Python hunter

Professional python hunter and Python Bowl contestant Grogory Morris of Sarasota with an impressive catch.

Well, it’s over folks. Anybody who may have had plans to compete in the Python Bowl 2020 to help rid South Florida of the growing population of invasive Burmese pythons has waited too long. The competition ended officially this past Sunday with a whirlwind of last-minute entries. Only about 10% of the newcomers to python hunting were able to turn in a snake or two over the 10-day challenge, but the pros made up for it in their division with many impressive catches.

Now, I can’t tell you who the official winners are in each division and category, because even the sponsors (South Florida Water Management District and Florida Wildlife Commission in partnership with the Miami Super Bowl Committee and Bass Pro Shops) are keeping it a secret until the official awards ceremony on the 25th of this month. Although with the amount of hunter gossip going on at the check station, it’s a sure bet who the frontrunners are. Three top names to look for in the pro division are Donna Kalil of Miami, Mike "The Python Cowboy" Kimmel of Indiantown and "Python Wildman" star of Discovery Channel’s hit show Guardians of the Glades, Dusty Crum of Myakka City.

A good friend and highly respected snake-snatcher, Gregory Morris, turned in a respective catch as well and had this to say about the competition, "My helpers and I have been camped out down here the entire 10 days, hunting sometimes 24 hours straight. The first couple of days were really tough with some nasty weather, but still we were catching pythons."

I asked if the numbers of participants signed up in the amateur division was any sort of hindrance to them in the hunting zones.

"Oh no, there was an increase in traffic on the levees the first couple of nights, but unfortunately, the majority of the rookies headed home after that first weekend. But the ones who were able to stick it out and hunt each day were pretty serious about the hunt and everybody got along."

I’ve been privileged to hunt with Greg a few times along the L-28 Levee in Ochopee, and have seen him in action with the giant reptiles. One advantage that he, as a pro, has over an amateur python hunter is spotting them as he has developed a very keen eye for the job. I can tell you from personal experience that they are not easy to spot. Burmese pythons have arguably the best camouflaged skin in the wild and it takes a lot of experience to be able to glance into a pile of brush and identify one. One night I sat thoroughly transfixed on an area along the swamp’s edge and Greg hopped past me and picked up a 9-foot long male Burmese right from under my nose. I had no idea the snake was there until the veteran grabbed it up!

I’m so very grateful to all of the participants and sponsors who are dedicated to saving our Everglades. It’s not an easy task, but I’m mighty happy that they care! And as always, if you have any comments, questions or just want to share your success from the woods, give me a shout out at God bless, good hunting!

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