The Legend of the Moore Haven Monster
Imagine hurling through the darkness at 30 to 40 mph, dodging bugs the size of birds, as you skip across the vegetation that peeks out of the shallow waters surface of the Florida Everglades. We did just that in September of 2012 as went in search of a local legend.
It was the evening of September 12. Location…Moore Haven Florida. With a few evenings of hunting already under our belt, we once again meet up with Justin Guerry, his dad Mel. Justin and his dad are legends themselves in Florida. Known for their aggressive, yet successful gator hunting tactics makes them one of the most successful swamp hunting duos in the south east.
We have hunted with the Guerry’s many times before, and every hunt has been nothing short of eerie, dangerous, exciting, adrenalin pumping fun all wrapped up into one. They have all the machines to get you deep into the glades from flat bottom boats and air boats to quads and monster swamp buggies that sit you 15 feet above the ground. It’s like a mobile tree stand.
Our goal on this trip was to top our previous harvest, of an 11’ gator, we took back in 2010 with Justin. Having taken over 20 gators with the bow on hunts with Justin, the quest for a monster was evident. Justin had spoke about a gator he has seen only twice before, and harpooned him last season just off the shipping canal in Moore Haven. But the bruin death rolled enough to pull out the harpoon head and survived another season. Justin spoke of this gator being every bit of 13 feet in length. With the stage now being set, we quickly focused on the evenings hunt plan & strategies.
You have to keep in mind, that gators cresting the 11ft to 13ft marks can be 80 plus years old, so these size creatures are not stupid by far. They have experienced more hunting seasons than you would most likely experience in your life time. It’s like hunting a wise old whitetail buck. It takes patience, persistence and the desire to succeed.
We’ve been searching the swamp since our arrival on Saturday evening September 8th. We were on location for a new TV series, and had extra time at night to do some hunting. We started off on Justin’s john boat equipped with an outboard motor. We traveled the water ways and canals, seen a few good gators, but just couldn’t get close enough to make a shot with the bow. The use of bow fishing equipment with heavy fiberglass arrows, 600lb test line and a heavy hunting head limits the effective distance to about 20 to 25 yards at best.
We were hunting with a 70 pound compound bow equipped with an AMS reel and bouy, ShureShot big game fishing points and Lumenok lighted arrow nocks. Since hunting alligators on public waters takes place after 5pm and runs through 10am the next morning, most of the hunt is in darkness. The use of illuminated nocks for this type of hunting is essential to follow your shot.
Wednesday evening, September 12th, we decide to take the air boat and travel a few miles back into the deep swamp and zig zag our way back to the boat launch. We would be searching the swamp with only one spotlight that was strapped to Justin’s head. Hunting on the air boat is much different than the john boat. On the John boat, you try to sneak up on the gators and even call them by using gatorling yelps. The larger gators eat the gatorlings, so using this calling tactic sometimes works to get you close enough for a shot. As for the air boat, you travel through the darkness at speeds of 30 to 40mph, wearing clear or amber glasses to protect your eyes from bugs, we use only one spot light…the one strapped to Justin’s head. Using too many spot lights can alarm big gators to submerge. Justin pivots his head back and forth as the light casts its rays into the swamps deep darkness. The gators eyes glow in the night, like two red reflectors side by side. Justin studies the width of the eyes and determines if the gator is big enough for a closer look.
The red glowing eyes of a gator is more than an eerie