The fight was rough but the experience is one Tim Bishop and four others will never forget.
“This is the best time I’ve had since I don’t know when,” Bishop said.
Bishop, his sons Travis and Kyle, Adam Gibson and Wesley Lemmons left the dry Lockhart clay grounds for the Middle Coastal wetlands searching for an alligator.
And at 3 a.m. early Sunday morning, their prize peered above the warm waters at their stalking pupils.
Like many shots earlier their cast was thought to be in vain, but this time Bishop’s large treble hook snagged the gator’s jaws and incited a struggle between the five men and the 500-pound carnivore.
“We fought it for an hour and a half, it took off like a freight train. Once I hooked it, it dove to the bottom and sat for 55 minutes, and it came up for air, then my son shot it with an arrow. The arrow bounced right off because he uses it for fishing and it just wasn’t enough for the tough skin,” Tim explained. “Then it went down for 28 more minutes and when it came up for air again we shot it with a 9mm when it got close enough.”
Once the men subdued the alligator, the battle was over and adrenaline injected the five men’s torsos as they hauled in the prize catch.
“We were in two boats and we all worked together taking turns doing different jobs, but then we wrestled the rascal in the boat,” Tim said.
The team included five first-time alligator hunters including Gibson, 21, and Lemmons, 35, and the Bishops, all from Lockhart.
Tim says he normally just fishes but a chance to go alligator hunting was too good to pass.
“It was something different that I hadn’t ever done before,” Tim explained.
The crew had several alligators biting their lure on Friday but were unable to reel in any gators.
The same teases happened early in Saturday’s adventure before Tim hooked the 500-pound reptile with a rod and reel and a large treble hook.
Although, they set off on the river at 8 p.m. Saturday the prize catch occurred seven hours later in the river’s blinding darkness.
As the gator neared the boat, a harpoon device was extracted to secure the catch and finally the fight was over.
The Bishops—with help from a couple of friends— skinned the alligator, carved off 45 pounds of gator meat and kept the gator’s head for a taxidermist.
The first gator meat meal at the Bishops was Monday and Tim said it had a comparable taste to other wild game.
“It tasted like cooter to me; some of them said it tasted like pork, but it tasted a lot like cooter,” Tim said.
Tim put in a drawing for a hunting tag last year, but this was the first time he was selected. Since the alligator hunting program began in 2008, there are only 1,000 tags issued each season in order to manage the alligator population. This number may change in future years based on harvest levels and alligator survey information, according to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.
Tim is ready and anxious for his second chance to hunt alligators.
“If I had another tag, I’d leave tomorrow,” Tim said.
The next opportunity is 2011 and you better believe these five men’s names will be in the drawing for next year’s lucky 1,000 who wish to dare the marshy inhabitants.