After five years of patient and anxious waiting, Brian Walton, of Hillsboro, finally got drawn for a Georgia gator hunting tag. The wait was certainly worth it when Brian was able to harvest a 600-lb., 11-foot, 3-inch alligator the night of Aug. 20 while hunting in the Oconee River near Toomsboro in Wilkinson County.
Brian said he has long had an interest in going alligator hunting. As alligator populations grew, the limited gator hunts became legal in Georgia in 2004. Some of Brian’s friends have been drawn for tags, but Brian just wasn’t having luck in the quota hunt drawing. Brian’s home territory of the Oconee River is in Zone 5, which only has 100 quota permits available each season. There are nine alligator hunting zones in Georgia, each with a limited number of available quota permits that hunters must apply for each season.
“This year comes along, and I get it, so I’m all fired up,” said Brian.
Brian was finally going to go after an alligator instead of helping others. His friends knew Brian grew up hunting and fishing all the time and that he knew where the big gators were along the Oconee River, so they would often ask him to help put them on a gator.
“Two years ago, I took one of my friends, and he missed out on this same gator,” said Brian. “He just missed his opportunity with him, and this gator never presented him with another shot. It has just haunted me ever since then. It was one of those areas where I grew up hunting and fishing as a child, and I used to swim in the river here.”
Brian has been telling his dad the last few years that as soon as he got his tag, that he was coming to get that gator.
He hunted opening night and passed on several smaller gators, hoping to get the big daddy. There was a nice 10-foot gator he could have punched his tag on, but Brian decided to pass on it after his wife advised him to keep waiting on the big boy.
Sunday he went to church where everyone was asking Brian if he had tagged out yet. He got to thinking after church and convinced himself to go that night. He called his dad, and the two planned a hunt for that evening. They took off for the river about 5 p.m.
“We got near the spot and saw two smaller gators,” said Brian. “As we pulled up where this big guy liked to hang out, I had all this anxiety going just knowing he was going to be there. We pull up, and nothing. Nothing in sight, no evidence of an alligator even living there.”
They floated past and took a break to sit there and talk. They had the feeling the gator was still there, so they eased back up river and spotted one immediately. Brian began to pull up on it, and decided he was going to go ahead kill this gator. He would not have another chance to hunt in the near future and wanted to at least make the trip worth the trouble. The current pushed the boat right up to the gator, which ended up submerging into a blowdown.
As Brian was pushing the boat off of the limb, he glanced to his left to see if the gator surfaced back on the other side.
“As I look to the left, the bull gator is fixing to drift into the side of the boat wanting to know what the heck we were doing in his area,” said Brian. “I go crazy, swing the harpoon over the top of the boat and hit him perfectly right in the neck. You couldn’t have asked for a better shot, and he goes down and takes my buoy out of the boat just like I wanted him to.”
The buoy then submerged, meaning that the lead he attached to it was not long enough for the depth of the river in that hole. Brian and his dad stayed where they were and got together a game plan. They figured he was laying right on the bottom where he went down, so they pulled out the depthfinder and pinpointed where they were almost certain he was laying.
Brian and his dad then started throwing hand lines out with big treble hooks trying to snag the gator. They must have bumped and aggravated him, because after a few throws, they looked behind the boat and saw the buoy floating up the river.
“We pulled to the left of the buoy and threw where we thought he would be laying,” said Brian. “Sure enough, first line we threw hooked up on him. He drug us to the right and back to the left. We finally got daddy’s hand line in him, so we then had three lines in him.”
The gator was pulling them all over the place, eventually bringing them all the way to a steep bank on one side of the river. Brian got his gun ready, and his dad slowly pulled the gator to the surface.
“As he surfaced, I put my .22 mag to his skull and knocked his lights out,” said Brian. “It was epic, man.”
Thinking he was dead, Brian tied the gator’s foot to the boat while they tried to figure out how to get him in the boat. They dragged him to the shallow bank and Brian pulled his head up and taped his mouth shut.
As he grabbed the line to pull the gator’s leg, it began to go absolutely ballistic.
“It goes slap crazy tearing the dang boat up, and I’m wigging out,” said Brian.
They pulled the head back up, eyes closed and everything, and put three more rounds in his head for good measure. As Brian pulled on its leg one more time, he goes crazy all over again. His dad then handed him the .40 caliber, and Brian put two more rounds in his head at point blank range.
They waited another 45 minutes to make sure the gator was totally dead before they rolled him in the boat.
“I give all the credit to the man upstairs,” said Brian. “It was his alligator; I was just there to enjoy the ride.”