Ty Powell has a problem.
The Columbia resident wanted an alligator head from his first hunt as a unique trophy for his office, and got it. Now he might need a bigger desk.
“I wanted an alligator head to put in my office, on my desk, and maybe I messed up and got one too big,” Powell said with a laugh.
Powell and his hunting team pulled a 13-foot, 2-inch, 787-pound alligator from the Yazoo River near Redwood on August 29. It was a little short of a state record, but provided Powell with the story of a lifetime and gave him a measure of international fame.
The story was picked up by USA Today, as well as media outlets in the UK and Australia.
“I never really had anything like that, with newspaper calls and all that. It’s good. I take advantage of it. It was pretty awesome telling the story and telling it, ”Powell said. “The thoughts of that night will forever be etched in my brain. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget her after telling the story so many times.
The story began earlier this summer when Powell entered his name in the lottery for one of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks 920 alligator permits. He not only got a permit, but got one for the Midwest area which includes the northern half of Warren County as well as Sharkey and Issaquena counties. This part of Mississippi has consistently produced some of the state’s largest alligators since the MDWFP sanctioned an alligator season in 2005.
Powell said he applied for the West Central area because of his reputation for producing large alligators and because he belonged to a hunting camp in Anguilla.
Powell and four other friends “got their feet wet” by carrying a 7-foot gator on Friday August 27th. However, three members of the group had to return home to the coast, so the following night, Powell and his friend Eli Frierson connected with another group containing Adam Steen and Bubba Steen from Ethel, and Kent Britton from Poplar Creek.
Britton and the Steens are working friends of Frierson’s. Their group had shot down a 12-footer this Friday night and located another large alligator while searching for the Yazoo River earlier in August.
They left in two boats just after dark on Saturday August 28. Powell said that as a rookie he was content to follow Britton and the Steens’ lead as they passed a dozen gators on their way to where the biggest one we lived.
“I’m the guy who holds two beacons in the boat and watch what happens,” said Powell.
At around 10 p.m., the group spotted the alligator they were looking for. They waited about an hour for it to surface, and after one of the team members hooked the alligator up with a rod and reel, the battle began in earnest.
“Fast forward to about midnight and we had another hook on him. Each boat hung it with two lines. Then I had my line on him, so we had three rolls in him, ”said Powell, before adding with a chuckle,“ At this point we’re feeling pretty confident. “
The confidence lasted until the alligator showed all his fury and came out of the water. It was the first time Powell and his crew saw exactly what they were dealing with – an 800-pound beast, almost as big as their ships, fighting for its life.
“He came up from the bottom so fast that half of his body came out of the water. It was our “Oh my God moment,” where we could just watch it, “Powell said. “We all looked at each other and we were like, ‘Guys, this alligator is a lot bigger than we thought. “”
The battle continued for another hour. Powell’s reel broke and another fishing rod snapped in half. The alligator submerged in the river, and the team just let it stay there for a while. Eventually he came back up and the hunters finished the fight.
“We were sitting there praying at the time,” said Powell of the rod and spools breaking. “We let him walk on the bottom until he was tired. Probably around 1:15 a.m. he finally got tired and we got him on the boat. We had a hand line on him and were able to shoot him. For an hour and 15 minutes we fought him with three lines in him and he took us up and down the river.
After sending the alligator in, the hunters celebrated – until they realized there was yet another act to the saga.
“We all congratulated each other and said it was great, that we were going to have alligator shoes – and then it was, ‘How are we going to get this thing in the boat? “Powell laughed.
The battle to pull the beast into the boat took another 30 minutes and almost ended in disaster.
“I weigh around 205 pounds and the other two guys in the boat are heavier than me. And we had a big Yeti cooler full of ice cream and drinks. We all got on one side of the boat and he still had the boat tilted towards him. That’s when we realized he was a big old man, ”Powell said. “We almost brought him in and we realized we were taking water because we were all trying to knock him over and we had all of our weight on that side. We knew we had to get him in here or we were all about to be in this river.
After finally securing the alligator, Powell said the crew had taken a well-deserved rest. They floated several miles down the river while catching their breath and contemplating the events of the night.
Powell said he was especially grateful to Britton and that the Steens joined him with Frierson.
“If they hadn’t been able to come, it would have been me and Eli looking for one boat,” said Powell. “I said to him, ‘I don’t know what we would have done if you and me got our hands on this thing. He could have drugged us along that river all night.
After unloading the alligator and trucking it to Red Antler Processing in Yazoo City, they finally got the full specs for their catch.
Even with about six inches missing from its tail, the alligator was over 13 feet tall and weighed less than 800 pounds. Its belly measured 66 inches in diameter and its tail was 48 inches in diameter.
Powell said he hoped to land a big alligator, but never imagined getting one this big, especially on his first hunt.
“We were looking for one that we thought was around 11 feet tall, which got me excited about hunting for the first time,” said Powell. “At 13-2, almost 800 pounds, I was over the moon.”
In the weeks after their hunt, Powell figured out what to do with a third of a ton of alligator meat and dozens of square feet of skin.
He gives some of the meat, he says, and tans the skin of the belly. The skull, which is almost two feet long, will become a trophy.
“I’m getting all I can, minus the bones,” Powell said. “I’m about to have his head on my desk for life too.”
He will also have the story of a lifetime, from his first alligator hunt which made him an international celebrity for a fleeting moment.
“It’s the kind of thing where you do something for the first time and it will probably never be the same once you do,” he said. “I’m still going to participate next year because it will be a blast. There will never be a better first experience than this.
Powell said he is now addicted to the adrenaline rush of alligator hunting and plans to try another license – and a bigger alligator – in 2022.
“Seeing him in real life like that, 20 yards away from you, you thought you had an adrenaline rush just holding the line. But you have eyes on him and that’s a whole different story there, ”Powell said. “Deer hunting, you read a book for three hours and you can feel a 30 second adrenaline rush as you shoot the deer. Hunting for alligators, your adrenaline goes up the whole time you fight, for two or three hours. It’s a pretty wild race. Someone asked me if I was scared, and I told them my adrenaline was going too high to be scared.