Two men from Sumter took a 12-foot johnboat on an alligator hunt to the Santee-Cooper lakes on the evening of Sept. 17. While Joe Parmenter and Wesley Ridgill weren't the most well-equipped hunters, they managed to boat a 12-foot-5 beast that weighed 656 pounds.
It was no easy task, but the two agreed it was an exciting and fun-filled night that didn’t end until they got help from two other gator hunters – after all, the gator was bigger than their boat.
Around midnight, Parmenter and Ridgill spotted the eyes of a gator they had been watching. The gator disappeared, and Parmenter made a few blind casts with a weighted treble hook, finally hooking the creature.
"I noticed the boat barely moving as the gator eased along the bottom of the lake, pulling us," said Parmenter. Ridgill then put another treble hook in the gator.
For the next two hours, the gator pulled the two through the upper Santee flats of Hickory Top.
“We didn't get a good look at his body or even his whole head for a long while, and we couldn't get it close enough to take a clear shot or even harpoon it," said Ridgill.
They realized this was no 6- or 7-footer.
"I've had many a 6 or 7-footer hooked, and I knew this one was much bigger," said Parmenter.
Ridgill said he realized they needed help, so they put in a call to hunting guides Chris Warren and Mike Colborth of Big Country Outdoors (803-840-5184)in Sumter. Warren and Colborth weren’t on the lake, but they loaded up and headed to Santee to help after the midnight distress call.
Parmenter and Ridgill agreed that their boat was too small to load the gator aboard, but they also believe its small size helped as the gator pulled them through some narrow sections of flooded cypress trees.
"We were pushing off trees, paddling to keep the boat straight. If we'd had a bigger boat, it would have been tough to maneuver through all that," Ridgill said.
When the two finally got the gator subdued next to the boat, it took more than a dozen head shots with a 9mm handgun to finish off the animal.
"After a few shots, I was worried we would lose the gator. That's an old gator; he's seen a whole lot of changes in his day. It would have killed us to lose it after injuring it," said Ridgill.
Luckily, that didn't happen.
After a few shots, they tried to slip a rope around its head, but the gator clamped down on the rope. Its jaws stayed shut after it finally expired, so Ridgill and Parmenter hung on until Colboth and Warren arrived to load the gator into Warren’s 17-foot boat. They took the gator to Peach Orchard Processing in Dalzell, where they got an accurate weight from a pair of 2,000-pound scales before having the meat processed and the hide preserved.