Hunters hold the record gator that measured 14 feet, 3 inches and weighed 802.5 pounds.

When a Mississippi alligator hunter set out on the opening day of the season on Friday, Aug. 25, he had no idea he would meet up with the largest alligator ever officially recorded in the state.

He also didn’t know it would take him and three other men in his party seven hours to land him.

“We got on the water right at dark,” said Donald Woods of Oxford, Mississippi. “We were seeing a lot of alligators. It was a calm night. We saw a lot of 8-footers, 10-footers, but that’s not what we were after.”

Woods, the tag holder, was hunting on the Yazoo River with Joey Clark of Jackson, Will Thomas of Madison and Tanner White of Flora. He said they’ve harvested plenty of big alligators in the past, so they weren’t going to settle for something smaller the first night.

“We’ve been hunting these things a long time,” Woods said. “We’ve killed a lot of 12-footers.”

However, it wasn’t long before they saw one that caught their attention.

“We knew he was wide,” Woods said. “His back was humongous. It was like we were following a Jon boat.”

At 9 p.m., Woods got a hook on the alligator and the next seven hours resulted in broken lines, broken tackle and a broken state record.

“We held onto him a while – until 10 or so,” Woods said. “He broke my rod at that point.

“We hooked him eight or nine times and he kept breaking off. He would go down, sit and then take off. He kept going under logs. He knew what he was doing. The crazy thing is he stayed in that same spot.”

The massive gator took seven hours to land.

At that point, the hunters were getting an idea of how large the alligator was.

“There was no moving him,” Woods said. “We couldn’t do anything with him.

“He dictated everything we did. It was exhausting, but you’re adrenaline is going so you don’t notice it. It was more mentally exhausting than anything because he kept getting off.”

After fighting through the night and well into the next morning, Woods said the alligator finally started tiring. And it couldn’t have happened at a better time. Wood said almost all of their rods and reels were unusable.

“We were down to pretty much down to those two rods and reels at that point,” Woods said.

Woods said at 3:30 a.m. they were able to get the alligator to the boat, secure it and dispatch it. They had him in the boat at 4 a.m. Again, they were getting a better understanding of its size, but not fully.

“We just knew we had a big alligator,” Woods said. “We were just amazed at how wide his back was and how big the head was. It was surreal, to tell you the truth.”

Once on land, they measured the alligator and it was in the 14-foot range. When officially measured by Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Alligator Program coordinator Andrew Arnett, the alligator came in at 14 feet, 3 inches and weighed 802.5 pounds. It bested the previous record set in 2017 of 14 feet, 3/4 inches.

So, what does Woods plan to do after catching an alligator like that?

“We’re done with chasing big ones this year,” Woods said. “I might even call it a career after that, honestly.”

The area where the gator was caught is located in a designated alligator hunting zone. Mississippi’s alligator hunting season opens on the last Friday in August each year. This year, the season ended Sept. 4.


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