Tunnel Hill resident Ryan Fowler killed a 4-foot, 1-inch gator after a long night of bow hunting on the Altamaha River near Berrien, Ga., in late September. That actually was about the size he was looking for, because gators more than six or seven feet long tend to have tough meat.
Fowler's nearly 35-pound prize yielded 10 pounds of edible meat, and he hoped there was enough skin to have a purse made for his wife, Amy, an eighth-grade English teacher at Dalton's Valley Point Middle School.
He got that gator at about 1 a.m. He earlier put an arrow into a 10-footer, but it broke his 200-pound-test line and escaped.
"I hit him solid with the bolt," he said. "The last time I saw him he was headed down the Altamaha River, shifting from fourth gear into fifth."
Fowler's night ended about 6 a.m.
"It takes that long after you kill the gator to get it checked out with the game warden and clean it," he explained.
He would have had trouble staying another night because he needed to get back to his job in the motor carrier division of the Georgia State Highway Patrol. He studied history and law at Kennesaw State University.
Fowler, 26, applied for an alligator hunt permit each of the five years the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division, has held the population-controlling hunts, but this was the first time his name was drawn.
Assigned to Zone 7, he used an Excalibur bow with an arrow containing a special alligator point. He and guide Gary Frye of Screven, Ga., worked from a 14-foot V-hull boat with a "mud" motor on it.
"The guide said it was a good night to hunt because the tide (from the nearby Atlantic Ocean) was low," Fowler said. "When there's a high tide, the gators head back into the swampy areas and are harder to get."
He first shot his gator from about seven and a half yards.
"She took off and headed for the bank, putting up a fight for a little bit," he related. "We got her close to the boat and shot her in the head."
Pre-hunt instruction by DNR personnel emphasizes the importance of killing the animal before bringing it into the boat.
Fowler has been hunting since the age of 2 1/2, he said. He also enjoys bow hunting for deer, but job responsibilities -- and now fatherhood -- limit his time in the pursuit.
"I don't have much time to scout for deer like a lot of people do," Fowler said.
His new goal is to kill a bear.
"A friend over in Blairsville says he knows a place where he thinks I can get one," he said.