Lakecaster Online

Outdoors With Keith Warren
By Keith Warren

 

With so many trips this time of year on my schedule, I asked one of my staff members to attend an event on my behalf and submit a story. The following is from my fishing show producer, Pat Buchta.

I am fortunate enough to have my dream job at a relatively young age. Every week I am challenged to create an entertaining, educational story out of a fishing experience that Keith has had. But it is about so much more than just fishing. It is the people and places we see along the way that make
each show unique.

Occasionally, we see and experience things that cannot be accurately described within the confines of a thirty-minute television show. The Gatorfest, held Sept. 15th and 16th, was one of those things.

When Keith asked me to cover the annual Gatorfest in Anuahac, Texas, I have to admit I was a bit nervous. Images of alligators eating small children and dogs flew through my head. But my sense of adventure got the better of me and I accepted the assignment without hesitation. Just 45 minutes past Houston, on the East side of Galveston bay lies the small bayou village of a Anahuac. It was here that I witnessed my first alligator hunt, and met some of the warmest, friendliest people I have ever come across.

Early in the afternoon, I hooked up with Gary Pigg, A Miller Beer representative who arranged for me to film a group checking their gator traps early the next morning. In the meantime, I had a lot of time to kill, so I wandered around the park for several hours getting footage of kids on carnival
rides, country bands and arts & crafts while meeting the locals and filling up on Cajun cuisine. Everyone here seemed to be having a great time, and I could pick up on the excitement that buzzed around the crowd in anticipation of the next day's hunts. Finally, at 10:30 PM. I was introduced to the
man I would accompany on the next morning's gator hunt.

One of the organizers of the Gatorfest took me up to the dancing area and called out, "D.D.! There's somebody here you've got to meet!" From out of the crowd a lively middle aged fellow two-steps with his wife and shakes my hand briefly. This guy looked like he was having a really good time, so I figured I would wait to talk until the next morning.

Finally my friends from Miller had cleaned up the Beirgarten for the following day's festivities and after a late night brisket sandwich from a local merchant, I followed Gary to our accommodations of the evening. We stayed in a room above a rustic old bar located back on a bayou channel. Our sleep was all too brief, but the first cool front of the season blew in that morning and I awoke to a brilliant sunrise over the channel that seemed even sharper in the cool morning air. I could tell this would be a good day.
Gary bought me a much needed cup of black coffee and took me to the East Bay Hunting Lodge to meet my guide, owner D. D. Leggott. We actually arrived at the lodge before D. D. It seems that he had gone to an after hours BBQ that resulted in riding around in an air boat until five that morning.

Going on only two hours of sleep, this man looked remarkably well and was instantly engaging and friendly. (I'm certain that the Gatorfest was an exception to this man's normal sleeping schedule.) As his young sons and their friends prepared for our trip into the marsh, D. D. made me feel at home at once by telling me all about his family, hunting lodge and how the recent drought had almost completely dried two reservoirs.
This was amazing considering he still has the largest concentrated population of mallard ducks in Texas. At eight-thirty we drove out to the first spot where several hunters had already come to check their traps.

Already, three gators were piled in the back of the hunters' trucks. They proceeded to check the next trap, while I filmed the event, and low and behold, a twelve-foot alligator rose up from the banks, snapping and thrashing about. If you've never seen a gator of this size, it really is an
unbelievable sight to behold. This one probably weighed about seven or eight hundred pounds, and reassembled some sort of prehistoric creature. Judging from the huge alligator gar breaking up the surface all around, I felt as if I actually was in Jurassic park.

Chambers County has the largest population of gators concentrated in one region in Texas. For every one human in the county, there are more than twice as many gators. Hunting alligators here is not a leisure sport, it is a necessity. The populations of gators in Chambers County is so dense that
natural habitats that are home to other species of animals are being destroyed. Also, it is not uncommon for alligators, pushed out from their own natural habitat by over populations, to wind up in someone's backyard, endangering their safety.

The number of gators harvested every year is closely monitored. Landowners like D. D. are issued a certain number of tags that they sell to hunters each gator season. With alligators, as all animals, there is no room for an inhumane kill. They must be put down as quickly and efficiently as
possible for the safety of the hunters as well as to preserve the quality of the hides. And once these animals are dressed, nothing is wasted. This process alone employs many workers in this region.

The Gatorfest, then, is more of a reverent party than anything else, parallel to the great feasts Native Americans would hold after a successful hunt. To them, as to the good people of Anahuac, the animal represented prosperity and safety of the entire tribe. It's true that nature exists with or
without us. But it is our responsibility as enlightened human beings to help that balance along when needed so that all creatures, great and small, will have a place of their own.

After a tasty lunch of grilled croker (who would've imagined?) at a friends' home, D. D. and I drove around the area for what seemed like hours as we made several gator-related errands and talked about the history of the region, environmental issues related to the marshes, and whatever else under the sun that came up. D. D. was definitely one of the most intelligent and interesting people I've met in some time, and I was sad to leave. But as the first cool winds of the fall blow in next year, I know where I'll be. For fowl and gator hunting, contact D. D. Leggott at the Easy Bay Hunting Lodge (409) 252-3201.

Keith Warren is the host of Fishing & Outdoor Adventures (formerly known as The Texas Angler Television Show) along with Hunting & Outdoor Adventures, both of which broadcast statewide. Catch Fishing & Outdoor Adventures from January through June and Hunting & Outdoor Adventures from July through December on Fox Sports Southwest Cable Network on Sundays at 8:30 AM CST. You an write to Keith Warren at P.O. Box 310379, New Braunfels, TX 78131-0379 or visit on-line at www.fishingandoutdoor.com.

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