GULFPORT, Mississippi — Alligator hunting season has become one of the hottest sports in Mississippi.
The second Mississippi hunting season begins Aug. 29 with two different groups: Public waters and Private lands. The Public Waters Season lasts from Aug. 29 to Sept. 8. The Private Lands Season lasts from Aug. 29 to Sept. 22.
Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks spokesman Jim Walker has seen the popularity rise in huge numbers.
"I get more media requests and hits on alligators than anything else," Walker said. "Alligator season has taken off in Mississippi."
Alligators are found all across the state, especially south of U.S. Highway 82. The state has divided the public waters for alligator hunting into seven zones, which covers the entire state. The six coast counties are in the Southeast and South Central zones.
MDWFP Alligator Program Coordinator Ricky Flynt felt the elements were ideal for a solid first year of hunting in 2013.
"Last year was the first statewide hunting opportunity in the state," Flynt said. "Hunting success was positively impacted by near perfect weather conditions during the 10-day season. Hunter success was also aided by higher than normal river levels across most of the state with an exception being the Northwest Zone, which experienced much less rainfall in late summer compared to the rest of the state."
Applications for alligator hunter permits are processed through the state, which hunters get drawn for a permit. Hunters received their notifications this week.
For the second straight year, 920 permit holders were drawn. Over 7,400 people applied for the limited number of public water alligator hunting permits issued among seven geographically based hunting zones throughout the state.
Those drawn must attend a mandatory alligator hunter education course to hunt and harvest an alligator in the state. Applicants must be at least 16 years and a state resident. Once the course is completed, hunters are issued a hunting license and tag they need when gator hunting.
Each permitted hunter is allowed to bring one guest to the training course. An alligator hunting manual, the 2014 Mississippi Alligator Hunting Guide, will be provided at the course.
Training includes information on alligator history, biology, MDWFP Alligator Program, all alligator hunting regulations, capture methods, capture gear, harvest methods, respect weapons, all safety precautions, and processing meat and hides.
Failure to attend may result in loss your of alligator hunting opportunity, unless you have attended an alligator hunting training course previously.
The alligator license fee is $25; the Alligator Possession Permit costs $100.
The closest Hunting training facility near the coast is at Jones County Junior College, held on Aug. 16 from 9 a.m. to noon.
All four categories of alligator hunting records were broken during the last year's public waters season: male length, male weight, female length, and female weight.
— A 10-foot, 295.3 pound female length was certified by Ellisville's Brandon Maskew on the Pascagoula River on Aug. 31.
— A 13-foot 6.5-inch, 741.5 pound male weight record was certified by Lee Turner on Sept. 8. Beth Trammell and Dustin Bockman each broke the record on Sept. 1 until Turner surpassed them.
— A 13-foot, 7-inch male length was certified by Ben Walker on Sept. 10.
Flynt anticipates a strong third year for alligator hunting.
"Summer weather conditions for 2014 are providing for what could be another year with exceptional or above average river levels across the majority of the state.
"River levels impact hunter accessibility to hunting areas. When river levels are low, boating access is limited and hunters may become somewhat congregated on the limited amount of navigable waterways," Flynt said.
Information from: The Sun Herald, http://www.sunherald.com