Gibson, La. - The boats line up ready to unload their monstrous catch. Workers haul out hefty alligators one after another, exhausting work on a big first day of hunting season.
"We had a good catch," says Dean Bourg, a hunter from Thibodaux. "We had 12 gators, we had two 11-footers, a 10, couple of 8's."
The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries issued 38,000 tags this season, and expects about 34,000 gators to be caught over the next four weeks.
That will keep buyers like Tim Domangue busy.
"Every year it's exciting to see it start because it's just in our blood," he says. "Toward the end, we'll be ready for it to end because it's so much work."
The alligators are measured and inspected by biologists before being processed. The meat, hide and heads will all go to markets around the world.
The price of alligator meat is up compared to last season. Domangue credits the popularity of reality TV shows such as Swamp People for the increase.
"People from all up north that's starting to eat alligator and it's just unbelievable," he says. "Wholesale, deboned is probably $10, $12 a pound right now compared to three or four years ago, [when] it might have been $3 or $4."
There's also more outside interest in the hunt. U.S. Army Lt. Colonel Leonard Kergosien took a week of leave to come from Tampa.
"I like it here because it's more hands on, more live action, and the alligators are bigger," he says.
Boat after boat rolled in Wednesday, loaded down with the massive reptiles. On this day, only the alligators bore battle wounds - but it's sometimes the hunters who come back bloodied.
"Last year, we had one guy that thought the gator was dead and everything and it came back to life. And my wife's a nurse so she was there, pouring all kind of peroxide on it," says Domangue. "The next day he came, he was all bandaged up back the next day, catching alligators."
There's just something about the thrill of the hunt.
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