Record Breaker: Brothers Dustin Bockman, from left, Ryan Bockman and friend Cole Landers in 2013 stand behind their record setting alligator weighing in at 727 pounds.
Mississippi's alligator hunters can start buying permits tomorrow, but they'll have to move fast.
The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks (MDWFP) has changed the process for issuing permits from a drawing to a first-come, first-served online sale.
Ricky Flynt, the MDWFP's alligator program coordinator, said the elimination of the drawing is intended to require people to put up the money for the permit before obtaining one.
"We've discovered that about 25 percent of the hunters every year are not participating in the hunts annually," Flynt said. "Nothing has changed in alligator hunting season, except we've done away with the drawing and the process you obtain the permits."
Only 920 permits will be available when they're offered for sale starting tomorrow at 9 a.m. at mdwfp.com.
The 2015 Mississippi public waters alligator hunting season begins August 28 and runs through September 7.
Permits are now limited to residents only, and each person limited to one permit in a hunting zone of their choice, if available. Payment for the possession permit and the alligator hunting license must be submitted immediately and is non-refundable and non-transferable.
To be eligible for an alligator permit, hunters must be at least 16 years old and have a valid Mississippi combination hunting or fishing license.
Hunting permits will now cost $150 and will require the additional purchase of a $25 alligator license. Each permit will allow hunters to harvest two alligators over 4 feet long, and only one gator 7 feet long.
Mandatory attendance for the alligator hunting training class has not be voluntary.
Flynt said the class has been around for 10 years and 5,000 people have been trained in the alligator hunting process.
"Majority of those people were not first time alligator hunts. They've been involved with the process and are familiar," Flynt said. "We still have the course for the first time hunters. We saw no need to require those people to attend if they knew those processes before hand,"
Course topics include alligator biology, research projects, legal capturing and dispatching methods, skinning, and processing.
Last year there were 682 gators harvested in Mississippi. While there's no way to gauge the number of expected gators this year, Flynt hopes participation and the number of harvest gators will go up.
"With higher river levels during alligator season, traditionally it seems to provide for better access to the hunters and increase their success," Flynt said.