Catching a 13-Foot Alligator in South Carolina's Marion Lake

In the wee hours of October 10, 2009, six men and a boy harvested a 1,060-pound 13-foot 2-inch alligator from a Lake Marion swamp on the last day of South Carolina's Alligator Hunting Season. The battle played out over 2 hours in the pre-dawn darkness before the gargantuan-sized 'gator was subdued. Scroll through the rest of the slides for the entire story.
The hunters (from left): Tyler Garret, Terry Chavis, Donnie Porth, Preston Avinger (tag holder), Wendy Heckle, Lin Shire, and Gregg Antley during daylight hours the morning right after the hunt. This was the group's sixth time hunting the 2009 season, which started September 12. It was all their first year ever hunting for alligator. The men were divided up into three 14- to 15-foot boats. It was the only alligator seen that night.
In this photo young onlookers peer into the reptile's mouth. "This 'gator could have swallowed a small person in one gulp," said Shire. In its stomach, however, were several turtle shells and one giant catfish.
Looking down the gullet of a half-ton alligator; who knows what has fallen victim to these teeth.
The beast measured 152 inches exactly. "We couldn't get a good measurement on it 'till later in the day 'cause the 13-foot 'gator was all caddywompus in the 12-foot trailer," Shire adds.
The animal was so heavy that it had to be weighed on a truck scale at Calhoun County's Calhoun Cotton Gin. Here you see the printout of its weight (subtracting the trailer weight).
Primitive weapons: Standard fishing rods and reels spooled with 65- and 85-pound-test Spider Wire, weighted 0/10- and 0/12-snatch hooks, and homemade harpoons tipped with commercial bow-fishing arrowheads made for the job. The hand gun used for the final dispatch: A Glock 31 loaded with 357 C "duty" rounds of Remington Gold Tip hollow points (not pictured).
Close up of the weighed trebles used to snatch the 'gator and the PRO Muzzy Gator Getter broadheads used for harpoon points.
The story starts at 4 a.m., as the men were getting ready to call it quits for the night. Heckle and Chavis scanned a cove in Lake Marion's "Stump Hole Woods" with their spotlight and saw the big 'gator's eyes reflecting back. Nobody realized how big the it was until the end of the undertaking. Here you see beginning of the fight with only one snatch hook in the 'gator. At the time it was guessed to be a 7-footer.
This photo was taken just after the first harpoon was stuck into the alligator. Three harpoons were used before the beast was subdued with the Glock. "Every time we stuck the 'gator it would go nuts and pull us around in our boats," says Shire. One of the harpoon ropes was cut when the third harpoon went in.
Here's the gator's tail being lifted off bottom just after it was dispatched. It was right after the third harpoon was stuck that the 'gator came up for air and Preston shot him twice in the sweet spot behind its head. This moment was the first time any of the hunters saw it close up. "When I saw the distance between its nostrils and eyes, I just remember saying 'Bubba, you lied to me… This thing's huge!.'" Its legs went out straight; it died immediately and sank to bottom.
It took two boats to drag the beast from Stump Hole Woods. "The whole ordeal played out like a combination of "The Old Man and the Sea" and Moby Dick," says Shire.
Here's the brute being loaded onto the trailer at Stump Hole Landing on Lake Marion.
You can see where the three homemade harpoons went into the alligator (yellow tags). The creature was much larger than the entire crew realized, thus they were harpooning the alligator in its tail, not main body as they had thought during the fight.
Here you can see where the two bullets went into "the sweet spot" just to the right and back of the alligator's right eye.
"Terry said my eye were big a round as big as beer cans when I first saw the 'gator's head come up," says Shire.
Most of South Carolina's alligator hunters hunt in groups. Only 1000 tags are issued state wide - 250 tags each for four of the five units managed for alligators. Rarely does more than one hunter from a group have a tag. This alligator came from Unit 3 (aka: The Midlands).
The hunters got 70 pounds of meat from this 1060-pound alligator. Highway 601 Deer Processing in nearby Ft. Motte processed the animal.
In South Carolina, an Alligator over 10 feet is considered a trophy. The largest recorded in the state was a 13-foot 8-inch behemoth, also from Lake Marion.
Daylight comes to the swamp known as Stump Hole Woods the morning of the hunt. Stump Hole is part of 110,000-acre Lake Marion--South Carolina's largest lake.