dr. cliff goes alligator hunting. no, really!

This year in Louisiana has provided me with unexpected rewards- this is truly 'Sportsman's Paradise', just like it says on our license plates.

My patients often call to reschedule dental treatment- when the fish are biting, they can't be bothered to come to the dentist. I had to plan one patient's denture visits around deer season. A lot of my patients have boats, and a couple of them have taken me fishing out in the shallow waters approaching the Gulf of Mexico.


All in all, not a bad turn of events for a Los Angeles city boy. When some friends came to visit during Mardi Gras 2000, they were anxious to eat some alligator!

Being a little cynical (what, ME?), I fugured 'gator meat' was just some crappy tourist thing. But we got a couple pounds and cubed it up into some jambalaya. At that point, several of us had an epiphany-


So, I asked a few of my patients if any of them knew any gator hunters. Gators are not endangered per se, but hunting is very tightly regulated. The season is only one month per year, and you must own/lease 350 acres of land to get ONE alligator tag. Only Louisiana residents are allowed to procure tags (and thus gators), but out-of-state sportsmen can come along as helpers.


I got hooked up with Freddy and his son-in-law Charles. Freddy is about 55 years old, and lives 100 feet from the bayou, next door to the house where he was born. Although they had never met me or my attorney, they were most kind and patient with us on our first gator-hunting trip. When we got back, Freddy's wife Loretta even cooked up some sauce piquant for lunch. Delicious is not a good enough word.

Freddy has been hunting, fishing, and trapping his whole life. He has taken gators from this same leased land for 25 years. This plot is a couple thousand acres, owned by an oil company. When they explored the area 40 years ago, they dredged enough dirt out of the swampland to buld a narrow service road throughout the property. So, unlike a lot of folks, we had the luxury (and safety) of trapping alligators from dry land. Freddy went out two days before, baiting hooks and hanging them a foot or so above the water. As you place the hooks higher, you keep smaller gtors off your hooks, but if the hooks are too high you get nothing. Experience plays a key role in this endeavor.

So, on the last weekend of the season, after a month of phone conversations, I packed up my attorney and set off for the bayou country about an hour southwest of New Orleans, to meet Freddy the alligator hunter...

out of the loop