After two decades of hunting the same alligator from the same bayou near Anahuac, Texas, a group of four hunters finally hooked into the behemoth reptile on Sept. 28, just two days before the end of Texas’ 20-day alligator season.
Robert Hennis, Joel Hennis, Rev. John Bernandini Jr., and Tommy Strawn worked together to take the 680-pound alligator, which measured 13 feet ½ inch long, on Turtle Bayou behind Robert’s house. Robert and Joel, Robert’s son, see alligators on the property all the time. They have watched this particularly big male for a long time, but the gator always managed to elude them.
“We have been trying to get this gator for 20 years,” Joel tells Bluebonnet News. “Every year, a week before the season, we will see him, and then we won’t see him again until after the season is over. This time he bit the wrong hook.”
At first they tried chicken baited on the big hook (a legal method for hunting alligators in Texas), without effect. So they switched to mullet they had caught from the same bayou. This, at last, grabbed the gator’s attention, and he bit.
The thrashing gator broke two pieces of 800-pound paracord, and it took four more lines of paracord to get the gator to the surface of the swamp. After dispatching the gator, the group brought the gator to Porter’s Processing in Anahuac. Most of the meat will be donated to Bernandini’s church. Robert and Joel also kept a few pounds of meat from the gator’s jowls, which Joel considers the best cuts for cooking alligator. The father-son duo will get a full-body mount done to commemorate what will likely be the biggest gator either of them ever harvests.
But a gator’s age is also easily determined by its size. According to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, most male gators don’t even reach 12 feet until they’re at least 36 years old. That means this gator is probably much older than the 20 years the Hennises have been hunting him. In fact, he might be close to twice that age.
Anahuac, the county seat of Chambers County, is considered the Alligator Capital of Texas. Chambers County is immediately east of Houston and sits on the shore of Trinity Bay and the eastern shore of Galveston Bay. The combined alligator population of Chambers County and neighboring Orange and Jefferson counties is close to 300,000 alligators.