The river section at the upper end of Lake Marion coughed up another monster alligator, a 13-foot-2, 684-pound specimen, when Jonathan Hopkins and Dan Grubbs of Chapin set out to fill Hopkins’ 2012 alligator tag under the supervision of guide Brad Taylor of Taylor Outdoors. The pair, co-workers at Blue Cross/Blue Shield in Columbia, set out with Taylor at dusk on Sept. 19 to do some hunting just south of Low Falls Landing on Lake Marion. Hopkins said they first checked out the area around Packs Landing but found nothing to their liking.

“It was about 12:30 am when we first spotted him on a drift down the river,” Hopkins said. “Brad shined the light on his eyes, and they were pretty far apart, and he was coming straight for us.”

Since it was his tag, Hopkins jumped up on the bow of the boat to sink the first line with a crossbow, but the razor-sharp point simply bounced off the big reptile.

“It didn’t even phase him,” Hopkins said. “Fortunately, we were able to get a treble hook snagged on one of his legs before he went under.”

The gator sank to the bottom, and they were able to get another treble hook in him by fishing around in the dark. Then, it became a game of hide-and-seek until the animal came back up to the surface. Hopkins said that he posted himself on the front of Taylor’s boat, crossbow at the ready, while they waited him out.

“He surfaced about an hour later,” he said. “It looked like a submarine breaking the water right in front of me.”

The second shot with the crossbow found its mark, but unfortunately, the barb pulled loose during the ensuing fight. With the two treble hooks still in place, it was back to the waiting game. After another lengthy wait on the bottom, Hopkins meant to put an end to the battle.

“He came up the second time, and I shot him right behind the head, deep enough that we could pull him alongside the boat, and then I put a harpoon in him when he got close enough,” he said.

While Taylor dispatched the gator with a pistol, Hopkins and Grubbs had to figure out how to get the beast back to civilization.

“We couldn’t get him in the boat, so we lashed him to the side and towed him back to the ramp,” Hopkins said. “Then we had to float him up to the truck.”

Taylor offered to deliver the huge gator to Cordray’s in Ravenel for processing, after which Hopkins plans to have the hide made into a room-sized rug.

“I can’t say enough great things about Brad Taylor,” said Hopkins. “It was a great hunt, a rush like nothing else I’ve ever experienced.”