A Columbia man made international news over the weekend for capturing one of the largest alligators in recent memory in Mississippi on his first-ever time gator hunting.
Ty Powell, who works for Powell Transportation, bagged a 13-feet, 2-inch behemoth that weighed 787 pounds Aug. 28 just north of Redwood in the Yazoo River. The alligator would have actually measured longer if it wasn’t part of its tail, with approximately six inches believed to be missing. The belly girth measured an astounding 66 inches and the tail girth 48 inches.
The monster drew headlines from far and wide, including Daily Mail, an international news outlet.
“It blew up,” Powell said. “It’s been an interesting couple of days since the first (article) ran. It’s kind of shocking. Nothing like this has ever happened to me.”
He joked that after catching the record breaker that he might need to hang it up, but if he does get another opportunity, there’s no way he will be able to pass up the adrenaline rush.
“There’s just a steady adrenaline rush while you’re doing it,” he said. “If you’re sitting in a deer stand, you might sit there for three hours reading a book, then a deer walks out and you shoot it. That adrenaline may last for 30 seconds or so. With this, you’re holding pressure the entire time. You’re wore slap out, but you’re also amped up.”
Powell has a group of about eight buddies who he regularly hunts with, and they decided they wanted to take on a new challenge this year. All of them entered into Mississippi’s alligator tag lottery, hoping that one of them would land one of the coveted tags. On his very first application, Powell proved to be the lucky man and received one of the 920 statewide permits. Each permit actually contains two tags, but one has to be smaller than seven feet long and the other has to be longer than seven feet.
About a week before the season opened, only five of the eight would be able to participate, but the group was pumped to go alligator hunting for the first time. On Aug. 27, they caught their first gator, which filled the smaller than seven-foot requirement, but with Hurricane Ida expected to make landfall, three of the hunters had to back out to protect their properties on the Coast.
That left just Eli Frierson as the last partner of Powell’s left. Frierson happened to know three experienced alligator hunters (Adam Steen, Bubba Steen and Kent Britton) that were happy to tag along with Powell. Powell proved to be lucky once again as the trio had been tracking a pair of large alligators in the Yazoo River for the past month.
The Steens and Britton killed what they believed to be the bigger of the two alligators Aug. 27, and it was a monster in its own right, measuring 12-feet, 8-inches and weighing more than 500 pounds. With the trio being tagged out, they were more than happy to share the location of the (perceived) smaller alligator — they believed it to be around 10 or 11 feet — and help Powell and Frierson go after it.
The Steens and Britton had the apex predator’s location pinned on their phone, but when they arrived at the location, there were three small alligators there but not the big one they were after. So they traveled up the river about half a mile, cut the boat off and drifted back down. By the time they drifted closer to the spot he was believed to be at, sure enough, he was there waiting on them.
“The chase ensued from there,” Powell said. “From the first time we laid eyes on him until the time we had him in the boat was a little over three hours.”
Powell and company saw him for the first time around 10 p.m. and hook with a treble hook once, but the beast was able to get free. The alligator went to the middle of the river, wrapped the line around a log and took off down the river. Powell said the gator was constantly pulling drag on his fishing pole, but it wasn’t pulling the boat at all, which was confusing all of them.
“He had run around a log and took off about 300 yards before he popped back up, so I snapped that line off,” Powell said.
They hooked him again around midnight, this time with three hooks on fishing pole lines. The massive gator ran them up and down the river for more than an hour and did quite a bit of a damage, breaking one of the rods and the reel of another fishing pole, which left just one good pole in the gator.
“I was holding on for dear life,” Powell said. “You have to hold pressure on him the entire time because their skin is so tough. If you let the line loose, it doesn’t matter how sharp the hook is, it’s going to fall off.”
The alligator took off towards the bank and was running along the bottom of the river for a while, which forced his need to come for air. Because he was running so fast, when he came up, about half of his body came up out of the river, which was the first time Powell realized just how big this monster was.
“We just all kind of looked at each other like, ‘Oh dang,’” Powell recalled. “This was still pretty early in the chase, and we were thinking, ‘Are we ever going to get this thing in the boat? This is massive.’”
Once the 13-footer finally tired out, Powell delivered the kill shot with a 12-gauge shotgun into the quarter-sized soft spot behind the gator’s skull. But killing the beast was only half the battle — they still had to get him in the boat. It took the five grown men more than 30 minutes to roll the near 800-pounder into the boat.
Powell said while he has been the one receiving a lot of the recognition, the Steens, Frierson and Britton deserve a ton of credit as well.
“Without them, none of this would have ever happened,” he said. “They deserve all the credit in the world. I just happen to be the tag holder.”
Not a single bit of the alligator is going to waste. Powell and his friends took it to Red Antler Processing, where it was weighed and measured, immediately after capturing it. He had a skull mount made, is having the belly hide tanned and will be getting about 150 pounds worth of alligator meat.
“I’ll be giving a lot away. People wanting alligator meat, I’ll be giving it out left and right for sure,” he said.
Powell recently found out the contents of the gator’s stomach from the processor, which added a layer of mystery to the beast. Its stomach contained a lot of the usual things — raccoon hair, animal bones and even alligator teeth — but the interesting part was an unfired .45-caliber bullet. Everyone who was associated with the hunt, along with the processor himself, are baffled how the bullet would’ve end up in the gator’s stomach, especially because it had never been fired.
That mystery will likely remain, but Powell doesn’t care because for the rest of his life, the skull of a 787-pound alligator will rest on his work desk. Every time he looks at it, he’ll be reminded of one of the most exhilarating nights of his life.