13-2 Ocmulgee River Gator On DIY Hunt
When my friend Garrett Harrison, of Hazlehurst, texted a photo of him and his wife LeeAnn standing beside a giant dead alligator, I was impressed. Garrett is not a small man, and just the gator’s tail was longer than Garrett was tall. I was curious as to whether he got it with a guide on Seminole or Eufaula—both giant gator destinations—so I texted him the question. My jaw dropped at his response, “No sir…the good ol’ Ocmulgee!” He and a couple of his friends got the gator not far from their houses in Hazlehurst.
Within seconds my fingers were flying on my phone (ok… they were slowly banging out letter after letter… painful for any teenager to watch). Not long thereafter, I gave up and called him, knowing I was about to hear a great story.
I figured that Garrett had been hunting gators for a long time and was an expert. The exact opposite was the case! He had built a snatch hook out of the best components he could find in his outdoors store (Googe’s) and had awaited the call from his buddies Billy Joe and Hobo Padgett, brothers who also live near Hazlehurst. It seems that they had been keeping tabs on that gator all season and had told Garrett to be ready to go when they called.
In reality, they had been keeping tabs on that gator for about 15 years and had seen him off and on again as it grew from 9 to 10 to 11 feet and then some. Over the years, they had three hunting dogs go missing, and they suspected that the big, dominant lizard had them for supper. It had become so dominant that it would often just growl at them and not back down when they got near it in their boat while fishing during the last couple of years.
Fast-forward to that phone call on Sept. 16. Billy Joe had been hunting that evening, had seen the monster, and had made the call to Garrett.
“Come on, Garrett! He’s on the sandbar right now. It’s time to go get him,” Billy Joe said.
So, Garrett gathered up the snatch hook he had welded and attached to the strongest limb-line cord he could find. He hurried over to meet Billy Joe and Hobo, and they boated to the area where the gator was seen just an hour before. As they arrived, they could see him crossing a sandbar at the mouth of a slough. It was too shallow for the lizard to swim well but too deep for him to walk. They cautiously approached so as not to spook him, but the gator was having none of it.
Garrett was in awe when the gator just growled and even “barked” at them, as he was not used to being around aggressive gators like this one. After several growls and a short stand-off, the gator eased off toward the slough, and they followed. The gator was quartering away from them and they were close when Billy Joe said, “Chunk that snatch hook.”
Garrett threw it as hard as he could, and it landed on the far side of the gator right across its front leg—the perfect location. Garrett braced himself on the side of the boat and pulled the rope tight until it met the side of the dinosaur. Garrett pulled with all his might, and he could feel the points of the giant quad-hook dig into the side of the gargantuan gator. At that point, Garrett reverted back to his days of rodeo and likened the fight to riding a bull.
He said, “You can’t control this gator any more than you can control a bull. You’ve just got to hold on!”
“Boys here we go,” he said as the gator dragged boat, men and all practically on-plane for about 60 yards into the oxbow lake.
The gator headed for some trees, usually a great move that will get them away from their quarry, but this time it was his downfall. The line got all tangled up in the branches, and the gator was exhausted and could not escape the snarled mess.
It was growling, “barking,” and making “god-awful noises” in the bushes, but the guys could still see him. Garrett had his .357 with him but opted for the larger .44 pistol that he was very familiar with (he killed his first deer with the same pistol). He laid the barrel down and squeezed the trigger. The powerful bullet hit just below the gator’s eye, and it was lights out. The gator never flinched—it was “graveyard dead” with just one shot. That’s when the work started, as it took the guys more than an hour to cut, break and pull their way over to the carcass.
Garrett checked the line, amazed that it held the tremendous power of the giant reptile. At one spot, the abrasion had weakened the line to the point where Garrett could pull on it and break it with his hands. In recounting the tale, Garrett laughed as he shared his mom’s assertion that he had a horseshoe in his southern orifice.
“Sometimes it pays to be lucky,” he laughed.
The gator stretched out the measuring tape to 13-feet, 2-inches. and weighed approximately 850 pounds.
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