To ATN’s X-Sight contest winners Derek Billiot and his son Lil’ Derek, wrestling alligators in the murky water of the bottomless Belle Chasse, Louisiana, swamps and zooming through the tall, ghostly cypress trees, while listening to the roar of the massive airboat fan, is as natural as sitting around a campfire and telling lies about “that fish that got away” is to most people.
“Look, I’ve had close calls, but you don’t understand who you’re talking to. I’ve been messing with alligators before Steve Irwin was on TV. I actually swim with alligators. You develop a bond with ‘em like you do with your dog or your cat. They all have different personalities. You learn which ones are safe and which ones aren’t. I may be crazy, but I’m not dumb; there are some huge gators that are pretty laid back and then there are some that are only three or 4 feet long that I won’t get in the water with because they have the wrong personality, if you know what I mean,” said Billiot.
The first time Billiot swam with an alligator was in 2002. He started out swimming with smaller alligators around 6 or 7 feet long, but has since moved on and now regularly swims with full grown alligators which are around 10 or 12 feet long. An American alligator exerts an average bite force of around 2,980 PSI, which is around three times the bite force of an African lion or hyena.
“I’ve been bit plenty of times. It’s inevitable when you’re wrestling alligators. It’s kind of like grabbing your dog or cat by the tail; eventually it’s going to get mad and snap at you. If you get bit, the biggest thing is don’t move, you let that alligator let you go. An alligator is never satisfied with its first bite and will always go for a better bite and when they do, you pull your arm out. Really, they’re more afraid of you than you are of them,” Billiot advised.
According to Billiot, wrestling an alligator and getting bit is one thing, but feeding an alligator and getting bit is an entirely different thing because this time the bite isn’t a warning. That alligator is playing for keeps.
“One time, when I was feeding them from the boat, one jumped up a little faster and higher than usual. He grabbed my thumb and I saw he was ready to do a death roll. All I could do was jump in the water with him and bear hug the alligator to make sure I kept whatever digits I had intact. Within the first roll or two he let go and I went my way and he went his. If I had stayed in the boat and hadn’t jumped in with him I would have lost my thumb,” said Billiot.
Billiot and his son Derek Jr. recently won ATN’s Generation X-Sight contest where the grand prize was two ATN X-Sights and used the Smart HD Optics to help Lil’ Derek shoot his first free swimming alligator.
The X-Sight is a digital high definition scope that is like something out of a Tom Clancy novel. It can be used during the day or at night since it has a night vision mode. It can also be used to record video in 1080p of your epic kill shot, or it can take still photos. It has Wi-Fi, an electronic compass, geotagging and even a one-shot zero feature.
“The area we were in was a big marsh with tall grasses and a cypress swamp right at the edge. I had the X-Sight mounted to my AR-15 when I saw the first gator. He was a full grown alligator, about 10’4” and was swimming about 80 yards out. I took aim, carefully steadied the rifle, all the while trying to compensate for the very slight rocking of the boat and slowly squeezed the trigger. CRACK!!! I nailed the alligator. We had to hurry over and pull the alligator in the boat. You only have a couple of minutes until they are no longer buoyant. They’ll roll over and do what I call the death wave, which is when they stick one limb straight out into the air before sinking all the way to the bottom,” he said. “If you don’t get them in time you have to pull them out with a big hook. It’s the same hook that the sheriff department uses when they’re trying to find a dead body. After we pulled my alligator into the boat it was time for Lil’ Derek to get his. I put the X-Sight on his .22 rifle and we sighted it in. We didn’t have a target to shoot at, just a tree, but the one shot zero feature is so easy to use that I was able to sight it in for 50 yards and within three shots I was sure it was 100 percent zeroed in. I love the X-Sight; you’re really getting two scopes in one with the day/night feature. There’s nowhere else you can get a day/night scope for that price. It’s unheard of,” said Billiot.
It started to get late and the red sun began to set over the strange and supernatural green of the swamp when they saw an alligator in the distance. The alligator turned and faced the boat and began swimming toward it. Lil’ Derek was resting on the bow of the boat when he took the first shot from about 70 yards out. It was a little high and he’d just missed him. Then, CRACK!!!
“I wasn’t expecting the second shot, I wasn’t ready for it and it surprised me a little bit. But Lil’ Derek shot the gator almost dead center between the eyes. I let him do the tagging on his alligator, which was about 6’ 3.” I was so proud of him, especially since it was his first time using the X-Sight. The boy can shoot though and he knows it. I said, ‘nice shot!’ and he said, with his smart little attitude, ‘I know.’ What a smart aleck… It’s one of those hunts that I’ll cherish for a lifetime,” said Billiot.
If you’d like more information on how the ATN X-Sight can help you land your next target, whether it be gator, deer or hog, visit www.atncorp.com. to learn more.