Within a few hours of alligator hunting season opening, the record for the heaviest and longest reptiles to be caught in Mississippi had been set and broken several times. The first record was set early with a 10ft reptile, weighing 295.3lb, which took the heaviest and longest titles for a female alligator. Just a few hours later, first-time hunter Beth Trammell, of Madison, helped haul in a 723.5lb male alligator. Her catch broke the state record, but only for a few hours.
Later UPS worker Dustin Bockman was part of a three-man team who caught a 13ft long, 727lb beast from the Mississippi. 'We're going to cook it for sure,' he said. 'There's plenty for me and everybody else.' Alligators had nearly been hunted to extinction in Mississippi in the 1960s but a successful conservation program now means the state needs controlled hunting of the reptiles. It offers permits to a select number of people each year, who are able to hunt in public waters from August 30 to September 9. It took Mr Bockman, his brother and a friend, nearly 12 hours to catch the huge gator. After two hours of trailing it, they got close enough to shoot it with a crossbow, which is where the fight between man and beast began. 'He would go to the bottom and sit like a log. You couldn’t do nothing with him,' Mr Bockman said. Compared to what came next, reeling the 727lb beast in was nothing.
After it was dead, the hunters were faced with the dilemma of how to get the carcass in their boat. It took four hours of tugging before they gave up, and rested their catch on a sandbar as they waited for help. The three men then waited for more than two hours for reinforcements to arrive. 'Tired, hungry, we’d been pulling on a 700lb gator for four hours, and we really needed a nap at that point,' Mr Bockman said. As they made their way back to have it officially weighed and measured, they heard another hunter had caught a gator weighing more than 700lb and feared their hopes of glory would fade.
However, they were soon declared the record breakers. The story of their catch was echoed by first-time hunter Ms Trammell, and her team of six, who took more than four hours to catch, kill and tow to shore their 723.5lb beast. When she first saw their alligator surface, she said: 'Oh my gosh, it's the Loch Ness Monster.' 'It took about four hours to get it in the boat,' Ms Trammell said. 'We had to flag another boat down to help us out it was so big.' After taking the record for the heaviest alligator Mr Bockman plans to use its skin to make a gun strap and a picture frame. Ms Trammell is making arrangements to have her gator butchered for meat. 'I think my brother-in-law is going to get the head mounted,' she added.
The alligators will be eaten and their skin used to make gun straps and picture frames for the hunters. Three records were set as Mississippi gator season began. Mississippi's wildlife management team believe more records could be broken one day soon. 'I expect we're going to break 14ft one day,' alligator program coordinator Ricky Flynt said. 'They're long-lived animals. We know they can live 50 to 60 years in captivity, who knows how long they can live in the wild.'