The alligator had to be “11 feet plus,” Shanell Blewer of Orangeburg told guide Shawn Adkins – to match the big gators her husband and brother-in-law took last year in Florida. So Adkins went scouting and found an 11-footer in Lake Marion the day before he took Blewer gator hunting. A guide for Gator Getter Consultants in Bonneau, Adkins met Blewer, her husband Kevin and brother-in-law Kyle, at 6:30 a.m. on Sept. 13 and began what would turn into a 13-hour hunt for the huge alligator, which measured 11-foot-9 and weighed 601 pounds.

“We saw his head sticking out of the water about 7 a.m., but it was 12 hours before I got an arrow into him,” Blewer said, describing a long, cat-and-mouse game with a reptile that had obviously been hunted before. “At one point he was down for close to two hours. When we broke for lunch about 12:30, Shawn said we'd have to re-think how to approach the gator. He said we would push him and try to make him nervous.”

Every time the gator would surface Adkins (803-509-4472) would steer the boat towards him. This went on for hours as they tried to make the gator surface long enough for Blewer to get a shot with a crossbow. By 7 p.m., it appeared the gator had won the game.

The hunters were about ready to call off the hunt when another boat rigged for gator hunting pulled into the same area, so they decided to keep after the big gator. Finally, they spotted it up in shallow water.

“I got on the front of the boat with the crossbow, and we pulled right up over the gator,” Blewer said. “I shot straight down, and then we got a harpoon in him, but when we tried to grab the rope for the harpoon the dart pulled out, so we were back to just the arrow.”

The gator went under again, and Adkins and crew feared it might get under the boat and wrap the line around the motor, but then he popped back up and headed into shallow water.

“We managed to hook him underneath with a treble hook, and then I put another arrow into him,” Blewer said.

By that time the gator was exhausted and giving up the fight. Adkins dispatched him with a .44-caliber bang stick.

At Cordray's Processing and Taxidermy in Ravenel, Blewer's gator measured 11-foot-9 and weighed 601 pounds. That was two inches shorter than the gator her husband killed in Florida and three inches longer than the one her brother-in-law killed in Florida – but hers weighed more than either of theirs.

The mother of four – two boys and two girls – hunts deer, doves, quail, pheasants, and even tried coon hunting with her grandfather and uncle, but this was the first time she had ever hunted an alligator.

“I'd rather be outdoors than indoors any day,” she said.