By PETER PANEPINTO
Carroll County Times
WESTMINSTER, Md. (AP) — Not too many things frighten Westminster resident John Wahman — not even a 13-foot alligator. He’s chased one, wrestled underwater with it and killed it.
Wahman said he rather do the out-of-the-ordinary hobby than play video games or sit inside the house.
“(Alligator hunting) keeps me alert and it keeps me happy,” said Wahman, 21. “I just like being outside and being active.”
Wahman is gearing up for a busy semester at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Fla. He’s taking six classes and serving as the battalion commander for his school’s Army Reserve Officer’s Training Corps program.
During his free time, he hunts alligators. If Wahman doesn’t deep fry and eat the alligators, he lets other hunters pick them apart and keep the parts they want, he said. He said alligator tastes “pretty good” and comes out like white fish after it’s fried.
Prior to moving to Florida, Wahman had never seen an alligator.
Wahman completed his freshman year at McDaniel College in 2009 and then transferred to FSC. He’s a criminology major and English minor. After graduation, Wahman plans to enter the Army as a lieutenant and serve 20 years.
During the first week of his sophomore year at FSC, Wahman said he “met a guy with long hair that spoke like he was straight out the swamps” who owns 1,600 acres of land. They immediately became friends.
Whenever his friend obtained hunting permits, he would invite Wahman and they would hunt, and sometimes wrestle, alligators.
“We go out, and if they’re less than 8-feet long, we jump on them, hold them down and shoot them in back of the head,” Wahman said.
Wahman said he doesn’t fear the swampy reptiles, but has to be cautious. Earlier this year, Wahman and a couple friends chased down a 13-foot long alligator near the peninsula.
It was a scary encounter, he said.
Wahman’s hunting partner shot the alligator once and it was stunned. The bullet fragmented on the front of the alligator’s face and it became angry. Wahman and two others jumped on the alligator and held it down while the shooter attempted to take another shot, but the gun was out of ammunition.
Wahman and his fellow hunters tried to hold the gator down while the shooter sprinted to his truck, which was about 500 meters away.
The massive alligator dragged all three men into a foot of water, and eventually almost five feet of water. Wahman and the hunters let go to save themselves from drowning, but they had to continue searching for the beast.
“We had to find him because we didn’t want him to suffer,” Wahman said. “One guy found him but he almost got bit so he let him go.”
Using a surfboard as a shield, Wahman approached the gator but it smacked him with its tail knocking Wahman off his feet and cutting his leg. The crew eventually tracked down the gator and killed it, Wahman said.
It may seem dangerous to some, but Wahman says hunting gives him an adrenaline rush. He also hunts deer, turkey and bullfrogs.
Sometimes he captures baby alligators and takes pictures, goes swimming or canoeing in alligator-infested water or just observes the creatures in their natural habitat.
“I’ve always thought wildlife was cool,” Wahman said.
Wahman’s classes begin Aug. 23 but he moved back to Florida Tuesday to begin the ROTC program. As the ROTC’s battalion commander, Wahman is in charge of several tasks such as overseeing and training cadets and insuring physical and field training exercises are running smoothly.
After college and serving in the Army, Wahman wants to get back into his hobby of alligator hunting by owning an alligator farm.
“I plan to do 20 years in the military, get out and live my days on the gator farm,” Wahman said.
Information from: Carroll County Times of Westminster, Md., http://www.carrollcounty.com/
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)