[PHOTO CREDITS: Provided]
(This husband and wife team — a sheriff’s deputy and a paralegal — play hard.)
If you have ever met David Causey or his wife Kim at their day jobs, you may not believe they buy lamb lungs and put them outside in a five-gallon bucket to rot. On purpose. Why, you ask? Interviews and courtrooms by day and alligator hunters by night; David, a Lake County Sheriff’s Office property crimes detective and Kim, a paralegal for more than 20 years (she’s since left the legal field) trade in their business attire for camouflage and bang sticks.
The couple met in 2014 and have been married just over three years. Kim never hunted a day in her life before meeting David. “I never hunted before I met David, but I did love the outdoors…camping, horses, boating. Now I really enjoy hunting. It’s a family thing,” Kim told Lake Legal News (back when this article first began to be written). “In addition to hunting, David also taught me how to scuba dive. We eat off the land and the sea. “She was a city girl,” David laughs.
Hunting alligators for nearly 25 years, Causey’s knowledge of the massive reptiles is amazing and he knows their habits like the back of his hand. He shares his knowledge through his company, Light ’em Up Adventures. He offers waterfowl hunting, gator hunting, inshore and offshore fishing and scuba trips. He’s an outdoorsman at heart.
Causey took LLN on two different hunts back in October of 2017, along with Kim and his 16-year-old son, Dakota. (The first night out was Umatilla High School’s Homecoming game and Dakota didn’t mind missing it at all. “I’d much rather be here,” Causey’s son stated then.) David attempted to hunt in the St. Johns River, but the access road was still flooded from Hurricane Irma a full 6 weeks after she made landfall. Causey explained what a devastating effect Irma had on the entire ecosystem. “It flooded everything and brought too much water in. It dispersed gators where they’re not usually dispersed and made the hunting harder,” the eldest Causey said. “It also killed a lot of gators. The runoff has more pollution than most people think.”
Causey also explained another hurricane-related consequence: Numerous fish also ended up dead, and that’s never a good thing for an alligator hunter. The alligators had a bountiful feast for weeks and less competition due to the deaths from pollution. That made them less likely to grab the bait the Causeys had set.
After getting turned around at the St. Johns we made our way to Alexander Springs Run. David captained the boat while Dakota looked for targets, and Kim waited. Before Dakota even popped open the bucket, the smell of the lamb lung was permeating. It was so bad, you could taste it. We spotted one David believed to be about 11 feet long. How did he know that? You can measure an alligator’s size by its head. The inches from its eye to the bump on its nose equates to feet from nose to the tip of its tail. While the state allows the harvesting of an alligator 18 inches long or more, David’s rule is no less than six feet. “We like to go for the bigger gators,” he told LLN back in 2017. “The bigger the gator the better the price.”
Alligator hunting isn’t as lucrative as it once was. In 2016, David was getting $29 per foot for the hide and in 2017 — at the time of our hunt — it was just $12. David said shows like The History Channel’s “Swamp People” have made it too popular. “Everybody is a gator hunter now,” he said at the time.
There are numerous rules on hunting alligators. While you can scout alligators at any time of day, you can only harvest them from 5 p.m. to 10 a.m. Allowing scouting during any hours, is helpful; alligators are territorial and tend to stay in the same general area. When using raw meat such as the rotten lamb lung the Causeys used, you are not allowed to use a hook. You must use a wooden peg. It may not seem like a wooden peg would catch an alligator, but Causey explained how it works. Alligators have a palatal valve at the back of their mouths that close to prevent them from drowning when they go under water. When an alligator swallows the peg, it becomes lodged in the valve and you can pull the alligator to the boat. When the alligator reaches the boat, you shoot it in the back of the head with a bang stick. A bang stick is a specialized underwater firearm designed to be fired upon direct contact. It is the only firearm allowed in alligator hunting in Florida.
Alligator hunting isn’t cheap. When LLN accompanied the Causeys on the 2017 hunt, a trapping license cost $272 and included two tags. One tag equals one alligator. The Causeys purchased an additional eight at $250 each, the maximum number allowed. Licenses are distributed countywide in 65 of the 67 Florida counties; Miami-Dade and Monroe do not issue countywide tags. Licenses can be as few as two in Broward County and as many as 408 in Lake. (Lake County has the highest number of permits in the state.)
Alligators are ectothermic; they need an outside heat source to warm their reptilian bodies. They stop eating when the temperature falls below 70 degrees and they go completely dormant when the temperature is below 55 degrees. They spend most of the winter seasons in dens, burrowed down in the mud. When the Causeys took LLN out, they still had two tags left and only 11 days in the season with an impending cold front just a few days away. They ended the season without fulfilling their last two tags.
The Causey family obviously was disappointed when they didn’t ‘land a gator’ back in 2017 during the time LLN tagged along—and so the shut-out led to a renewed invitation for the future. Unfortunately, as LLN was gearing up to join the hunt during this most recent 2019 season, the husband and wife team learned that this time around they weren’t permit lottery winners. Around 10,000 people apply for alligator hunting permits each year and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) only awards around 6,000. For the Causeys, there is no getting on the gator scoreboard this year; however LLN has an open invitation for the next time they do receive a permit.
Our Editor-in-Chief, Marilyn M. Aciego, began writing for Lake Legal News in 2010. In addition, she has made more than two dozen appearances on live national television, including Nancy Grace and the Greta Van Susteren show, along with her appearance on Evil Twins. Contact her with breaking news, tips, and feedback by sending an e-mail to 352Tips@gmail.com. You can also contact us on our Facebook page — and make sure you “Like” and “Follow us” there. [PHOTO CREDIT: Bonnie Whicher]