Harpoon Poles and Darts (Point)
Harpoon poles and points are the primary way to attach a line to the alligator. In the simplest of forms there is a peg on the end of a pole that is used to hold a point until it is driven into the alligator. The point has a cable attached to it and then is attached to a rope and buoy. Many of the State's manuals on alligator hunting have drawings of sample points and drivers to attach them to. We have found this design to work great. The most important thing to make any point work is it must be driven through the hide. When using a harpoon make sure to drive the point straight into the gator. When trying to harpoon a gator close to the boat some people tend to rake gator with the harpoon pulling toward the boat instead of driving it straight into the gator. This is a common cause of a bent push pin. A stainless pin is usally not to difficult to bend back.
Harpoon poles either sink or float. If they sink then you better hang onto them unless you have a line attached to them. We prefer wooden dowels that are readily available from a Lowes or Home Depot. Even with a heavy head on the end of the dowel it will float with the end of it sticking up out of the water. I met a person a few years ago and he was telling me how they could sneak up on the gators but they would go down just before he got in range of his ten foot piece of conduit that would sink like a rock. By switching to a pole he was not afraid to throw, therfore, his success rate went way up.
Some custom poles are created in such a way that a push point is directly threaded into the pole. A wooden pole allows you attach a driver head and push point onto the pole. This also allows components to be replaced as needed. If you use the equipment a lot it is just a matter of time before you step on a pole and break it or bend a push point when the gator starts to roll after you stick him. We primarily use two different designs of drivers. The first is a piece of iron water pipe and an end cap. A hole is drilled in the endcap and the push point is bolted to the end cap. These drivers are great for the poles that we throw or drive into the gators. They are heavy duty and I have never had to replace one due to breakage. We use flat end caps because it is much easier to keep the driver pointing straight out. Getting a point straight on a rounded cap is much harder. The other design is that we weld two fender washers to the end of a piece of conduit. This is much lighter and we use it when we are running and gunning on an airboat. We are hitting the gators going pretty fast and the lighter head allows us to have better control when using it one-handed while driving the airboat with the other hand. We put it on a much longer pole so that it can be used from the top seats of the airboat like if you were frog gigging.
When we first started out we were using a 1/4 in. stainless bolt with the head cut off as a push point. We broke many and the most common point of failure is where the treads start on the bolt. The metal is not as thick there and will snap or bend when you try to drive a point through the scoots of a big gator. We tried hardened bolts that were not stainless and they broke less but they would get rusty during the season. We would have to keep up with them so that the tips will release easily after the alligator is stuck. Now we use a 3/8 in stainless bolt that is turned down to accept the point. This works great and failure rates are low. When we first started to turn down the bolt we did it on a grinder with crude but effective results. We found ourselves making equipment for various friends that were getting started and decided to step it up and purchased a lathe.
For tips we use 3/8 in. round stainless steel rod in the design as is in the Florida alligator hunting handbook. This design works great for us. We find that the flared back part of the design ensures that it catches the inside of the hide and makes the point turn sideways. Pay close attention to the side hole where the cable goes through the dart. We counter sink the hole so that the cable will not get cut as it is driven through the scutes. Most vendors do not take the time to do this. We also double crimp each end of all of our darts. We have had people purchase from us after having someone elses dart come off of the end of the cable. We also offer Muzzy Gator Getter tips. These tips do well on marginal shots but have a much higher failure rate. The metal is thin where the push pin goes in and where the cable goes through the dart. We have seen darts snap in half or have the back end blow out. New to our lineup is a toggle dart with a Muzzy tip. We did extensive testing in 2012 with this dart and had it in the had of a few guides. It performed well with no failures.
When it comes to ropes and buoys we have used a varity of different things. We have used rope 1/4 inch and up. The smaller rope works fine but is a little harder on the hands when you are working a big gator. For buoys we have used round and oval styrofoam buoys. They have held up great even when a gator decided to bite it. Some people will use milk jugs or bleach jugs. Just make sure that you fill them with foam. If you get a puncture or crack in the jug and you have not filled it with foam they will fill with water. Also remember most of the foam in cans will expand. Different brands will expand at different rates so make sure if you go this route you allow for the fact that you may overfill them.
When you are hunting it is important to keep the the ropes from getting tangled up expecially in one's feet. One way is to use a five gallon bucket. Put the buoy in and then feed in the rope on top. When you stick the gator he will take off pulling your rig. As you go to pull him up you feed it all back into the bucket.
If you are in a boat that can not navigate easily through heavy weeds then you may want to drill a hole through your throw pole and feed the rope through it. The upside is that when the gator starts to run into the weeds he will be working hard to pull the pole through the weeds. The downside is if you want to stick him again you will need another pole. If you do not run the rope through the pole you can use the same driver to stick him again with another tip. We generally have three poles on board. Depending on where the first harpoon gets into him and how big he is determines if we will stick him again. If you can get a dart in the neck close to the head you will have good control over him.