Summerville hunters bag massive Santee trophy gator

Trophy gator was 13 feet, 9 inches, weighed 758 pounds

Aaryn Folden of Summerville, S.C. and two of his cousins killed a massive trophy gator at Santee on Sept. 20 after a battle that lasted several hours. The alligator measured 13 feet, 9 inches in length and weighed 758 pounds.

Nicolas Folden and AJ Harris helped fill the tag. Wyatt Hatchitt joined them on a hunt a week earlier. And that’s when they first got a taste of this gator. But it would be another week before they actually killed it.

Folden said bagging the gator was extremely hard work. But he said seeing a gator of that size was either luck, or a blessing. After drawing a tag for the 2020 season, he hoped to do some scouting, but life got in the way. So when they went on their first hunt of the season a week earlier, they were basically going in blind.

“I got lucky. Lucky or blessed,” he said.

On that first hunt, they were cruising around in the Pinopolis area and spotted a gator they decided to pursue.

“We tried to throw some lines over him, but couldn’t get anything. We chased him from probably 4 or 5 hours. He was just very elusive. So we decided to call it. I said we’ll try again next weekend, and if it was meant to be, he’ll still be here,” said Folden.

And the very next weekend, they were on the water at noon. Before long, they saw the giant gator again. But not before encountering a different gator that they made a play for.

“We actually threw over a nice 9 or 10-footer. We hooked up on him and he got off,” he said.

Missing that gator was a blessing

They tried to hook that gator again, but things weren’t working out. So they decided to keep looking. And before long, they had run across the trophy gator from the week before. In short order, they cast over the gator with treble hooks on rod and reel. They connected on two of those casts.

“We had two small treble hooks in him with rods. We fought him for about 10 minutes. Then all of a sudden both of the hooks came out,” he said.

They feared the worst, but didn’t give up. After only a minute or two, they hooked up again.

“My cousin made a cast off to the side. Just an out-of-nowhere kind of cast. And he ended up hooked back on him,” he said.

They quickly cast the other rod out and got another treble hook in him. Then Folden tossed out the big treble hook with a handline. He snagged the gator’s tail.

“When I snagged him, I had to drop to my butt because he almost yanked me out of the boat. You could just feel how much power he had. And that’s the only reason we got this alligator because we took away more than half his power by taking away that tail,” said Folden.

But the fight was far from over. With three lines in him, the gator stayed under for about 90 minutes.

“For an hour and a half, he didn’t come up at all for air or anything. We had to makeshift another treble hook with big rope and throw it down there. We snagged him, got him in the head and pulled him up. First time he breached, I was like ‘we’ve bit off more than we can chew, fellas.’”

Folden put a bullet in the gator’s head with a 9mm

“I thought he was dead. So we started pulling him up, and he wasn’t dead. He took off again and started taking us for another ride. He ended up going back down. We fought him for a total of 3 hours and 45 minutes,” he said.

After what Folden said was equivalent to the hardest workout you can imagine ever doing, they finally got the gator back to the surface. He shot the gator again, but didn’t feel good about it. So he put another bullet in the gator’s head, finishing it off for good.

Listen to our interview with Folden here:

Next, they taped the mouth shut. Then, with the gator still in the water, they tied the head of the gator to a cleat on the front of the boat. They tethered its tail to a cleat on the back of the boat, then drove the boat to shore where they managed to load the beast onto the boat.

Folden said this gator was king of the hill for a long time in that section of Santee. And he said he’s honoring the beast and the last battle it waged by using everything he can of the trophy gator.

“Nothing is going to waste,” he said.

Cordray’s in Ravenel is processing the meat, which he estimates will equal about 250 pounds. They’re also making a European skull mount and tanning the hide to commemorate the hunt.


Click here to see another Santee gator story from earlier this season.


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About Brian Cope 2208 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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