What a summer 15-year-old Justin Gregg had: In August, he went alligator hunting, with his father, Jeff, and came eye to eye with a 920-pound alligator, the largest ever killed in Lake Eufaula, near the Alabama and Georgia line.
Field & Stream‘s Kris Millgate caught up with Justin and discussed the already-legendary hunt with him; his dad, Jeff; and family friend Scott Evans, all of whom helped haul in the freshwater monster.
You can also read our first report on the record gator here.
Scott Evans, Jeff Gregg, and Justin Gregg (L-R)
Alabama uses a lottery system to distribute alligator tags, issuing 260 in total. Only 20 are allotted for the Lake Eufaula zone, though, but Scott Evans drew a winner. As they cruised the lake opening night, though, the hunters didn’t have high hopes for finding a huge gator. “If nothing else, we thought we’d learn the area and see the [Perseid] meteor shower,” Evans says. Courtesy of Jeff Gregg
The action came fast, though. Within the first 30 minutes of the season opener, they had spotted what they thought might be a promising gator. “It was exciting,” Evans says. “It wasn’t like we were expert hunters or nothing. We just happened to be in the right place at the right time.” Courtesy of Jeff Gregg
“The alligator was swimming in the middle of the channel; he was ripe for the picking,” says Jeff Gregg, who likes hunting alligators on opening night because they aren’t yet accustomed to being pushed around by boats. Also, he says, they’re less skittish of spotlights. “As we drove, we noticed this set of eyes, and we cast out on it and it threw out the hook. It was an explosive reaction by the gator. Its eyes came out of the water, and we knew it was a good size.” Courtesy of Jeff Gregg
The hunters managed to snag it with another hook, and it took multiple harpoons before the three men and their guide had the alligator within reach. “The gator was trying to bite everything,” Justin says. “The guide was making us pull up the trolling motor so he wouldn’t bite that off. It was crazy.” Courtesy of Jeff Gregg
It took the help of two more men and a knife to kill the gator and wrangle it aboard. “On the boat, there were only four seats and that gator was in my seat, so I pretty much had to sit on him,” Justin says. “I’d hold on to the mouth; it’s more fun than looking at the rear end of an alligator.” Courtesy of Jeff Gregg
The hunters tied the alligator to their boat for the early-morning ride home. Even restrained, though, the animal proved too large for the craft. “The head was so heavy that it started sliding off the side of the boat,” Gregg says. “He slid about four feet. Imagine people driving early in the morning seeing an alligator hanging halfway off a boat in their lane.” Courtesy of Jeff Gregg
The gator totaled 13 feet, 6 inches long and weighed 920 pounds. Its paws were the size of a baseball mitt, and its hind legs were the girth of an NFL lineman’s bicep. The thickest section of its belly measured 74 inches around. Courtesy of Jeff Gregg
The gator is speculated to be the largest ever lawfully killed in Lake Eufaula and the second largest ever legally culled by a hunter, trailing the world-record 1,011-pound, 15-foot, 9-inch gator caught last year, in the Mills Ferry Reservoir, also in Alabama. “I’m thrilled to death,” Gregg says. “Justin, for a week, was even smiling in his sleep.” Courtesy of Jeff Gregg
It will cost at least $3,000 to mount the gator, but the trophy means more to the Gregg family than a nice display or record-book fame. To Jeff Gregg, the reptile represents success for hunters of swampy water and the memories of spending time with family and friends. Plus, the successful outing also means 240 pounds of meat for the family. “All my friends are asking when can they try some of that gator,” Justin says. “I’m going to make teriyaki jerky and then just add a little bit of spice to it. It tastes like chicken, but it’s chewier. It tastes really good. It don’t taste like swamp.” Courtesy of Jeff Gregg