Houston County Gator Goes 12-8

The first big lizard of the 2023 season comes from middle Georgia.

Daryl Gay | August 23, 2023

Tommy Sorrow, Tony Wrye, Joey Wrye and Taylor Sorrow with a Houston County gator that measured 12-feet, 8-inches.

The alligator hunting team of Tony Wrye, his brother Joey and hunting buddy Tommy Sorrow have been at it since 2005. Opening night (Aug. 18) of the 2023 season almost slipped by them—but not quite. Good thing. Except maybe for a 12-foot, 8-inch monster that gave the trio all it wanted before finally being hauled into the boat on a private lake in Houston County.

A heads-up phone call from Sorrow to Joey Wrye—who hadn’t realized that the season opener had arrived—set things in motion, and the hunt for the group’s 10th gator was on. When they first stared alligator hunting, they originally started with a bow and buoy, then moved up to a crossbow, and now they use a pole and snare.

This night opened with the brothers in a canoe. Tag-holder Tony Wrye relates how it began.

“We put the canoe in the water just before dark and saw a gator, but it was still too light to get him to stay up. We didn’t think he was big enough to hang around, so we moved down the creek channel. About 9 p.m., it was finally dark and we spotted a set of eyes and knew it was a potential big gator. I keep the headlamp light shining directly into the gator’s eyes and had a homemade snare attached to a 12-ft. bamboo pole with a rope and buoy attached. Joey paddled me in the canoe close enough to ease the snare around his head. The gator started to sink, so I had to set the snare—without flipping the canoe. As I set it, he thrashed away and I threw the bamboo pole, rope and buoy in the water before he tipped the canoe. He came back up about 20 feet from us, and we could see he was a keeper.”

Part one was done, but two men in a canoe was not going to provide enough muscle to reach a fitting finish.

“Joey called our partner Tommy to bring the river boat so we could fight the gator from it. Tommy’s son Taylor was with him. We snared the gator at approximately 9:30, then stayed out watching the buoy and keeping tabs on him until they arrived. As far as we could see, the gator sat under water for an hour before resurfacing. He swam about 50 feet, then submerged again.”

When the Sorrows arrived and all four hunters got into the boat, the real work began. The team quickly discovered that this was a keeper for sure.

Tony continues, “Easing over to it, I grabbed the rope to pull up the gator. I have pulled on a lot of them, but this one wasn’t budging. Due to some back problems, I gave the rope over to Taylor.  After about five minutes, we realized the gator was under structure of some type, making it difficult to get him up. We pulled and maneuvered around, but it was impossible to pull him back out the way he went in. We attempted to put another hook in him to ensure he didn’t get away, and he resurfaced, but only for a few seconds. When he dove back under the water, I thought he was gone. We continued to try and get another treble hook into him, but structure, lily pads and murky water made it almost impossible to locate him. Finally, he bit the push pole, so we knew he was still on the line!”

The hunters believe that Joey Wrye hooked the thick-skinned reptile several times, but the hook repeatedly pulled out. Switching to a new hook and poking and prodding for another hour and a half, they stuck him again.

“Joey pulled him to the surface about 5 feet from the boat but it came off the hook again. About 30 minutes later, Taylor hooked it and was pulling, and Joey was pulling, and we realized they were pulling against each other! Joey eased off and Taylor got the gator to where his head was just under the water and Tommy hit it with the bang stick. The thing was finally dead, but it took us all to either pull or be a counter weight to get him into the boat.”

Team effort—and a lot of experience.

“We have killed 10 alligators hunting together, most of them over 11 feet,” said Tony. “This is the second 12-footer I’ve had a part of harvesting—but this one was the most difficult to get to the surface.”

If you have gator photos and stories to tell, send them to [email protected].

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