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Wednesday, July 10, 2024
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Python Payday

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I’ve just returned from another three-day weekend in South Florida hunting pythons and what a great trip. I got to catch and visit with a number of snakes, a good variety of native species, while nighttime hunting the Northwestern corner of the Big Cypress Unit of the Everglades. Even better, four invasive Burmese pythons were caught and removed from the ecosystem. That’s four of the most ravenous alpha predators to ever find their way into Florida’s wilderness. Be thankful they haven’t taken a foothold here in Hernando County…. yet.

One thing that really impressed me about the weekend hunting, was the numbers of other hunters out, working the backroads and levees each night. I encountered dozens of vehicles adorned with LED lightbars; everything from sportscars to minivans, and each loaded with hopeful individuals, each carrying handheld spotlights. I visited with two groups of hunters working the roadsides on foot and another trio doing their hunting from bicycles. It seems that python hunting is the new, fun pastime in that region of Florida.

Some of the nighttime, python hunting is surely being stimulated by Outdoor writers and television shows. I know I get a lot of interest from people wanting to learn to hunt them. But there’s also a very quickly growing demand for the leather. Fashion insiders are once again embracing leather and python leather, especially that of wild-caught, invasive Burmese pythons from our Everglades. You can find anything from bikinis and boots to wallets and guitar straps being made and these products are in great demand. To fill that demand, as well as to make a few extra dollars in their spare time, people are hitting the road to the Glades. But is it really that big of a payday? Is it a good way to get rich quick?

No. There are a lot of Burmese pythons, but it takes many hours of dedication to the hunt. I read once that in a breakdown of hunters’ successes, licensed contractors with professional training and years of experience may average one snake for every eight hours of hunting. Whereas, rookies just showing up with a spotlight and a dream, can take up to twenty hours of hunting before locating each python. Cash isn’t the only reward, though, as there’s pride in knowing that you are on the frontlines defending our native wildlife.

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And there is great reward in just being there. Some of Florida’s last unspoiled wildlands are found in the Everglades and the beauty of the place never fails to make an impression on my heart. When you see those painted sunsets over the River of Grass, it’s not hard to think that right there in the Glades is where the Good Lord’d hang His hat. So, when He finally calls this Cracker home… I won’t have far to go. As always, I’d love to hear from you if you have any questions or comments about this week’s column or just would like to share a story of your own at [email protected]. God Bless, and good hunting!

Toby Benoit is a best selling novelist and professional outdoors-man 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.

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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