13-Foot Seminole Gator With A History

Something wasn't right about this big alligator.

Daryl Kirby | August 18, 2020

The 2020 Georgia alligator season is off to a good start, with reports of some huge gators already taken since hunting began Friday evening, Aug. 14 at sunset. GON will have full recaps and highlights of the season next month. One of the more interesting stories so far comes from Lake Seminole, where the Kilgore family from Commerce brought in a gator that was not only huge—right at 13 feet long—but when it was skinned out they found an old arrow tip and braided line from a past encounter with a hunter.

This alligator was not just the big one for the Kilgore family, but in the past it was apparently the one that got away for another hunter.

David Kilgore was hunting Lake Seminole with his wife Sandra and sons Hunter and Mason. This was a family trip, but you might recognize David’s name in association with him taking others hunting. He started and runs a non-profit organization called Kilgore’s Kids, which helps “physically challenged kids overcome and rejoice in God’s great outdoors.” They provide outings, mentorship and the tools to make memories for kids by taking them hunting, fishing and on other outdoor outings. 

“On Sunday evening we divided up into two boats trying a new method we started using to get the gators in close. My oldest son Hunter Kilgore, 19, and my wife Sandra were in one boat. My 17-year-old son Mason and I were in the other boat. The idea was to divide up and cover more ground, but to stay close enough to employ this new technique. Everyone knows that a big gator will dive when you ride up on him, but they can’t count. I thought, why don’t we try something different. We’ve tried it all in the past—like slapping the water with a paddle to try to get them to move. I thought, let’s try two boats. They can’t count. Why don’t we ease up on a gator with two boats, and then pull one boat off. It’s like what they do bear hunting—walk two hunters in to a stand and one walks out. Bears can’t count.

“So when we see a gator worthy of hunting we ride up with two boats, and he dives. One of the boats slowly moves away as the other waits him out. We’ve had several gators within 5 feet when they surfaced. Mason and I were on a decent 10-foot gator when we got a signal from Hunter to come help him immediately. We pulled off the 10-footer to help, and Hunter was already hooked up. He said it was huge. He was right.

“We were up the Spring Creek arm, and it’s so grassy in there. Hunter had him crossing the channel, but he ripped him into a bunch of grass and buried. The gator had already pulled the hook in the grass when we got the other boat over there. A piece of advice, on open water you can’t beat the saltwater rod with a big weighted treble hook, but you need to have multiple options when you get in the thick grass that Lake Seminole is known for. We eased around to other side of the gator and just stopped. Hunter started easing in on his side.”

Before continuing with his hunt story, David offered some advice for hunters who have an alligator that dives in open water, where a rod and reel with a big treble is his first offensive play.

“We use large Penn spinning reels spooled with 200-lb. braided line on a 6-foot, 6-inch one-piece surf rod. For longer casts we use a Penn reel on a 6-foot Ugly Stik Tiger with 80-lb. braid, throwing a 12/0 weighted treble. I can throw it around 60 yards very consistently,” he said. “We don’t use the rods to catch them—we use the rods to keep them located so we can then use the large 5-inch-wide weighted treble hook on a hand line. The best hand line is a nylon strap about a half an inch wide. This won’t cut your hands as bad. We like to wear them completely out then kill them with a knife.”

As the Seminole gator Sunday night continued to surface, David said he noticed something very strange about this alligator. For a big gator, he wasn’t staying down long, and he was surfacing with his nose straight up out of the water.

“Each time the gator surfaced, we eased closer from both sides,” David said. “He came out really weird. His nose came out straight up in the air 2 feet and then he lays over sideways and makes a big gasping sound. About every 10 minutes he’d come up for air, and we’d move the boats 10 to 15 feet closer. Finally we’re 15 feet apart and we can see him between the boats. The water was 10 or 12 feet deep, and he would come up and then sink down on top of the grass and lay on top, and the grass would sink.

“Several times he lunged at the boats within 5 to 10 feet. I told the boys it looked like he was injured. And he had a bad temper.

“At one point we were trying to locate him under the grass and poked him with a push pole, which is now a foot shorter. Yep, he bit the end off of it, but that was enough to know exactly where his head was. So I dove in and swam down. Just kidding, I’m not an idiot. We moved up right on top of him with both boats with Mason and Sandra on the lights and Hunter and I on the harpoons. We saw the bubbles as soon as he started to surface, and we jabbed real hard with the harpoon before he came all the way up—and believe it or not it hit the magic spot at the base of his head. It was lights out immediately. No need for a gun or knife.”

Hunter Kilgore with the 12-foot, 11-inch Lake Seminole alligator.

David said that is when the real work began. They tied the boats together and strapped the alligator’s mouth and legs and everyone began a tug of war with what David described as a massive amount of dead weight. The alligator was 12 feet, 11 inches long and had a 56-inch girth. Finding a place to weigh a creature this size is not easy. This one wasn’t weighed, but David estimated it could have been as much as 750 pounds. Some Georgia alligators from past seasons have been reported in excess of more than 900 pounds. The record for the longest Georgia alligator ever taken by a hunter was last season’s 14-foot, 1.75-inch long beast from Lake Eufaula

Here’s the Muzzy head that David Kilgore dug out of the alligator’s ribs.

“Later that night we got him back to the house to skin him down. That’s when I found a braided line exiting his right lung. Evidently the previous year someone had a great hit with a crossbow or harpoon right through the side, puncturing a lung. There was a big ball of stuff growing around the tip, so it had to be at least last year. I think what was going was that he had plenty of strength for 5 minutes, but he couldn’t hold his air.

“It was a braided line, just enough to reach to his back toe. It was a perfect hit, but I think the line got back and his back toe cut it. His middle back toenail was ripped off, so that probably got in the line and broke it off. It looked like the Muzzy head like people use with a crossbow—looks just like the Muzzy setups you can buy. It was a great shot, a side lung shot. The string broke on them.

“I’m guessing there will be plenty of people claiming the one that got away.

“I’ve taken a 12-4, several 11s, but this one is our biggest. He was a very heavy gator. His head was humongous,” David said.

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