Louisiana’s tag-only alligator season reaches every corner of the state

Nine-year-old Caleb Hardwick killed this 9-foot, 9-inch gator hunting with his dad, Mead, and grandma, Mary, on Somerset Plantation in Tensas Parish guided by Dr. Buba Bonneval.
Nine-year-old Caleb Hardwick killed this 9-foot, 9-inch gator hunting with his dad, Mead, and grandma, Mary, on Somerset Plantation in Tensas Parish guided by Dr. Buba Bonneval.

From the swamps, marshes and bayous of south Louisiana to the sloughs and bar pits of north Louisiana, hunting season is on! But it isn’t a season that attracts just anybody. Only those with the skills, knowledge and courage — and of course, a permit — can tackle the state’s tag-only alligator season.

Alligators are hunted on both public and private lands on a harvest-tag basis overseen by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Tags are issued for private lands containing sufficient wetland habitat capable of sustaining an alligator harvest. Licensed alligator hunters apply for alligator tags prior to the start of the season each year. Alligator tags are only issued to licensed alligator hunters and are nontransferable. More information is available on the LDWF website.

Residents who do not have access to alligators on private lands may be able to harvest alligators on public lands or lakes. These public lands/lakes are managed by many different entities ranging from local parish governments to federal government agencies. Alligator hunters are selected to hunt these areas through bidding and lotteries.

Nicholas Merz (with gun) harvested this 11-foot, 6-inch gator on Somerset Plantation, shown here with his mom, Telly, his dad, Peter, and his brother Henry.
Nicholas Merz (with gun) harvested this 11-foot, 6-inch alligator on Somerset Plantation, shown here with his mom, Telly, his dad, Peter, and his brother Henry.

Public gator hunting

The annual program provides more than 400 resident alligator hunters the opportunity to harvest approximately 1,245 alligators on over 40 wildlife management areas and public lakes throughout the state. By all reports, weather, water and other conditions have been ideal for a quick start to an outstanding 2022 Louisiana gator season.

Louisiana is divided into east and west alligator hunting zones. The east zone opened the last Wednesday of August; the west zone opened the first Wednesday in September. Each zone remains open for 60 days from the opening date.

For many people, alligator hunting is a way to make part of their living while controlling the bayou beasts numbers. That industry spawned the famous Louisiana reality television series, Swamp People,  which was first broadcast on The History Channel Aug. 22, 2010. The show follows the day-to-day activities of alligator hunters living in the swamps who hunt American alligators for a living.

Alligators bring in an estimated $250 million to the state annually, according to the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Department.

For sportsmen, it’s a way to have fun, get tasty wild groceries and also help control populations on a smaller scale. Make no mistake about it, alligator hunting is dangerous. It’s one of the only things in Louisiana where the hunted can actually kill the hunter. Safety is of the utmost importance for both commercial and sporting alligator hunters.

Teaching the next generation

One of those sports hunters is Dr. Bubba Bonneval, who manages alligator hunting at Somerset Plantation lands in Tensas Parish.

Jack Lyons Bonneval shot this 8-foot, 2-inch gator on Somerset Plantation with his dad, Rene, and grandpa, Dr. Bubba Bonneval.
Jack Lyons Bonneval shot this 8-foot, 2-inch alligator on Somerset Plantation with his dad, Rene, and grandpa, Dr. Bubba Bonneval.

“We mostly hang hooks in sloughs and barpits that are deep and some in Grassy Lake,” he said. “We bait with chicken quarters and put most of our lines around the banks where we can run them in side-by-sides. We get 43 tags and we use them all. We also like to take some of the younger hunters and teach them about this. We start with gun safety and then safety concerning the alligators. And we teach them to respect the resource. Nothing goes to waste on the gators from the meat to the hide.”

Robert Coats, manager of the Somerset Hunting Club, was the original alligator hunter there, but Bonneval now does it.

“I learned everything I know about gator hunting from Robert Coats,” he said.

For more information on gators or to find out about applying for permits next season, email laalligatorprogram@wlf.la.gov.

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About Kinny Haddox 518 Articles
Kinny Haddox has been writing magazine and newspaper articles about the outdoors in Louisiana for 45 years. He publishes a daily website, lakedarbonnelife.com and is a member of the Louisiana Chapter of the Outdoor Legends Hall of Fame. He and his wife, DiAnne, live in West Monroe.

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