'We were just holding on and praying': Mississippi hunters land giant 787-pound alligator

·5 min read

Alligator season is always cause for excitement and it was especially so for first-time hunter Ty Powell of Columbia, Mississippi. What he didn't know is he and friends would tangle with almost 800 pounds of apex predator.

"We were on the Yazoo River north of Redwood," Powell said. "We probably saw 15 or 20 on the way up, but we had that spot marked and were headed there."

It was an alligator fellow hunters Kent Britton, Adam Steen and Bubba Steen had located earlier.

"We had known about this alligator a month before," Britton said. "We had him pinned on our phones along with another alligator."

Britton and his crew went after the other alligator on Friday night because they felt it was the larger of the two and were able to get him in their boat.

And it was a big gator. It measured 12 feet, 8 inches and weighed over 500 pounds. On Saturday night, the trio joined Powell and Eli Frierson to try to find the gator they felt was not as large.

Unfortunately, when they arrived at the marked spot, the gator didn't seem to be around. There were three sets of eyes visible in the area, but all of them belonged to small gators.

(From left) Eli Frierson of Starkville, Adam Steen of Ethel, Bubba Steen of Ethel, Kent Britton of Poplar Creek, and Ty Powell of Columbia are photographed with a 787-pound alligator they caught in the Yazoo River on Aug. 29, 2021.
(From left) Eli Frierson of Starkville, Adam Steen of Ethel, Bubba Steen of Ethel, Kent Britton of Poplar Creek, and Ty Powell of Columbia are photographed with a 787-pound alligator they caught in the Yazoo River on Aug. 29, 2021.

He's one lucky alligator hunter

Had the gator disappeared? Had someone already caught him? Powell is too lucky for that.

Getting an alligator possession permit is done by a drawing and thousands apply each year for one of coveted 920 permits. Some apply year after year and aren't drawn, but not Powell. It was his first year to apply and he was drawn.

"They told me to go buy a lottery ticket because I was the luckiest man in Mississippi that day," Powell said.

And his luck was just getting started. The hunting party continued upriver, then cut the boat motors off and quietly drifted back through the area where the gator had been spotted.

"When we got back down there, there was another set of eyes," Powell said.

It was the gator they were looking for and one of the team members hooked him with a rod and reel and handed it off to Powell. The gator pulled the boat Powell was in up and down the river until he wrapped the line around a log and got off.

Powell's emotions sank.

"It's a little bit of helplessness," Powell said. "You don't know if you're going to get another chance at him. When you feel that line loosen up real quick, it's an 'Oh, no' feeling."

Even big gators make mistakes

Bubba Steen still felt confident about the situation.

"That's happened to me before," Steen said. "About four or five years ago, me and Eli were on the river and had one.

"He got off six times. We stayed after him all night. We've had them get away before, but usually if you just stay after them and eventually he'll make a mistake. I said, 'Let's stay after him and we'll get him.'"

And they did.

Ty Powell said when he first got a look at the alligator's head, he knew it was big. The alligator weighed 787 pounds and was 13-feet, 2-inches long.
Ty Powell said when he first got a look at the alligator's head, he knew it was big. The alligator weighed 787 pounds and was 13-feet, 2-inches long.

"He popped up about 30 to 40 yards between us," Britton said. "Me and Eli hooked him at the same time from two different vessels.

"As soon as I hooked him, we got the boats together and I passed my pole to Ty so they could fight him from the same boat. He popped up 20 minutes later and I got another line on him."

Fight takes toll on gator and hunters

With three lines on the gator, it would seem to be a sure bet he was as good as caught, but the strain of the alligator dragging the boat up and down the river began to take its toll on their gear.

"We had one guy with a broke rod, me with a broke reel and one good rod on him," Powell said. "We were just holding on and praying at that point."

About three hours had elapsed since the hunters initially hooked the alligator and he was beginning to tire. The hunters got a hand-line on him and were able to bring him to the side of the boat, secure and dispatch him. However, the fight wasn't over.

"Just to get him from the side of the boat into the boat took all five of us about 30 minutes," Powell said. "I think we floated a mile or two down the river trying to catch our breath after that."

With the gator in the boat, the hunters realized it was much larger than the 12-foot, 8-inch alligator Britton and Bubba and Adam Steen had caught the previous night, but they didn't know how much bigger until they took it to a processor.

An alligator that could have been longer

The gator was 13-feet, 2-inches long with a belly girth of 66 inches and a 48-inch tail girth. On the scale, he hit 787 pounds.

"We were all in shock," Powell said. "He was also missing part of his tail. I know 13-2 is huge, but at one time he was bigger than that."

At the same time, Britton realized how much he and Bubba and the Steens had misjudged the sizes of the two alligators.

"We were off about 300 pounds and six inches," Britton said. "The 13-2 was missing six inches of tail, if not more."

For Powell, it was an experience he'll never forget.

"I'm still excited and shaking about it," Powell said. "This is the first time I've put in for alligator tags or even thought about it and something happens like this.

"It was the hunt of a lifetime. These four guys that were with me, I can't thank them enough for helping me get that gator. I really need to go buy that lottery ticket."

But what does one do with almost 800 pounds of muscle, teeth and hide? Powell said all of it will be utilized in one way or another.

"Nothing will go to waste on this gator," Powell said. "From the head to the hide to the meat, I'm saving all of it."

Contact Brian Broom at 601-961-7225 or bbroom@gannett.com. Follow Clarion Ledger Outdoors on Facebook and @BrianBroom on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Mississippi hunters land 787-pound, 13-foot alligator in Yazoo River