Tailgaters do it when the University of Tennessee plays the University of Florida. Georgia Bulldogs fans also do it when the Florida Gators are in town. Fans do it when LSU plays Florida and when Mississippi State plays Florida. They roast, grill, or barbecue whole alligators.
Alligator tail steaks are another favorite, the tail being the tenderloin. Harlon Pearce of Harlon’s Louisiana Seafood says that alligator tail has four cylindrical tubes of muscle, or four lobes, like tuna. “You slice that and pound it like veal, and you cannot tell the difference,” he told the Times-Picayune of New Orleans. “You can handle and treat that like a good piece of meat, even grill it.”
Donald Barkemeyer, whose renowned alligator sausage you can buy at Winn-Dixie, says he cooks alligator tail with just butter, lemon, and garlic, baking it at 350 for half an hour.
The rest of the alligator is red meat and is tougher than the tail. It’s better braised in a nice sauce, says chef Greg Sonnier.
Licensed alligator farms throughout the Southeast supply meat to grocery stores and restaurants and also ship alligator meat to various other parts of the world. And alligator hunting is legal in South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas. There is no typical way to catch alligators legally in this country.
In some places an alligator must be restrained before you shoot it; other places allow you to shoot free swimming alligators. Some places allow you to use a shotgun with #4 shot or smaller; other places prohibit shotguns altogether. In Texas you can’t use a firearm on an unrestrained alligator at all unless you’re on private property.
In Arkansas you must use a shotgun (or shotgun shell loaded bangstick) to kill the alligator, while in other places you can use a handgun of any caliber.
In Florida, once the alligator is attached to a restraining line, the only way you can shoot it is with a bangstick. Chris Eger has a tutorial on what that is:
To sketch out the broad strokes, it’s a pole with a stainless steel chamber attached to it that holds a live round of ammunition over a fixed firing pin. When you hit the dangerous end of this chamber with a good amount of oomph onto a target, it forces the round back onto the pin and out fires a projectile.
Most manufacturers use a simple cotter pin, hairpin, or braided wire thread as a physical safety so that the bangstick doesn’t go off until you really want it to. There is no trigger.
There are also no sights and no magazine or action as with other firearms. Chris Eger says even though bangsticks fire modern rimfire and centerfire rounds, the ATF does not consider them to be regulated firearms. (He cautions that if your bangstick is shorter than 26 inches and has a firing pin, you have an unregulated NFA firearm, which can land you right in the slammer.)
Unregulated alligator hunting from the nineteenth century to the 1940s nearly drove alligators in the US to extinction. In 1941 Alabama became the first state to pass legislation to protect them, and by 1967 the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) was put on the Endangered Species List. They rebounded to such an extent that they were removed from the Endangered Species List in 1987. They do remain federally protected.
In some areas, especially Florida, people see them as a nuisance.
There is also a demand for their skins and meat, so alligator hunting and farming are thriving. They do have their local ups and downs, of course. Some alligator hunters in Louisiana weren’t as enthusiastic last season as they had been in seasons past. They said that because of the overabundance of alligator skins and the economy being down, a lot of people just weren’t buying.