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Field-judging a Gator’s Length

Gators, like this monster that Haley took on her trip, take hours of careful glassing and a skilled eye to judge how a big a gator is on the water because so little of the animal actually shows. Here’s how outfitter Corby Durrell does it.

While Florida is loaded with alligators, locating a trophy takes time. Corby Durrell likes to start with small sloughs and roadside ditches. Gators can be cagey, so he likes to glass from a distance to avoid spooking any potential trophies.

Judging this gator’s length is almost impossible because so little of the animal is showing. Durrell looks to the distance from the eyes to the tip of the snout as a guide. The longer that distance is, the bigger the gator will be.

When judging Haley’s trophy on the water, Corby Durrell estimated the gator to be around 12 feet long because the distance from the gator’s nose to its eyes was about a foot long. Sure enough, the gator taped out right at 12 feet.

Twelve feet, from tip of nose to tip of tail, is what Haley’s trophy ultimately measured. This was a truly mature gator. Durrell estimated its weight to be somewhere between 600 and 700 pounds and it was probably more than 60 years old.

Shots on gators take precision marksmanship. As Haley learned, the best place to aim is right behind the eye when it is perpendicular to you; right between the eyes when facing you and right in the center of the head if it is facing away.