Huge Georgia Gator Taken On Reed Bingham Hunt
Hunter's Journal: GON readers share their favorite hunt stories.
By Leo Coleman
This year I drew my second-ever alligator tag. A Zone 4 tag was known to be a bit easier to get drawn, and I am fortunate to know some folks who allow access to hunt gators in the Zone.
Pursuing gators in the dark is quite unlike any other hunting we’ve done. This year surpassed our greatest expectations by a mile, well maybe just by 12-plus feet.
Soon after I received notification of being drawn for a tag, I received an email announcing a special opportunity alligator hunt at Reed Bingham State Park where I could use my Zone 4 tag. I gladly put my name in the hat for a random spot among 14 tag holders, two per week over the season, but I did not initially get selected.
Good luck alert! It seems as though I was first alternate and someone either filled a tag elsewhere or was unable to hunt Week 4. When I received the call to fill the vacancy, I jumped on it.
I immediately called my friend Mike Staley and asked if he would be interested in participating and bringing his 16-foot jonboat. He accepted, and we set forth with planning and preparations for a trip to south Georgia to chase gators.
Our permit allowed us access to hunt the park after sunset on Sept. 8 until the morning of Sept. 13, only in darkness. The first two nights were exciting and frustrating. We encountered some gators that got away, and we had boat issues. We only had one more night to get it done.
We set out on our third and last night to the north end of the lake where we had encountered what we thought were decent gators. None found. We returned to the main-lake area and decided to settle for anything around 8 feet.
We had just missed casts to what we thought was a decent gator when we got one reel all boogered up with a backlash. Then we noticed the eye shine of a good ’un not too far away. Mike closed the distance, and the eyes slowly sank from view but not before Travis saw the profile and said it was big. We both cast our snatch hooks twice, nothing. On his third cast, Travis said he got him, and he was big. I thought he snagged a stump. It felt as though he simply reeled the boat over a stump.
I held the fishing pole as he got the hand-line snatch hook. I pulled and pulled, no movement. I told him he had snagged a stump.
As soon as the snatch hook penetrated the “stump,” it took off and shock set in. I managed to get a harpoon dart in it fairly quickly, and it was then that the giant lizard took us on a ride like an inner tube behind a jet boat. I couldn’t tell you how long or far we went. Early in the ride, I was up front near Travis, and the beast had the bow going under, which ain’t good.
I moved to the stern where I found Mike suggesting we cut the line in a tone that I’d never heard from him before. We didn’t cut the snatch hook line, and I held fast to the harpoon dart on mule rope.
The big gator soon tired, and we had a moment to catch our breath. Travis pulled on the snatch rope, and I saw the gator’s tail for the first time. More shock set in.
We had the hook and the dart in the tail of the gator. I tried numerous times to get another dart in it without success. At one point the gator surged, and the next thing I knew I was almost in the water and would have been had Mike not grabbed my foot!
About then, we heard a shot from across the lake. I assumed it was the other party dispatching a gator. I called them with an urgent request for assistance as we had a giant by the tail. A guy named Jerry replied that as soon as they loaded up their gator they would come assist. We just kind of held still for a good bit as they made their way.
They approached in their pontoon and got another snatch hook on the beast. After a minute, they got a third snatch hook in it and brought it near the surface, and I put a second dart in its jowl.
With five lines attached, it was time to dispatch the giant. Travis put two 9mm rounds on target. Some said we needed to hit him again. This time the .44-magnum bang stick let all the air out of him. We all followed with a collective sigh.
There was no way the 16-foot jonboat was dragging the gator to the boat ramp, and Jerry was happy to continue in helping us. So Travis jumped aboard with them, and off we went to the ramp.
As we made our way, I barked at Mike to speed up. He said it was maxed out. Something wasn’t right. We made it to the shore only to find water under the boat deck and in all of the “dry” compartments.
Did we shoot the boat? Nope. The big gator punctured several holes in the boat, and we had no idea. We are really lucky.
Couldn’t have done it without a lot of determination, help from another group and a lot of luck.
A special thank you to the professional staff at Reed Bingham State Park.
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