A hunter from Islamorada, Florida, kicked off the state’s muzzleloader season with a bang earlier this month when he accomplished a rarely-seen feat. Twenty one-year-old Konnor Ross, who works as an inshore fishing guide, managed to bag an 8-point buck and a 16-foot Burmese python during the same morning hunt.
Ross tells F&S that he was on his way to a remote stand location inside south Florida’s Big Cypress National Preserve when he spotted the giant python crossing the road. “It was 4 a.m., and I was half asleep when I saw it,” Ross says. “I’ve been hunting pythons for a long time, and that’s the biggest one I’ve ever seen.”
With help from a friend, he wrangled the invasive constrictor, killed it, and stashed it away in his cooler. Then he dropped his buddy off at a deer stand and continued on to his own spot in marsh.
“I parked the truck and poled my canoe back to my deer stand,” he recalls. “Once the sun came up I could hear that buck sloshing through the water, walking my way.”
At first, the buck was about 150 yards out, Ross says, but it kept coming in on a string. “I just sat there,” he says. “When he got to within 80 yards, I put a shot on him that went right in the shoulder and out the other side. He kept coming, so I reloaded my muzzleloader and shot him again. He dropped right there—about 30 yards from me.”
It’s only the second buck that Ross has shot in five years of hunting public land in Big Cypress. He says the 2023 deer season has been unique due to unseasonably high water. “It’s a tough swamp to hunt. Usually you can’t canoe in during muzzleloader because the water’s not high enough,” he says. “This year we haven’t had a cold front big enough to push the water out, so I’ve been sneaking up on deer in a canoe while they’re trapped out on the islands.”
As for the snake, Ross estimated the python’s weight at approximately 120 pounds and says it measured 15 feet, 11 inches without the head. With the head on, he says, it would have measured at least 16 feet. “I think it was a big female coming off a late nest,” says Ross. “They just finished a python challenge over there in that exact same WMA the month before. I was surprised to even see a snake like that out there after that.”