Last weekend a group of hunters in Alabama took what may be the largest American alligator ever harvested. The behemoth 15-foot-long, 1,011.5-pound beast was bagged by a family from Thomaston. According to the Daily Mail, Mandy Stokes, her husband John Stokes, brother-in-law Kevin Jenkins, and his two children spent 10 hours hunting the creature. The family described themselves as experienced hunters, but this was the first time they drew an Alabama alligator tag.
“Right now the fairest way for me to say it is that we’ll apply again, but I can assure you, I have no desire to hook into anything like this again. I truly don’t,” Mandy Stokes told AL.com after a tumultuous fight.
The Stokes family first hooked the animal late Friday night but the battle to bring the alligator to land lasted well into Saturday. The hunters lost the alligator from time to time, at one point accidentally hooking up on a heavy log after mistaking it for the reptile. The action ramped up several hours into the fight when the hunters cornered it in a patch of lily pads, but who played the role of predator or prey was never assured. Mandy Stokes was the first to try and disable the large gator, firing a shot from her 20 gauge shotgun at the animal’s head while it was coming to the surface. Due to the water, the shot had little effect other than drawing the gator’s attention. Still tied to the hunters’ boat, it surged forward and nearly overturned the vessel after striking it against a stump.
At that point, the family debated seriously whether they should simply cut the lines. Instead, the hunters made one last effort and allowed Mandy Stokes a clear shot at the portion of skin between the alligator’s neck and head, a few inches behind the eyes. Hunters commonly refer to this part of the reptile as the “sweet spot,” and it is generally considered the most ethical and efficient way to dispatch an alligator. Shooting one of these predators between the eyes or on the top of the skull may not kill it, and could even be dangerous as projectiles may ricochet off the animal’s thick skull.
Even defeated, the Stokes family’s catch decided to have one last hurrah and broke the winch that they used to lift the gator. The animal was finally retrieved using a backhoe and its weight certified by an Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries biologist.
If the weight of 1,011.5 pounds stands, the Stokes may very well have a chance at claiming more than just the Alabama record. The current world record held by Safari Club International (SCI) for an American alligator is a 14-foot, eight-inch specimen harvested in Chalk Creek, Texas. According to News 2, four friends from Louisiana harvested that gator, which weighed 880 pounds. Occasionally hunters from other states would report longer and heavier catches, but experts say that certifying an alligator as “world’s heaviest” is not as simple as it seems. It took nearly seven years for the Texas gator to be recognized as the world record by SCI—from 2007 when it was caught, to earlier this year when it was written into the record books.
The Stokes said that the harvest was an exciting introduction into the art of alligator hunting and they plan on going again next year. As for the alligator itself, the family is already making plans to have it mounted.