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2023 Python Challenge Wrap

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The Florida Python Challenge 2023 has ended, and already I’m making plans for next year. This competition, among those who can catch and remove Burmese Pythons from our Everglades, has been quite successful at bringing awareness to the plight of our native wildlife as well as removing good numbers of the serpents. I didn’t win this year, but I had a great time doing it.
This year, several friends joined me. Most of whom I met for the first time arrived in the Glades to gather up and go over our game plan. To round out our group, I had been invited to star in a documentary film about the pythons and found each member of the film crew to be fantastic, and I’m blessed to now call them each my friends.

Yes, I did catch snakes, but no, I didn’t win. In fact, the first python I caught during the competition, I didn’t turn in. I thought it would be more fun to clean it and cook it up for everybody. That made for a wonderfully memorable evening before I headed back out in search of more pythons, which I did for ten nights in a row. Each night I would begin my hunt with my companions in the truck, followed by cameras. But once we reached the early morning hours, everyone headed off to the motel, and I’d hunt for the next four to five hours solo. Those hours, just before sunrise, proved to be especially productive. Not only did I catch pythons then, but I had my most frequent encounters with native snakes as well. Scarlet Kings, banded Water Snakes, Yellow Rat Snakes, Black Snakes and Cottonmouth Water Moccasins. I caught and visited with each one before releasing them unharmed. There’s simply no better practice for catching snakes; than catching snakes.

I talked with a few of the pros over the week, members of the South Florida Water Management District’s team of licensed python removal contractors. These folks are at the forefront of the war on invasive species, and they each delivered great observations about the future of our Everglades. It’s believed that the efforts of all of the python hunters are beginning to pay off. They’re beginning to see more small-game wildlife returning. That gives them hope that their efforts have not been in vain.

I hope our Everglades recover one day. There really is no place else on earth quite like it, and there are even fewer still places that hold such beauty. On my last night of snaking in the Glades, I pulled over and watched the sunrise. I felt as if heaven was revealing itself. I’m confident that there are no streets of gold or gates of pearl, but cypress and palm studd-shaded islands dotting a flowing river of grass for just as far as a fella could want to see. It’s got the sounds of GA bullfrogs, frogs and birds singing out their songs of good morning as the sky bursts with golden hues of purple, pink and blue. That’s my Heaven.

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I wish I could have shared that morning with each and every one of you. Now, if you have any questions or comments, please give me a shout at [email protected]. God Bless, and good hunting!

Toby Benoit
Toby Benoit
Toby Benoit is a best selling novelist and professional outdoorsman with thirty-five years of experience guiding and outfitting for big game all across America. Toby is a renowned archer and turkey hunting expert who manufactures custom game calls and is a regular judge at NWTF sanctioned turkey calling events across the Southeast.
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