Walterboro man captures 11’7”, 468-pound alligator | News | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | October 29, 2016 5:00 pm
Last Updated: October 26, 2016 at 1:47 pm
Andrew McCaskill of Walterboro normally hunts deer and ducks. But last month, he got a chance to hunt something much, much bigger.
In September, his uncle Marshall Steele from Lancaster called and said he got an alligator tag and wondered if Andrew would be willing to show him a few likely spots on the Ashepoo River. So McCaskill, his uncle, a friend Joey Hudson and their sons Banks Steele and Geoff Hudson started down the river in their 15-foot Carolina skiff. And the adventure began.
“We started out just making our way along the river, just putt-putting slowly down there, looking for alligators. We probably saw about eight or nine,” McCaskill said. “But then, we came around the corner and we saw him. He was just sitting there. So we eased up to him and he goes down underneath the water. At this point, it’s just a waiting game.
About 45 minutes later, he popped back up and they hooked him with a big treble hook. “Then he takes us out into the middle of the river and he goes into a 20-foot deep hole.”
So they loaded two other rods with 200-pound braided line with big treble hooks and cast until they got him.
“Normally, people say that an alligator can stay down for about an hour, but that’s not the case. He stayed down for two hours. All this time, we’re having to sit there and keep pressure on that line. That made my back feel great,” he said.
“Then he comes up off the bottom and we start to drift. About 15 minutes after that, we start pulling him up, just manhandling him up. We got his tail up. We’d hooked the back part of him, so just his tail came up. So then he went straight back down, just taking the line down, and he popped one of the lines off.
“So we said, ‘It’s OK. We’ve got another line on there. Let’s just rig another one up.’ So we’re sitting there and he just keeps going down and all of a sudden ‘pop’ and my line breaks,” McCaskill said.
“About two minutes later, he pops up, and his head is just massive. I said ‘There he is,’ and my uncle turns around and shoots him with his pistol and he goes down. About two minutes later, he comes back up and my uncle shoots him again,” he said. The shots from a .40-caliber Glock hit the gator in the side of the head.
“So he goes down. My uncle says, ‘OK. He’s got two good breaths so he’s likely to stay down for a while. So let’s just go to the bank and try to get him again.’ We wait about 15 minutes and he pops up, right next to the boat about 15 feet away from the bank. So my uncle shoots him again. He says, ‘Go ahead and get another line rigged up, calm down and regroup.’
“This time, I think he was just so tired from staying down there so long that he was really disoriented — plus he shot him too. If you don’t shoot them in the right place, it’ll knock them out and disorient them, so I think that’s what happened.
“Once we got two lines back on him, we pulled him up to the side of the boat and put the finisher on him. On every gator, there’s a silver-dollar-sized hole right at the base of their skull, and that’s where you shoot them.
“And that was it. My uncle put these zip ties around his mouth, but he weighted 468 pounds. So we were sitting there, trying to roll him in the boat and my uncle said, ‘Andrew, will you do the honor of getting out and pushing that alligator up into the boat?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, sure. Why not?
“Thankfully, we were in the shallow part of the river. I had to push up on his belly and went up to my thighs in the pluff mud, just sinking. And when we finally got him in, he was just massive. He was wrapped around the boat. My little cousin, Banks, said, ‘I think we going to need a bigger boat.’ The gator was about three feet shorter than their boat.
It was a long, slow trip back to the landing. They landed the gator about 5-6 miles downriver, about 3-4 miles past the sand bar at Poco Sabo.
So what does one do with a 468-pound gator? Well, McCaskill got 160 pounds of meat. He planned to give some to family and friends, then donate the bulk of it to the Bethel U.M.C. Food Bank. “With something that big, I don’t think there’s anything better you can do with it than donate it, because I know there are a lot of people who live in poverty in S.C. And that’s just free meat for them,” he said.
His uncle’s friend wanted to keep the head, but it was over $2,000 to preserve the head and tan the hide, which was “too expensive for me, a college student.” (McCaskill is a sophomore in at Francis Marion University, majoring in forest research management.)
“I’d never gator-hunted before. I always wanted to go, but never had tags. I’m looking forward to going back next year, if they get tags.
“It was a crazy day.”