UNION — Who in their right mind would think it’s a good idea to venture out to the swamp and hunt for alligators? “Who WOULDN’T think it’s a good idea,” local hunter, Travis Bishop countered.
Bishop decided to take hunting to the next level several years ago, joining his father, Tim, his brother, Kyle, and friends Wesley Lemons and Adam Gibson in what has become an annual alligator hunt.
“We say it’s our vacation,” said Bishop. “It took a little while to figure it out but we love it and nobody’s had their arm bit off yet.”
When they began planning the 2012 trip, the crew added a sixth man to the conversation.
“We had all been several times and our buddy Kenneth (Belue) was interested in going. I told him if wanted to go, we’d take him,” said Bishop.
But before they could follow through with any gator hunting plans, one of the men would need to be selected by a random computer drawing to receive a permit and tag.
Five of the men had already been notified that their names were not drawn when Belue got the answer he was hoping for.
“I got the call from DNR that I’d been selected and I started dancing around the yard like a kid,” he recalled. “None of the other guys had been drawn so they didn’t think we were going to get a tag. I was the last chance so naturally everyone was very happy when they found out I was picked.”
In September, the crew took to the Ashepoo River in search of a gator. Bishop and his wife Melinda scouted the location the night before to get an idea of where the group should focus. The following evening, the men began their hunt.
“We got in the water around 5 p.m. and hooked up with two pretty good sized gators that broke free,” said Belue. “I hooked the first gator with a fishing rod and treble hook. Then Kyle and Adam hooked him with me. We fought for about 15-20 minutes before he went into a log and got away.”
Despite being the only rookie on the boat, Belue wasn’t nervous until they ran across their catch.
“When his head broke the water beside the boat and we saw how big he was, that’s when the nerves and adrenaline kicked in,” he said. “I hooked him the same way I hooked the first one and as soon as Kyle hooked him, my line broke. Then Wesley put a willy hook in him and pulled him to the boat and shot him. The first shot didn’t kill him so I pulled out my .44 magnum and put two more shots in him. The whole fight probably didn’t last fifteen minutes but it was the most exciting fifteen minutes of my life.”
The gator weighed in at 225 pounds and measured 9’9.
“Kenneth was pretty excited, it being his first gator,” said Bishop. “When we were measuring, I told him to grab the tape out of my pocket but his hands were shaking so bad he couldn’t do it.”
As thrilling as the gator hunt was, the hunters expressed that it was about more than just getting a kill.
“It’s one of the few times a year that we all get to spend time together,” said Bishop. “It’s about family and friends bonding and for good ol’ boys it’s better than Christmas.”
Sports Editor, Tiffany Grady-Hudgins can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by cell at (864) 251-4330.