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By: Wendy Spaeth

Working at AMS Bowfishing, I hear about a lot of bowfishing adventures!  Everything from carp in Wisconsin to beavers in Finland to gators in Florida, but never did I expect that I would get to participate in one of these adventures!  I mean, my job duties include answering phones, entering orders and customer service.  Not bowfishing for alligators!  Well, in the fall of 2022, that all changed!

Most of my life, I have lived in Wisconsin.  I enjoy camping in the summer and ice fishing in the winter.  Working at AMS, I have participated in employee bowfishing day but would not consider myself a hard-core outdoorswoman, so to be honest, a gator hunt was a little scary for me.  But I put that fear aside and boarded a plane destined for Orlando, Florida!

We arrived in Florida and immediately headed to the lake to watch some gator hunting.  I watched from the chase boat, a boat used to assist the hunting boat if needed, taking it all in.  The beautiful scenery, the croaking frogs, and the words of gator wisdom from our guide.  As darkness fell upon us, the hunt was on.  As the spotlight floated across the water, gator eyes could be seen staring our way as if they were hunting us!  I watched as Matt Schillinger of AMS and Skull Bound TV’s Jana Waller trolled the waters looking for the perfect shot.  The night hunt was a success!  As they pulled a gator onto their boat, reality set in.  In less than 24 hours, I would be the hunter!

Daylight gator hunting is different than night hunting.  Rather than going to the gator, we used baby alligator sounds to call them to us.  These sounds mean a delicious lunch to a male gator while these sounds trigger a female gator’s protective instincts, and she races to the sounds ready to chase off whatever is trying to harm the babies.  As the baby alligator sounds played, we sat patiently, scanning for movement in the cattails or water indicating one of these beautiful monsters could be heading our way.  As the first gator made its way through the cattails toward the boat, I could feel my heart race!  My mind went in many different directions.  What if I miss?  What if I hit it?  What if I fall off the boat?  How big could it be?  “Gator fever” set in and by time this creature reached the boat, I had lost track of it and didn’t even get a shot!

I told myself that next time I would try to relax a bit more and do my best to keep my eye on it until I was ready for the shot!  As gator number two headed my way, many of the same thoughts ran through my mind but this time I wasn’t going to let adrenaline get the best of me!  I raised my crossbow, took aim, and shot!  Only to have the line grab a cattail, stop the bolt midflight, and drop it in the water just short of the gator.  The gator floated motionless in the water, just its eyes visible, analyzing the situation.  Suddenly with a flip of his tail, fear got the best of him, and he was gone!

My hunt for the day was coming to an end and I had one more opportunity to make my trip a successful one!  As the baby gator sounds played, a splash could be heard from behind the boat indicating that something heard the calls.  Turned facing the rear of the boat, we scanned the thick cattails looking for movement.  It seemed like it took forever for the gator to make its way through the cattail maze.  As the gator swam just feet away from the boat, I was ready!  I aimed, shot, and heard our guide say, “She hit him!”.  In an instant, my first gator hunt was a successful one.  My gator wasn’t a record, and I didn’t fall into the water but I will never forget the amazing rush I felt that day on that lake in Florida!