By Otha Barham
The Meridian Star
The first Mississippi statewide alligator season ended with records broken and questions asked about this creature that has been on the planet for millions of years. Many never realize they live among us. The Okatibbee Reservoir alligator pictured on the outdoors page last week has brought an avalanche of questions. Earlier this week Brian Bosarge, father of the successful hunter, Haze, told about the hunt that occurred in the early morning hours of August 31.
Both Brian and Haze placed their names in the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks (MDWFP) drawing for the Northeast Zone alligator hunt. Haze was one of the 150 names selected. Both father and son attended the required MDWFP alligator class and their preparation began.
Due to a high school football game and other commitments, the hunters were unable to begin the hunt until after midnight. The team included father, son and two lifelong friends of Haze; Matt Croley and Garrett Slay. Brian is quick to point out, the hunt would have never been successful without the entire team.
Shortly after launching the boat the group saw several small gators but moved on in hopes of finding something larger. It didn’t take long. About an hour later they saw what they were looking for. It appeared to have a head the size of an average Tyrannosaurus Rex. The first connection ended with the creature nearly snatching Brian from the boat and getting away. The group moved on but kept looking back in hopes he would surface again. He did and was hooked a second time. This ended with a broken rod and straightened hook.
The destroyed equipment was put away and two more rods were brought out. Haze’s first cast was perfect and resulted in a hook up. As the gator moved into deeper water, Brian was able to get in a second hookup and the fight began. There was concern at one point because it appeared the gator was no longer attempting to get away, but moved toward the boat. They began wondering who had who, because the beast showed no signs of being tired. “He just simply made a 180 degree turn and was coming back toward us; underwater,” said Brian.
Brian handed the rod to Matt who needed help getting the snare pole ready. Matt passed it to Garrett. Haze and Garrett kept tight lines while the other two readied the snare pole. The gator would stay under the boat for five or 10 minutes and then rip line 50 yards from both reels only to do it again. “This was a new experience for all of us and we didn’t know what would happen next,” said Brian. “Each time the gator went under the boat, everyone would migrate to the middle. It was eerie knowing a monster reptile that would enjoy killing and eating you was only a few feet away, planning his strategies,“ he continued.
All seemed to be in order until the reptile surfaced about 14 feet from the boat and a snare was slipped over his head. That’s when everything went crazy. Garrett would later say, “It looked like we had some type of sea monster when his tail exploded seven feet out of the water. It didn’t even seem real.” Trying to keep slack out of the line, Brian frantically began pulling the rope and the monster to the boat. At one point the reptile banged into the boat and his tail swung by the crew, missing by inches. The battle continued for several minutes until he settled with part of his body exposed on top of the water.
Both reel lines were now broken and he would be gone if the snare didn’t hold and they didn’t act quickly. The excitement was off the meter. As fast as possible, Haze uncased and loaded the 12 gauge shotgun. Brian, Garrett, and Matt lifted the monster’s head just above the water. There was a brief discussion on the exact spot to shoot as Haze pulled the trigger from two inches away. They were taught in the class not to shoot an alligator in the brain as they have super thick skulls and the pellets would not penetrate. The beast rolled over and the group was convinced the battle had ended. High fives and cheering could have probably been heard in Meridian.
After a 10 minute rest, the team pulled him up to see what they had, only to see him take in a breath of air, smile, and wink at them. He was shot two more times until they were certain it was over. A beaver snare was placed over his jaws, just in case. As Brian began wrapping duct tape over the mouth, Garrett worried aloud that one roll wasn’t going to be enough. The group wrestled the nearly 12 foot monster on board and headed in.
According to Brian, it was the most exciting, action-packed, adrenaline-pumping hour of his life and he’s not sure he or any of the team will ever be able to top it.