Lancaster gator hunters kill massive Santee beast

This crew from Lancaster, S.C. bagged this Santee gator on opening day of 2019.

It was the first ever gator hunt for all five men

Jonathan Cox of Lancaster and four others killed a gargantuan gator at Santee’s upper lake on Sept. 14. The 12-foot, 10-inch beast weighed more than 600 pounds. None of the men had ever gator hunted before, and they did it without a guide. From an 18-foot pontoon boat.

After applying for years without success, Cox finally drew a tag for the 2019 gator season. He wasn’t interested in anything but a true trophy. He had no interest in paying a trophy fee to a guide service. But he had a dilemma. Just before he was awarded the tag, he sold his boat. He asked around his circle of friends for a boat owner willing to go after a big gator.

Danny Greene stepped up. He was ready to do battle with a Santee dinosaur, and offered to bring his pontoon boat along as the hunting platform.

The crew was made up of Cox, his younger brother Drew, Fat Cat Greene, Danny Greene, and Kyle Hegler. They were prepared for a lengthy hunt to even find a gator big enough they wanted to pursue. But, that wasn’t necessary. The big one they were after showed itself 20 minutes into the hunt. It was the only gator they saw that day.

“It was opening day and we waited until 12 (noon) to get on the water. We drove back into a backwater hole, and we were just sitting there, and this thing just pops up 5 feet from the boat. He had his head out the water and his tail out the water, and we knew he was huge,” said Cox.

Hooking the gator was a challenge

With a Big Cat Fever fishing rod, Cox made a cast over the gator’s back, then tried snagging it with the 10/0 treble hook. He missed.

“So he went under. We waited a few more minutes and he popped back up about 50 yards away from the boat. When I threw my line over his back that time, I got ahold of him,” he said.

This started a 20-minute fight between man and beast. And when the gator was close enough, one of Cox’s buddies threw a rope over the gator’s back. When he attempted to embed that hook into the gator’s hide, something crazy happened.

Listen to Cox tell the story in his own words:

“He hooked my hook and yanked it out,” Cox said. “So he got off again. We sat there probably 30 minutes and he resurfaced about 100 yards away.”

The gator played hide-and-seek for a spell as Cox tried a few more times to hook it. When he hooked the gator again, his 80-pound braided line broke. Frustration was beginning to set in, but that changed quickly a few minutes later. Cox hooked the gator for good this time.

Buffalo Swamp Deer Processing and Taxidermy is creating a mount of the gator’s head.

The gator pulled the pontoon about 300 yards. Cox reeled away, finally getting the boat to the gator. The hook held firm, but was just in the very tip of the gator’s tail.

They put another hook with braided line in the gator, then got a rope in it. Before long, they pulled the gator beside the boat. Finally, they put a bullet in its head. But getting the animal aboard the pontoon was a no-go from their current position. That’s probably a good thing, based on what happened next.

The heavy lifting begins, and things get scary

“We couldn’t get the gator in the boat. We had 3 feet of tail in the boat, and three of us were just sitting on the tail. So we brought the boat to the shore,” he said.

On shore, Cox put the tag in the gator’s tail, and the beast swatted his legs out from under him. His brother, Drew Cox put another bullet or five in the gator’s head, then they taped his mouth up for good measure. With all five guys working hard, they got the gator aboard the boat.

During the ride back to the landing, the gator got another burst of adrenaline and attempted to climb out of the boat. They finally put the gator down for good with a number of other shots to the head.

“It was an exciting trip,” said Cox.

They stopped by 301 Processing in Florence to have the gator turned into gator bites. Buffalo Swamp Deer Processing and Taxidermy in Kershaw is creating a mount for Cox to help commemorate the hunt.

Click here to read about a group of Florence hunters who killed a big Santee gator this season.

About Brian Cope 2783 Articles
Brian Cope is the editor of Carolina Sportsman. He has won numerous awards for his writing, photography, and videography. He is a retired Air Force combat communications technician, and has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina. You can reach him at

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