After the Fergusons hastily sign a release to film their hunt, Ardezzone pairs them with Mosher. Around 1:30 p.m., the Fergusons and the cameraman roll out with an assortment of gear straight from the gladiator pit. Scoffing at the snake sticks on sale for $90 a pop, Ferguson jury-rigged his own out of a bent piece of conduit and a fishing-rod grip. His back is strapped with a custom-made Manny "Sharkman" Puig knife. For snakes measuring more than 12 feet, he's got a Taurus revolver that fires shotgun shells and can take off a python's head with a single trigger pull.

Most important, his cooler is stocked with Bud. "You ain't going to be jumping on no python without that," he laughs.

With Mosher running his camera, the father and daughter hit the bush around North Okeechobee Road, kicking at the shade under coco plum plants, sawgrass bushes, and other pieces of prime python real estate.

Mike Gorman

"See how the grass is all pushed down," Ferguson coaches his daughter for the camera, his voice hitched up into a prime-time decibel. "That's what you have to look for, the signs. An animal has been hanging around this tree." A suspenseful pause. "Hopefully, it's a python."

As the truck bed rattles with empty beer cans, Ferguson pulls in at Mack's Fish Camp, a weekend getaway sitting on a slim canal where two gators dubbed Elvis and Sneaky Pete coast upstream. The father and daughter are regulars, and Ferguson has come with some insider info. The camp once had a 14-foot pet python named Speed Bump. It got away three years ago, and Ferguson figures it might be hanging out in the nearby marshes.

Thirty minutes later, the hunt adds up to nothing. With the afternoon winding down, Ferguson and Mosher figure it might be time to throw some fiction into the mix. They're tapping into the first rule of reality TV: When reality doesn't cooperate, fake it.

After details are stage-managed over some more gulps of beer, everyone settles on the abandoned camper at the edge of the lot, a forgotten piece of Eisenhower-era ordinance sprouting sawgrass. It's the perfect hiding spot for pythons and other snakes, except Ferguson already gave the building the all-clear an hour earlier.

But now, with the handheld high-def camera rolling, the Fergusons again walk through the trashed interior. The father sends up a B-movie bark of horror. A few quick squirts of costume blood finish off the effect.

"OK, maybe one more. Little louder. That was good," Mosher says. "It's always good to have a couple of takes."

"Like you really got hurt," Jennifer deadpans to her dad.

After a second go at staging a bite, Ferguson decides to call it a day. All over the Glades, TV crews and newspaper reporters tailing would-be python slayers file reports that no snakes have been caught. (By Monday afternoon, however, FWC reported 11 had been captured.)

Before the pair makes it to the end of a dirt road leading back to civilization, though, a car heading the other way screeches to a halt and a guy in skinny jeans and a Gilligan hat jumps out, camera in hand, asking Ferguson if he's seen any pythons. When he spots the driver's hand, he asks what happened.

"Bit by a python," the hunter replies straight-facedly.

The photographer, who says he's working for Vice Magazine, snaps shots of the fake blood caking Ferguson's fingers: It's another successful quarry for the real hunters at this Everglades contest.

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You would think the biologist at FWC would know this time of the year is not good for reptile hunting ?

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