Madison County Man Lands Big Gator in Real-life ‘Swamp People’ Adventure

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Gator Hunter, Mark Vickers (left), and buddy, Frank Petrillo (right). Photo Provided By: Mark Vickers

Gator Hunter, Mark Vickers (left), and buddy, Frank Petrillo (right). Photo Provided By: Mark Vickers

NEW MARKET, Ala. (WHNT) – Thousands of people have pledged their allegiance to the ‘Swamp Nation’ and proudly follow weekly cable episodes featuring ‘King of the Swamp’ star, Troy Landry.  But, few people in Alabama actually get to experience an action-packed alligator hunt in real life.

At least one Madison County man is feeling like he might be figuratively crowned the prince of the swamp following a weekend hunting adventure in south Alabama.

Mark Vickers is still smiling days after he harvested his first gator – a big one at that, measuring 11’4” and weighing 460 pounds.

Vickers got randomly drawn by the state for one of 50 tags available in the west-central hunt zone near Selma.

The gator season for that zone is a total of six nights.

“In all honesty, it’s probably one of those once in a lifetime adventures, ” said Vickers.

Vickers and his buddy, Frank Petrillo, planned for months for the hunt.

The season opened Thursday, August 15, at 8 p.m.

Due to a series of mishaps like forgetting to fuel up the boat, Vickers and Petrillo did not get on the water of the Alabama River as early as they would have liked.

“I had scouted the river several weeks prior,” Vickers said.  “But, I was not as familiar with this body of water as I would like to be for maneuvering a boat in the middle of night.”

Fortune must have been on their side.  They spotted the gator within eight minutes of being on the water.

But, as we all know, luck has its ups and downs.

Unlike the cable show “Swamp People” which is based in Louisiana, Alabama gator hunters have to first restrain the gator before they can dispatch a fatal gun shot.  Doing that, involves a variety of tactics which can include a fishing pole, a bow and arrow, and a harpoon to name a few.

In the process of trying to capture the gator, Vickers landed in the murky river water.  “I figured if I plunged the harpoon alongside the fishing line there would be a gator there.  And, since my harpoon shaft was a little short, I thrusted and ‘airballed’ with great vigor and ended up following the harpoon.  I went all the way to the bottom head first.”

Vickers scrambled and quickly got back in the boat.  He said he thought to himself, “This isn’t where I want to be.  I need back in that boat.”

Once safe, Vickers said his hunting partner, Petrillo,  protectively proclaimed, “Don’t worry, I wasn’t going to let you go anywhere.  I would have gotten a grappling hook in you.”

About two hours later, Vickers and Petrillo pulled into the official check station at Roland Cooper State Park with their gator and a lifetime of memories.

“I’m going to tan the hide, mount the skull and eat the meat,” said Vickers.

When asked what he learned from his first gator hunting experience, Vickers replied, “Patience.  We were trying to go too fast to get him in the boat.  You just need to settle down and let it all play out like fighting a big fish.”

Editor’s Note: The author of this story is the wife of the hunter.