24-Hour Hunting, Use of Airbows Proposed for Florida’s Alligator Season

by Amy Myers
(Photo by James Abernethy/Future Publishing/Getty Images)

Beginning this summer, Florida residents may have the chance to extend alligator hunting all hours of the day. Additionally, they may even be able to use a new type of arsenal – an airbow. At a meeting on Wednesday, The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission expressed a desire to change the season’s hours. If the new rule receives approval at the May meeting, the change will go into effect beginning August 15.

The proposal first came to Florida lawmakers’ attention late last year when the state’s Fish and Wildlife department suggested the new hunting schedule. Florida currently has 1.3 million gators, which tend to be more active after sunset. Currently, gator hunting hours are 5 p.m. to 10 a.m. Opening up the season’s hours would certainly in higher tag numbers, but there has been pushback regarding certain aspects of the new rules.

For Robb Upthegrove, a Florida resident and alligator hunter, his concern lies with the airbows. The purpose of pre-charged pneumatic airbows with tethered lines is to replace or add to the use of bait lines. The airbow allows the Florida hunter to draw the alligator closer, not to deliver a fatal shot to the reptile. Once the hunter has the reptile close enough, they use a rifle to kill it. While the airbow could be a complete game-changer for gator hunters, Upthegrove worries that in the wrong hands, the tool can be as powerful as a rifle.

“It’s a great tool,” Upthegrove told Citrus County Chronicle. “But if it’s not used right, it could cause issues in the future.”

Some Florida Officials Worry Airbows Are Too Powerful for Alligator Hunting

Upthegrove isn’t the only one concerned about the strength of the airbow. Commissioner Steven Hudson also worries that some hunters could turn the tool into a weapon.

“The intent is similar to the harpoon where it just pierces the skin, and they’re able to pull the gator in,” Hudson said. “If you do set it up, and you hit the gator in the right place, it could be lethal. And that’s not the intent.”

Already, Florida allows for other tethered-line tools like crossbows, bows, snatch hooks and harpoons. But unlike these devices, airbows use an external source of pressurized air to fire the bolt. An airbow consistently shoots at 450 FPS, while a crossbow fires from 150 to 400 FPS.

Meanwhile, Brooke Talley, the commission’s alligator management program coordinator, believes the change in hours and addition of the airbow will increase accessibility to the hunting season.

“These program improvements will increase opportunity and flexibility for hunters, while providing greater clarity in the rule language,” Talley said.

In response to smaller concerns, like meat spoiling during new daytime hunting hours, Talley already has a troubleshoot in place.

“We believe that [these problems] can be mitigated with additional planning and outreach,” Talley said. “For example, meat spoilage prevention tips are already available on our website.”