By Amanda Breitbach Ragsdale
D.J. Hubbert has an unusual trophy to display.
The 15-year-old, a freshman at Terry High School, bagged an 8-foot, 6-inch alligator this August on a hunt in Tallahassee, Fla.
Hubbert has plenty of experience hunting local wildlife and is a champion trap shooter, having won the Montana Junior Champion title in 2006 and the C-class title at this year’s state trap shoot in Billings.
None of that prepared him for the experience.
“It’s not really anything close to hunting an alligator,” he said. “Not even close.”
The opportunity to join the hunt came through Hubbert’s trap shooting coach and friend, Russ Wattnem. Wattnem was offered the chance to come to Florida and hunt a gator by another hunter he met in Alaska and invited Hubbert along to share the experience.
And what an experience it was.
Hubbert explained that alligators are hunted at night by boat, with a spotlight.
He and Wattnem went out with two other hunters in a 13-foot boat.
They hunted for four nights, spending about eight hours on the thick, swampy water the first night.
“You shine around and you look for the biggest set of eyes,” Hubbert said, adding, “It was pretty lonely out there.”
The light messes with the alligator’s sense of depth perception, he explained.
When the hunter gets close, he turns the light up higher and then aims for the thickest part of the gator’s neck with a crossbow.
Once he hits the animal, he harpoons it with a .357.
Hubbert had never used a crossbow or a harpoon before and did not try any practice shots before going out on the hunt.
Nevertheless, he hit the alligator with his first shot.
He described his trophy as an older teen gator, “mediocre” in size for an animal that can grow up to 14 feet long. Still, he said, he was “more than satisfied.”
Hubbert shot his alligator on the first night of the hunt, just about an hour and a half in.
Wattnem shot a 7-foot, 2-inch gator on their second night of hunting. On the third and fourth nights, their other two companions also bagged gators.
Although Hubbert’s classmates did not believe his wild story at first, the proof is readily available.
The alligator’s toothy skull is already on display at the Lazy JD Bar and Cafe in Fallon, owned by his parents, Kelly and Dulcy Hubbert. The hide will also be tanned and displayed.
The young hunter plans to eat his gator as well and said he was told to prepare it deep-fried in batter, like chicken.
While the alligator hunt was “definitely the most extreme” he as done so far, Hubbert said he is already dreaming of another exotic trip.
Next, he hopes to hunt caribou with his brother in Alaska.
Published Oct. 15, 2009