Lake Seminole Gator Goes 13-2, Killed In Last Minutes Of Hunt
Hunter's Journal: GON readers share their favorite hunt stories.
By Zach Cole
For someone who has never had the pleasure of filling an alligator tag, much less drawing one, the 2020 alligator season is going to be a hard one for me to beat. I have been applying for gator tags for five or six years now, and this year I wagered it all. I was going to bag an alligator.
Aug. 14 rolled around, and we were off to Jack Wingate’s Lodge, now known as Mac’s Point Lodge and Marina, on Lake Seminole. There, my dad and I met up with Scott Hamrick, of Jefferson, and Rick Johnson, of Winder, our guides. We arrived around 4 p.m. on Friday and immediately unloaded all of our belongings so we could get in the boat and do some scouting before the sun set, which would mark the season’s start.
As we left out of the canal where the marina was located, I could hardly contain my excitement for this new adventure. We were seeing gators from the get-go, and I thought to myself, “Man this isn’t gonna take long.” Boy was I wrong!
After scouting, we went back to the marina to get some dinner and to gear up for the hunt. After a great dinner, we threw all of the equipment in the boat and headed out scouring through the night looking for that 10-foot plus that I had been dreaming about.
We hunted all night long and into Saturday morning with a few missed opportunities and a new found respect for the sport. We drug back into the lodge around 6 a.m. Saturday morning just in time to find a pillow before the sun came up.
We got about four or five hours of sleep and were back kicking at lunch time. On our way out, I noticed a 7- or 8-footer just outside of the marina. I told Scott, Rick and Dad that he was gonna be my last resort if we struck out that night.
We turned south and went down the Flint to where it meets the ‘Hooch. Down there, we got into a group of two or three big gators that were experienced in the art of escape. After fooling with them for a couple of hours with no luck, we headed back to Mac’s so we could grab some dinner and recoup a little before the evening hunt.
After dinner, we all agreed that we needed to get back on the water, so away we went with the hopes of being back with a punched tag and in bed by 10 p.m. Scott took us back south to where we had been fooling with the gators earlier that day. The wind had picked up, making it difficult to hunt that area, so we moved north to get out of the wind.
Soon thereafter, we hooked up on what looked to be a great gator. I eagerly passed the rod off to my dad because I was so adamant on sticking one with my bow rig. As we were working the gator, he somehow pulled a Houdini and found his way off the hook. We chased him until he led us into a stump field where we let him be.
By 2 a.m., we were still chopping away with no luck. I have to say that big gators know how to hide. We headed back up the Flint where I was at the point where I just wanted to fill my tag. We had a few more missed shots and one or two break-offs, and before we knew it, the sun started to show itself from behind the trees. We had hunted all night long again. I was looking defeat in the eye as I turned from the front of the boat and told Scott to take it on home. I remained on the front of the boat with my bow in hand with hopes of catching that 7-footer scooting through the canal.
As we crept into the canal, I could see Mac’s up ahead. We were five minutes away from defeat. As we came by the no-wake sign, I looked to my right and saw the biggest alligator we’d seen so far.
Scott immediately shut off the boat as the gator slid into the water. Everyone sprang into action. I aborted the bow idea when I realized how big this gator was. As we waited for bubbles or for him to resurface, one of us spoke up and the alligator blew out from under us, pushing our boat out into the middle of the canal. He was right under us!
In the 20 minutes that followed, we were freaking out about how big this gator was. In the midst, seven or eight boats came screaming out of the marina for a tournament. I thought all hope was lost at that point, but to my surprise, he resurfaced just 20 yards in front of us as the wakes settled from the boats that had just let out.
I let that Penn reel sing, and I was hooked up to a dinosaur of an alligator. He took off back into the canal toward the marina. It was all I could do to keep from being pulled in. I had the gator hooked up for about five minutes, and as we were trying to position over the top of him, he took off and pulled the hook, but he quickly resurfaced. Rick quickly threw on him and hit his mark.
We quickly regained ground on this gator, and within 20 minutes, we were able to put a reassuring hand line in him. As we were fighting him and rejoicing in having a solid placed hand line, the gator surfaced right beside the boat, sending me into a whole lot of emotions I still can’t explain. This alligator was way bigger than what I had thought.
Scott quickly put another hand line on him while we had the chance, and he quickly reached back for the .357 magnum handing it to me. I was so shook up I felt like Barney Fife with that gun. They had wrestled the gator back up a few seconds later and Scott holler “SHOOTEM,” but I missed my mark. Like I said, Barney Fife.
The gator blew up and was mad at that point. Quickly we regrouped and got him back to the surface, and this time I was able to place a shot right on point. My gator was dead right there! The emotions that came out from all of us at that point was nothing to discount. We were high-fiving and hugging and catching our breath while trying to take pictures and call everyone to let them know what had just taken place.
Keep in mind it was about 7:45 on a Sunday morning. It was hard to catch any amusement from the other end of the phone line. We motored back into the marina with the gator tied off the side of the boat where we were met by some of the folks that had either heard the shots or saw us fumbling around just outside of the end zone.
When we got to the ramp, we had to get Bob, the owner of Mac’s, to get his tractor to be able to get the behemoth out of the water. Thankfully, he obliged, and we were able to get the gator stretched out, photographed and a tape put on him.
I was still pacing trying to figure out who to text pictures to next so that I didn’t miss any of my hunting buddies. The gator ended up being 13 feet, 2 inches long.
All of this happened just mere minutes from us pulling the boat out of the water. To say that we were lucky and blessed is an understatement. Through 2 1/2 days of hunting, four or five hours of rest, countless gators being passed on, missed, broken off or lost, we had just got it done in the last five minutes of our hunt all because I was waiting on that last resort 7-footer. Instead, I punched my long-awaited tag on a 13-foot, 2-inch monster!
I can’t thank my friends Scott Hamrick and Rick Johnson for their boat, guidance and help, along with my dad Mark Cole. Without y’all, we would just have had another one of those fishing stories about the big one that got away. I also want to thank Bob, Denisa McDaniel and everyone else at Mac’s Point Lodge and Marina for great food, lodging and accommodations.
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