STUTTGART – As a hunter, Blakely Stovesand was keen on the challenge of hunting dangerous game, but she also wanted something unusual and generally inaccessible to even the most affluent big game hunters.
Hunting buffalo and leopards in Africa is exciting, but many people do it. Anyone can if they have the money. Stovesand was looking for something dark and menacing, something she should face in her own element, on her own terms.
She didn’t have to travel far to find him. Alligators, although out of the reach of most hunters, inhabit the waterways of southeast Arkansas.
Stovesand, 16, a junior at Stuttgart high school, is part of the university’s cheering team. She plays soccer and dances. She is also passionate about hunting ducks, doves, deer, pigs and wild turkeys. His brother Mitchell, also 20 years old. Both are very accomplished on the pitch, but Blakely wanted to raise the bar on their sibling rivalry. For example, Mitchell killed a 12 point buck. Blakely wouldn’t rest until she also got 12 points.
âMine had a wider spread,â Blakely said.
Competition is not Blakely’s main motivation. She is driven by a deep love for the hunt.
âI guess I grew up around hunting and always thought it was so cool, and now I love it,â Stovesand said. “I really got into it when my brother started killing deer. It’s all a competition between us. I had to beat him.”
Mitchell Stovesand had widened his lead by killing a 6-foot-long alligator. Blakely decided to have a bigger one.
âI killed so many ducks and deer that I was kind of like, I need something new,â Stovesand said. “I told my dad three years ago that I wanted to go alligator hunting.”
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission issues landowners like Sloan Hampton of Stuttgart a number of private landowner alligator tags. They share them with friends. A private land alligator hunting license is a hot ticket, so a hopeful friend has to be patient, really patient. Hampton put Stovesand on his list, and in 2021, his time has finally come.
How does someone who has never hunted alligators train for an alligator hunt? Always resourceful, Stovesand cut off the top of a pole saw and shaped it into a dummy harpoon. She drew X’s in the middle of cardboard plates and practiced stabbing the plates. This way she learned to split properly and lean in the push, much like one does when wiggling bullfrogs. She fine-tuned her aim until she felt sure she could ram a dot into a target considerably larger than a bullfrog and much more dangerous.
Stovesand’s chief assistant was Jason Berry. Stovesand put a thick leather belt around her waist, which she borrowed from her mother. Berry latched onto the belt to keep Stovesand from falling overboard or being pulled overboard. It was careful.
âWhen I stabbed the alligator I fell because the alligator had so much power,â Stovesand said. “Mr. Jason kept me from going in the water.”
Before the climax, there was a lot of waiting and a fair amount of futility. Hampton Reservoir is teeming with alligators, including giants. Stovesand and his assistants idled around the tank, lighting up the red eyes of the alligators basking just below the surface.
âWe would stop towards them and they would go underwater,â Stovesand said. “I hit one in the wrong place and didn’t get it. They all started to go underwater and I couldn’t see them.”
It was time to take it a few steps down and regroup. The hunters turned off their lights and relaxed for about 90 minutes before resuming the search.
âWe turned on the light and saw one, but it fell under the water,â Stovesand said. “I saw another one and I was like, ‘Oh, that’s gonna be it!’ All I could see were eyes staring at me. I was like, ‘Oh, wow!’ I stabbed him under the front arm, because it’s a weak spot. “
The harpoon dived deep and got stuck. The alligator reacted violently and ripped Stovesand from his feet.
âIf I hadn’t put on that belt, I would have been in the water,â Stovesand said. âAfter I fell I got up and the alligator started pulling the boat. It was like we were on a roller coaster. It pulled the boat for about eight minutes.â
The alligator began to roll. When he looked tired, Berry pulled him to the surface.
âThe tail started to come up. It looked like a dinosaur,â Stovesand said. “I was scared. I had never seen this before. My adrenaline was skyrocketing. Mr. Jason said to me, ‘Get back here and shoot this thing!’ ‘Https: //www.arkansasonline.com/ news / 2021 / sep / 26 / the-alligator-hunt-is-for-girls / “
As Stovesand fired, the alligator struggled. Stovesand’s 20-gauge shotgun roared and a hot charge of No. 5 pellet stirred a geyser.
âWe got drenched,â Stovesand said.
Everyone in the boat was screaming, stomping and barking orders. Chaos reigned as Berry brought the gator to the surface again.
“Mr. Jason said,” When I tell you to shoot, shoot! âhttps://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2021/sep/26/gator-hunting-is-for-girls/,â Stovesand said. “The alligator started rolling again, but Mr. Jason picked it up again. This time I pulled it just behind the eye.”
The alligator was 10 feet, 8 inches long. Stovesand said about 10 to 12 inches of his tail had been bitten. The group transported him to a taxidermist in McGehee. Stove and she raises her head, and she intends to turn part of the skin into a pair of boots. It converts the rear skin into a wall support. She said she didn’t choose any meat products.
The adventure made Stovesand an overnight celebrity in Stuttgart.
âEverywhere I go, people say, ‘Hey, alligator hunter’ or ‘Good job, monster slayer’, https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2021/sep/26/gator-hunting- is-for-girls / “Stovesand said. “It’s a great accomplishment because it’s different. Few people will ever have the opportunity to kill an alligator.”
Despite the excitement, or perhaps because of it, the chase has scratched an itch that seems to be intensifying.
“When we took him to the taxidermist, I saw an elephant hanging on the wall, and I was like, ‘Daddy, I really need to kill an elephant now!’ He looked at me like I was crazy. If I don’t go with him, I might have a chance to go myself one day. “
If she can stop her brother from doing it first.