OKEECHOBEE — You may be feeling a sense of déjà vu when you first read that headline, but I promise you’re not going crazy and there has been no glitch in the matrix.
Last month, 2016 Miss Rodeo Okeechobee Caitlyn Albers was able to help bring in a 500-pound, 12-foot-long gator while on a hunt at Kissimmee River Hunt and Fish. On Oct. 10, another rodeo queen helped bring in a gator of her own.
The current Miss Rodeo Florida, Cara Spirazza, wanted to find something special to auction off at the Miss Rodeo America Pageant in Las Vegas this December. Her friend Caitlyn Albers mentioned the guide service here in Okeechobee that she had used has something that could work at the auction. Cara got in touch with Dwayne Powell at Kissimmee River Hunt and Fish to talk about the auction and that’s when the idea of another gator hunt came up.
“For the Miss Rodeo America Pageant in December,” explained Cara, “I am putting together a Florida-themed live auction item for one of our scholarship fundraisers. I thought what better way to experience Florida than a hog hunt. Caitlyn got me in contact with Dwayne and Lynn Powell of Kissimmee River Hunt and Fish and they were instantly ready to help. They kindly donated a guided hog hunt for four. It was after we had talked about this when they told me about their recent gator hunt and they invited me to come out with them.”
Cara had seen the story of Caitlyn helping bring in the gator, so she was well aware of what she was getting into. She says she grew up here in Florida and has been heavily involved with animals her whole life. In the future she says she plans to pursue a career in veterinary medicine.
“The first thing I admired about Kissimmee River Hunt and Fish is their love and respect for the animals and their habitats,” said Cara of her experience. “Our guide, Dwayne Powell, took the time to explain the importance and reason for hunting. He explained what many people don’t know — that the big gators we were after do not breed anymore and they solely live to eat, and their prey includes younger breeding gators, livestock and family pets. Hunting them helps to maintain the gator population by allowing the younger gators to live, and reduce the casualties on livestock and domestic animals.”
Growing up in Florida, Cara says she’s been on gator hunts before, but had never been able to bring one in as big as the one caught on Oct. 10.
“It can typically take days or weeks to get put onto a big gator like that one,” said Cara. “We went out on the airboat Thursday morning around 7 a.m. Dwayne and John had multiple gators spotted within the first hour, and had us hooked on a 12-footer within just two hours. This gator was a monster. We were all very excited and with some team effort we got it done with 20 minutes to spare. It was definitely the biggest gator I have ever seen in person.”
Cara is complimentary of the job the crew did at Kissimmee River Hunt & Fish in preparing for the hunt and is looking forward to auctioning off a hunt with the group at the Miss Rodeo America Pageant this December.
“I’m beyond excited to send the family who bids on my auction item to Kissimmee River Hunt & Fish for part of their Florida experience,” Cara said of the auction. “I know they will be in good hands.”
Throughout the month of October, Cara is participating in the “50 Pink Horses Challenge” to raise awareness and funds for cancer patients. She will ride 50 different horses and complete one of the Miss Rodeo America Scholarship Pageant approved patterns on each of them, dedicating each ride to someone who has had or currently has cancer.
If you would like one of Cara’s rides to be dedicated to someone you know, you are welcome to send Cara their name by reaching out to the official Miss Rodeo Facebook page at facebook.com/Miss-Rodeo-Florida-Association-Inc-79862699396/. There is also a Paypal currently set up to take donations at www.paypal.me/50PinkHorses. You just have to put Cara’s name or the state of Florida in the notes of the donation. The state queen who raises the most money at the end of the month will pick a breast cancer charity to donate the funds to and will receive a separate scholarship.