Alligators are a crucial element of ecosystems in the southeastern United States. They help maintain the population balance of prey species as well as shape and modify their freshwater habitat.
As such, alligator hunting is strictly regulated in southern states like South Carolina. Hunters must fill out an application and pay a fee, which will then grant them a chance at a permit to hunt during a designated alligator harvest.
With such limited access to the prehistoric predators, those who receive the necessary permits aren’t on the hunt for just any alligator. Though hunters are welcome to harvest any gator 4 feet in length or bigger, they can only bring in one. And why bring in a 5-foot alligator when you could go after an elusive 13-footer?
Now, a male alligator can get up to 16 feet in length. However, anything more than 12 feet is rare. The average American alligator is only about 11 feet long.
With that in mind, finding two 13-foot alligators in a single day is virtually unheard of – but two hunting parties in South Carolina managed to do just that.
South Carolina Hunting Parties Take Down Two 13-Foot Alligators
On Saturday, September 10, Daniel Cunningham and his friends set out on Lake Marion in search of a monster catch. “It was opening day [of alligator season] and we started right at noon,” Cunningham told Carolina Sportsman.
“We rode around the lake a bit, saw a couple of gators. Sat waiting on a couple but didn’t have any luck. After a while, we saw a good one and actually got a hook into him, but it came off.”
As the afternoon wore on, a thunderstorm rolled in, battering their boat with heavy rain. Rather than abandon the mission, however, the hunters persisted – and it paid off.
“In the midst of that storm, we saw the big gator,” Cunningham said. “When we got close to him, he went down. He came back up, we got a little closer and he went back down again. We sat tight for about 30 minutes, and he came back up.”
After taking the alligator to Harry’s Fish Camp for processing, the South Carolina hunters learned that they had nabbed a 13-foot, 4-inch reptile.
On the same day in another area of the Santee-Cooper Lakes Complex, Jeff Hobday and Paul Burdick had even better luck. The duo pulled in a 13.5-foot alligator weighing in at a whopping 825 pounds.
They missed the record by half an inch but couldn’t be happier about their catch. “Words cannot describe it. Hunting is an exhilarating experience, and it is only a 30-day season. The pressure is on to make the most of the lottery tag,” Hobday told ABC 15.
“We have caught a couple of 10-to-11 footers in the past, ” Hobday continued. “Most of the time they weigh around 400-pounds. This was the biggest one I have ever caught by far.”