Austin Kimbrough, 38, is an avid outdoorsman, and Thursday was the first time he had been gator hunting.
He and his dad went to the Guadalupe Wildlife Management Area where Texas was holding a public hunt to help manage the alligator population there.
The state issues permits using a lottery system to hunt gators. Kimbrough and his dad got a permit and went out on their boat. They strung up bait on tree branches over the water.
“Basically it’s a giant rope on a hook with half a chicken on it and we poured rotten fish guts on the chicken,” Kimbrough said.
That recipe is appetizing to gators. The next morning a mammoth gator was on the line.
“This thing is gargantuan. It’s like a dinosaur,” Kimbrough said.
He saw it first and told his dad, Bill Kimbrough, who once caught an 11-footer, that this was the big one.
“He's done this before. He knows a big gator when he sees one. He thinks I don't know what I'm talking about,” Austin Kimbrough said.
After they shot the gator and struggled to put it in the boat, Dad changed his mind.
“We didn't know at the time it weighed 750 pounds, but we're trying. My dad is 70,” Kimbrough said. “The alligator was 13-and-a-half feet. The boat was 14 feet.”
A bad fit. In fact, the boat sank. Father and son tied the gator to a tree, and went to get the game warden to help carry it back.
Kimbrough said the whole experience was bittersweet.
“It's an amazing creature without being shot,” Kimbrough said.
The reptile is being processed and the hide will be tanned for belts, bags or “a pair of boots,” according to Kimbrough said.
The father of three young children plans to keep the skull. It's the largest gator ever harvested from the Guadalupe Wildlife Management Area.
The largest recorded in Texas was also caught this year and was 14 feet and 3 inches long, weighing 800 pounds.
Austin figured he's done gator hunting.
“It'd only be downhill from here,” Kimbrough said.