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Armed with fishing line and soda pop, three young men bag 13-foot alligator

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 4th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Dustin Bockman, younger brother Ryan and friend Cole Landers put their minds into catching the biggest alligator they could find. Their home of Vicksburg, Mississippi granted them a permit to go hunting for alligators during their 10-day hunting season. Armed with fishing line and soda pop, the three men put their 17-foot boat into the Big Black River last weekend and began their hunt. They returned with a record breaking, 13-feet long alligator that was at least over 50 years old.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "We put the boat in at 8 o'clock on Saturday night and we got back to the dock with the alligator about 9:30 a.m. Sunday," 27-year-old UPS driver Bockman told CNN. One of 920 people picked from 27,000 applicants, his $100 license gave him the right to catch two alligators: one of any size, and a medium-size one.

Newcomers to hunting alligators, the three brought a crossbow attached to a 150-pound fishing line, a deep-sea fishing pole with a snagging hook, a shotgun, Mountain Dew and root beer. They passed on the alligators they first saw in the initial hours of their trek. "I wanted to get an alligator 10 feet or better," Bockman said.

They found one that fit the bill early that morning. "We didn't realize how big it was, we just knew it was big," he said. Abiding by the rules of the lottery, hunters are not allowed to shoot alligators in open water -- "You have to get a line on them."

The alligator played the hunters for what they were worth. Each time they approached the alligator, he submerged, only to pop up a few minutes later dozens of yards away. Bockman shot him with the crossbow hours later, striking him in the back.

Getting a second line on the gator with the fishing pole and the animal took off, sinking to the river bottom and sitting as the three men tried repeatedly to pull him to the surface. "It was like trying to pull up a tree."

Two long hours later, the three were successful. "My buddy grabbed the boat fishing line and pulled him to the top," Bockman said. But by then, the fishing line had caught around a tree, so they cut it.

Bockman then stuck the barrel of his Remington 1100 20-gauge shotgun into the water, aimed it at the soft spot on the back of the animal's head and pulled the trigger - and learned a lesson.

"The gun barrel peeled back like a banana peel," he said. "The gas can't escape at the end of the barrel (under water). I didn't know that before, but now I do. It was pretty crazy. I thought they'd gave me the wrong bullets."

Two more shots finished the job. The three men then tried to load their catch into boat, but discovered after much pulling and pushing that they couldn't, so they called for reinforcements.

"We just pulled him over to a sandbar and waited for daylight so we could call some people to help us load him." Friends arrived Sunday morning and helped them pull the alligator into the boat.

It was then they were confronted with the enormity of their catch. "We didn't realize until we took him back to my buddy's house and took him out of the boat with a tractor and put a tape measure on him that we needed to go get him weighed for a state record," he said.

Here are the official measurements: 13 feet 4.5 inches long, 727.0 pounds. Its belly girth measured 67 inches and its tail measured 45.5 inches in girth. Officials estimated its age at 50 to 60 years.

That gator's massive 723.5 pounds and 13 feet, 5.5 inches had broken the previous weight record of 697.5 pounds. The current length record is 13 feet 6.5 inches, set by an alligator taken on the Pascagoula River in 2008.

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