As James “Jimbo” White peered through the scope of his .243 and lined up about a 50-yard shot on a massive alligator sunning himself on a bank in West Baton Rouge Parish, he developed a serious case of “alligator fever.”
A seasoned bowhunter who took a 165-inch Pope and Young buck just last year, White had to collect himself for a good shot at what turned out to be a 13-foot-4-inch, 760-pound gator he had been seeing on and off for the better part of five years.
“I definitely had gator fever, if that’s what you want to call it,” he said with a laugh. “When I aimed the first time from my knee, I was shaking and I said, ‘Man, I’m going to make a bad shot.’ I needed to reposition. ”
An experienced outdoorsman, the 51-year-old from Ventress had walked through woods Saturday, Sept. 14 to position himself upwind from the big gator to see if he could get close enough for a clean shot. White had spooked the big gator from his boat earlier that day, and returned around 2 p.m. that afternoon to see if he was still in the area.
He waited for almost an hour sitting on a 5-gallon bucket with binoculars and his ThermaCELL when the alligator finally eased up high enough onto the bank and gave him a good look.
“I got off the bucket and sat on the ground, then I took a deep breath and turned my hat around backwards,” he said. “I wiped the sweat off my brow and said, ‘Man, I got to make a good shot here.’ And I did.
“When I shot the first time, I knew I hit him. I didn’t know where, but I knew I had hit him somewhere in the head.”
White called his brother-in-law, Darryl Pourciau, for assistance, then made his way to the water’s edge to check for any signs of the gator. After a few worrisome moments of self-doubt, the big reptile finally surfaced again and White was able to finish the job.
“I was able to get another shot off,” he said. “That was the kill shot. He kind of trembled and then sunk.”
When Pourciau arrived with White’s 16-foot boat, the men struggled to get the big gator aboard. Finally, they were able to tow him to shore, attach him to the boat trailer, and pull him up on the bank far enough to return to their camp and come back with a tractor equipped with a front-end loader to put the alligator inside the boat and head for home.
That was when they finally got a chance to see the big gator up close.
“The middle of his body was 68 inches, and the two pieces of meat on the side of his jaw after we processed him weighed 22 pounds,” White said. “The girth of his tail at his back legs was 44 inches, and his tail itself was about 7 feet.”
Determining the gator’s age will be difficult since he was processed, but officials estimate he is probably at least 25, and could be up to 75 years old, he said.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries does not maintain records for the heaviest alligator taken, but it does track gators’ lengths. According to the LDWF website, the state’s record alligator was taken on Marsh Island and measured 19-feet-2-inches.
But White’s big gator handily outweighs the recent Mississippi state-record gator taken just a couple of week’s ago, which checked in at 727 pounds. And, he wasn’t weighed until that Monday, when White took the animal to the scales at a nearby grain elevator.
“He was in the cooler for two days,” said White, who has worked with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development for 34 years as an engineering technician. “People tell me he might have actually been 20 pounds heavier (on Saturday.)”
The big gator is in the process of being mounted at Possum’s Taxidermy in Fordoche, and White said he is already fielding calls from parties interested in housing the giant reptile.
“Hopefully we’ll get to display it somewhere local,” he said. “I’m not going to let him leave the state for sure.”
News of the gator hunt has spread far and wide, and White has appeared on television in Baton Rouge, as well as conducted phone interviews with reporters from CNN and the Weather Channel.
“It went viral and it’s been everywhere,” he said. “I never realized I’d get this much media coverage on an alligator.”