37, the season is over for them. “That’s it. Shut it down,” said David Hof, of Destrehan, who is enjoying his second season of alligator hunting. Last year, he joined Danos, who works with him, for the first time. He said he thought it was fun last year and did not hesitate to go again this time around. Accustomed to the outdoors, since he is as at home with a rod and reel in hand as he is sitting on his living room couch, Hof saw alligator hunting as another sport to add to his list. Aside from fishing, he is busy during duck and deer hunting seasons. “But, he conned me into it,” added Hof, jokingly, pointing to Danos. “We have a month, and if it took us that long, we got that long to do it,” added Danos. Hof said about the experience, “It was fun. It’s the best kind of hunting.” Norman Danos’ son, Alex, who now lives in Luling, is an old pro at the sport. He began with his father when he was 15, and this makes his 11th year. He calls Hof “a rookie,” but considers himself a seasoned veteran. “When I was old enough, I started getting to go,” he said. According to the younger Danos, he and his father have been fortunate enough to have never had a run-in with the powerful gators. “We know our boundaries,” he said. “I’ve never really been scared. We’re in a boat. They don’t jump in. I can’t say I’ve ever been scared of no alligator.” Though people unfamiliar with the way alligator hunters capture their prized prey may find it vicious, the trio sees it as sport. After baiting a line, which hangs two feet above the water from a tree, with chicken leg quarters, the hunters leave the site and return the following day. The alligators jump from the water, snap the chicken between their jaws and eat until a large hook becomes imbedded in their digestive systems. The line is tied to the base of the water, and the gators go back into the water only to swim with hook in gut until the hunters return. When the hunters return to check the bait line, they shoot the trapped alligators in the head to kill them. According to the elder Danos, they will be able to sell the alligators for $30 a foot, and generally the creatures are around seven feet long. Aside from the father and son and Hof, two other friends joined the group. James Richard and Roy Trosclair of Reserve were also proud of their catches for the day. One of the gators the group caught was almost 8 feet long and a good bit fatter than the others. According to the gator master of the group, Danos, at the rate the group is going, they should wrap up their hunting very soon.