SC gator season highlights

The 13-foot, 1-inch gator put up a valiant fight.

Trophy gators for 2022

South Carolina’s 2022 gator season continued the state’s yearly trend of seeing big water lizards harvested.

Daniel Cunningham of Laurens County and his friends killed a 13-foot, 4-inch Santee beast on Sept. 10 while hunting out of Harry’s Fish Camp.

The crew of Cunningham, Michael Wilson, Rick Jones, Houston Motes and Russell Iusti battled a thunderstorm as well as the big gator. Jones even sustained an eye injury when a bone fragment from the gator’s skull hit him just after Cunningham shot the gator.

778-pound gator

Jeremia Thibeault, visiting from Pennsylvania with his brother Jim came to Santee looking for a 13+ footer, and found it while hunting with renowned local hunters Hunter Neeley and Crick Hooker.

Upon arriving from the Keystone State after a 12-hour drive, they spent the next 10 hours on the water, passing on at least one gator that measured more than 11 feet in length.

“My brother questioned my sanity. But I told him and Hunter that I would rather burn the tag than settle for a gator that didn’t stand out as exceptional,” said Thibeault.

They finally found a 13-foot, 1-inch gator that they were able to subdue after a pretty eventful fight.

It weighed 778 pounds and was one in a long list of trophy gators taken by numerous outdoorsmen that have hunted with Neeley and Hooker over the years.

Kelly Wayne Caulder with the 10.6-foot Pee Dee gator.

Pee Dee River 10+footer

Family members John Wayne Caulder, Kelly Wayne Caulder and Alan Caulder, all of Marion County, S.C. teamed up to kill a 10.6-foot gator on the Great Pee Dee River on Sept. 11.

They spent the first day of the season on the nearby Waccamaw River, coming up empty-handed.

“We’d scouted on the Waccamaw previously, and had spotted a few worth pursuing before the season started. But that day, we never got a shot at any of them. The Pee Dee River is basically our backyard, so we stayed closer to home on Day 2 and found the big boy,” said John Wayne Caulder.

It was the fourth gator Caulder has killed over the years. All have measured longer than 10 feet.

About Brian Cope 2745 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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